To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.
Title: The Jews Of Kaifeng, China – History, Culture, and Religion
Author: Xu Xin (pronounced ‘Chu-Chin’),
Publisher: Ktav Publishing,
Jersey City, NJ
My cousin Phil, of Los Angeles, once told me – what I consider an apocryphal story – that during the Korean War, when he was stationed in Hong Kong, he was seeking a synagogue for Friday evening services and was told to go to a small shul atop a hill.
Sure enough he found it - the door was open and the lights were lit and inviting - so he entered and found himself alone. He seated himself, and before long a congregation of men came and all took their positions - the Rabbi, the Chazan, the congregants, and all began davening. My cousin’s jaw dropped – every other person in the shul was an ethnic Chinese, and they were all davening in Hebrew, exactly as in his own synagogue back home.
All the while, one elderly congregant was intently staring at my cousin, and after services, when everyone queued up to have their hand shaken by the Rabbi, this man came over to Phil and asked in perfect Yiddish: “Are you Jewish?”
My cousin replied: “Of course I’m Jewish – didn’t you see me daven together with everyone else?”
To which the old gentleman replied: “Funny – you don’t look Jewish.”
This story captures the essence of this book, which is a scholarly work of research written by a Chinese scholar of ethnography, was researched and written in New York and Cambridge, Mass., courtesy of a grant from The Simon and Helen Scheuer Family Foundation. Ktav publishing house, which has been formerly renowned for their publication of Jewish children’s literature, has, of recent, gone far afield with their publication of many important new titles for adult consumption.
It has been known for many years that Jews settled in parts of China, quite ‘off the beaten path.’ The Polos – Marco and family – alluded to them, and many Christian missionaries, including Jesuits, who were well versed at languages, encountered Jewish communities during their travels.
A famous Nobel Prize winning American author - Pearl Buck – herself the daughter of American missionaries in China, wrote ‘Peony,’ in 1948 (republished as a Bloch/Biblio Press book in 1990), a novel about Jewish life in Kaifeng, which is in the Chinese province of Honan. Ms. Buck’s characters, while Jews, are all ethnic Chinese, as are the people about whom Prof. Xin, of Nanjing University, has written.
From about the ninth century c.e. there has been an indigenous Jewish community almost continuously resident in Kaifeng in northeastern China, as well as other Jewish communities in other places from time to time. Separated as they were by thousands of miles from the rest of the Jewish world and largely cut off from contact with the main centers of Jewish life, the Jews of Kaifeng developed a distinctive culture that was unquestionably Jewish but progressively absorbed Chinese elements.
As our American experience has also shown, their greatest problem was not separation from other Jews, so much as the openness and tolerance of the greater Chinese society. Intermarriage was a frequent occurrence and Jews entered Chinese society will full acceptance as merchants, government officials and neighbors. After a period of time they were so completely assimilated that few of their descendents carry any memory of Jewish ancestry and have assumed the physical appearance of all other ethnic Chinese.
This is a fascinating look into the past, very well researched, that sheds much light on what may have happened to some of the members of our ‘Lost Tribes.’ We would also encourage the inquisitive reader to obtain a copy of Pearl Buck’s ‘Peony,’ to further explore our Jewish heritage among one of the world’s oldest cultures.
About the Author:
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
Creativity without clarity is not sufficient for writing. I am eternally thankful to Hashem for his gift to me.
Sometimes the most powerful countermove one can make when a person is screaming is to calmly say that her behavior is not helpful and then continue interacting with the rest of the family while ignoring the enraged person.
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall divide within you.”
Divorce from a vindictive, cruel spouse can be a lifelong nightmare when there are offspring.
There were many French Jews who jumