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Chinese Jews Face Existential Questions (Diminished: In Eyes of Judaism as Well as Beijing)
Wall Street Journal ^ | 08/19/2011 | Bob Davis

Posted on 08/21/2011 11:42:31 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

KAIFENG, China—Zhang Xinwang, a moon-faced Chinese man with a spiky beard, calls himself "Moishe."

"So do you think I look Jewish?" he asks.

For much of the past millennium, Jews in Kaifeng— descendants of merchants who arrived here from Persia, probably around the 11th century—have been struggling with an existential question: What does it mean to be Jewish?

The handful of Kaifengers who go to Israel are sometimes floored to discover they need to go through a rabbi-certified conversion to be accepted as Jews, while the ones staying home squabble over which of them are really Jewish.

The question has surprising consequences in this dusty walled city in central China. According to the Chinese government, there are no Kaifeng Jews because there are no Chinese Jews. Judaism isn't one of China's five official religions and Jews aren't designated as one of the country's 55 official minorities. Orthodox Jews have a similar view, though for different reasons. Kaifeng Jews trace their heritage through their father, as Chinese traditionally do, while orthodox Jews define Judaism as passing through the mother.

"They may stem from Jewish ancestry, but they aren't Jewish," says Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, who runs the orthodox Chabad House in Beijing. "There hasn't been a Jewish community in Kaifeng in 400 years."

Except there is one, though it's divided and diminished. Somewhere between 500 and 1,000 people in the city say they are descendants of Kaifeng Jews and cling to at least some Jewish traditions. A canvas poster at No. 21 Teaching the Torah Lane announces the street as the site of a synagogue that was destroyed in an 1860 flood and never rebuilt. Inside a tiny courtyard house, "Esther" Guo Yan works as a tour guide and sells knick-knacks decorated with Jewish stars.

(Excerpt) Read more at jidaily.com ...


TOPICS: History; Religion; Society
KEYWORDS: china; faithandphilosophy; godsgravesglyphs; jacobdancona; jews; kaifeng; marcopolo; nestorians

1 posted on 08/21/2011 11:42:34 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

Kaifeng's last synagogue, destroyed in an 1860 flood, stood at "Teaching the Torah Lane," now an alley of courtyard houses.

The first Jewish merchants arrived when Kaifeng was in its heyday as the Song dynasty capital. They married the local women and rose to become mandarins and military officials. Over the centuries they blended in ethnically and were forgotten by the world until 1605, when a Jewish scholar from Kaifeng, Ai Tien, met Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci in Beijing. The missionary then spread the news that Jews had been living in China for centuries.

The Kaifeng Jewish population is thought to have peaked at around 5,000, but by the early 1900s, none could read Hebrew and the community's Torah scrolls were sold to collectors. Jews were called "the Muslims with the blue caps," referring to the color of the yarmulkes some still wore.
2 posted on 08/21/2011 11:46:01 AM PDT by SeekAndFind (u)
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To: SeekAndFind

Two Chinese Jews walk into a bar...


3 posted on 08/21/2011 11:53:30 AM PDT by Signalman
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To: SeekAndFind

Jews of Kaifeng, late 19th or early 20th century


Bird's-eye view of the synagogue of Kaifeng


Kaifeng Jews reading the Torah

4 posted on 08/21/2011 12:00:45 PM PDT by DeoVindiceSicSemperTyrannis (Want to make $$$? It's easy! Use FR as a platform to pimp your blog for hits!!!)
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To: SeekAndFind

The Chinese seem to be having a hell of a time with religion.

Firt the Pope doesn’t recognise their Bishops and now the Jews don’t recognise their Jewish Bona Fides.


5 posted on 08/21/2011 12:34:27 PM PDT by Venturer
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To: SeekAndFind

Chinese Jews? Has anyone ever seen one. Sounds like the sighting of Bigfoot.


6 posted on 08/21/2011 12:37:29 PM PDT by chuckee
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To: chuckee

http://www.aish.com/jw/s/48937262.html

Descendants of centuries-old Jewish community in China’s Kaifeng rediscover Jewish heritage after near complete assimilation in their local community...


7 posted on 08/21/2011 12:45:13 PM PDT by jjotto ("Ya could look it up!")
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To: chuckee

A lot of us go to Chinese restaurants on Christmas. Chinese restaurants, Denny’s, and movie theaters are pretty much the only things that are open.


8 posted on 08/21/2011 1:10:14 PM PDT by 10thAmendmentGuy
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To: Signalman

China’s Borsch Belt?


9 posted on 08/21/2011 1:51:49 PM PDT by RitchieAprile (The Democrat Party is a continuing criminal enterprise..)
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To: Signalman
RE: Two Chinese Jews walk into a bar...

You want a Jewish-Chinese joke, here's one started apparently by Jews who did business with Chinese..



A Chinese man goes to a Jewish man’s wholesale business to buy black bras in size 38.

The Jewish man, known for his skills as a businessman, says that black bras are rare and that he is finding it very difficult to buy them from his suppliers. Therefore he has to charge $50.00 for them.

The Chinese man buys 25 pairs.

He returns a few days later and this time orders fifty.

The Jewish businessman tells him that they have become even harder to get and charges him $60.00 each.

The Chinese man returns a month later and buys the remaining stock of 50, and this time for $75.00 each.

The Jewish man is somewhat puzzled by the large demand for black bras and asks the Chinese man, please tell me: “What do you do with all these black bras?”

The Chinese man answers: “I cut them in half and sell the halves as yamurkle caps to the Jews for $200.00 each.”


10 posted on 08/21/2011 2:13:55 PM PDT by SeekAndFind (u)
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To: SeekAndFind

Why do Jewish men die before their wives?

Because they want to.


11 posted on 08/21/2011 2:18:08 PM PDT by Krankor
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To: dennisw; Cachelot; Nix 2; veronica; Catspaw; knighthawk; Alouette; Optimist; weikel; Lent; GregB; ..
Middle East and terrorism, occasional political and Jewish issues Ping List. High Volume

If you’d like to be on or off, please FR mail me.

..................

Very interesting from a historical perspective. But Rabbi Freundlich is correct

"They may stem from Jewish ancestry, but they aren't Jewish," says Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, who runs the orthodox Chabad House in Beijing. "There hasn't been a Jewish
and

The handful of Kaifengers who go to Israel are sometimes floored to discover they need to go through a rabbi-certified conversion to be accepted as Jews, while the ones staying home squabble over which of them are really Jewish.

should be glad they're accepted as immigrants to Israel. I presume they would have stayed home if they didn't prefer Israel.

And for those who stay home

many in Kaifeng turn to Timothy Lerner, who calls himself a "messianic Jew"—meaning he was born Jewish but believes in Christ as the Messiah—to learn Hebrew and Jewish customs. Mr. Lerner acknowledges that his visa was revoked by the Chinese government in 2006 for evangelizing, but says he doesn't try to convince anyone to follow his religious beliefs. He says he set up the "Kaifeng Israel School" to help Kaifeng Jews "learn the Jewish lifestyle" and move to Israel, where about a dozen of them have taken up residence, thanks largely to funds from Shavei Israel, an Israeli group.

Others in the Jewish community are suspicious. Shi Lei, one of the first Kaifeng Jews to study in Israel, blames Mr. Lerner for "creating factions" in the tiny community with his school, though Mr. Lerner says Mr. Shi misunderstands his efforts.

they shouldn't be surprised if, as Christians, they're not allowed to make aliyah.

12 posted on 08/21/2011 3:42:19 PM PDT by SJackson (Normal people don't sit cross-legged on the floor and bang on drums, WI State Sen Glenn Grothman (R))
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To: RitchieAprile
China’s Borsch Belt?
They are descended from Radhanites, medieval Jewish traders and merchants. They would be closer to Bukharan Jews, so not the Borscht Belt, but the Boyjon Belt.
13 posted on 08/21/2011 4:48:39 PM PDT by rmlew ("Mosques are our barracks, minarets our bayonets, domes our helmets, the believers our soldiers.")
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To: SJackson

I remember visiting the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv. There was a model of a Synagogue from China. So even way back, China has been considered part of the Diaspora.

True Story:
My late M-I-L, kept a kosher home, but loved to eat out at Chinese restaurants. One night she asked the waiter if they had any “Chinese Jews”. The waiter became somewhat agitated, and ran to the kitchen.
When he came back, he said:
“So Sorry, Miss. We have Orange Jews, Pineapple Jews, but no Chinese Jews!”


14 posted on 08/21/2011 5:35:38 PM PDT by left that other site (Psalm 122:6)
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To: StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; 2ndDivisionVet; 31R1O; ...

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks SeekAndFind.

This is an update to some earlier topics, enjoy.
Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng
by Xin Xu
tr by Beverly Friend
illus by Ting Cheng

reviewed
To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


15 posted on 08/21/2011 6:33:32 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (It's never a bad time to FReep this link -- https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: SunkenCiv
'In the 1930s, Shanghai was the only place in the world to offer visa-free sanctuary to Jews fleeing Nazism — 20,000 ended up in Shanghai. In 1943, the Japanese restricted them to a one-square-mile area, which became known as Little Vienna.'

Historic Jewish Haven In Shanghai Faces Demolition
Nice photos

China’s Ancient Jewish Enclave

16 posted on 08/21/2011 6:54:20 PM PDT by Palter (Celebrate diversity .22, .223, .25, 9mm, .32 .357, 10mm, .44, .45, .500)
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To: SeekAndFind
Kaifeng Jews trace their heritage through their father, as Chinese traditionally do, while orthodox Jews define Judaism as passing through the mother.

It is only fair to point out that in biblical times the Jews were patrilineal. Otherwise half the kings of Israel and Judah would not have been Jews, as their mothers were foreign.

17 posted on 08/21/2011 7:03:51 PM PDT by Sherman Logan
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To: Palter

Thanks Palter.


18 posted on 08/21/2011 7:56:22 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (Yes, as a matter of fact, it is that time again -- https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: SJackson

Christians can make Alia.


19 posted on 08/22/2011 12:20:01 AM PDT by Eleutheria5 (End the occupation. Annex today.)
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To: Sherman Logan; SeekAndFind; SunkenCiv
It is only fair to point out that in biblical times the Jews were patrilineal. Otherwise half the kings of Israel and Judah would not have been Jews, as their mothers were foreign.

Good point, SL

20 posted on 08/22/2011 4:49:03 AM PDT by Cronos ( W Szczebrzeszynie chrzaszcz brzmi w trzcinie I Szczebrzeszyn z tego slynie.)
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To: SeekAndFind

There is some interesting Jewish influences in Japan as well concerning certain traditions and customs in certain areas.

Either parallel development or some Jews made it6 to ancient Japan and influenced things there.


21 posted on 08/22/2011 8:39:11 AM PDT by GraceG
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To: Sherman Logan
It is only fair to point out that in biblical times the Jews were patrilineal. Otherwise half the kings of Israel and Judah would not have been Jews, as their mothers were foreign.

And of course Jesus inherited His Jewishness through His mother.

22 posted on 08/24/2011 7:56:21 PM PDT by Bellflower (The LORD Jesus Christ is the antidote, the one and only antidote.)
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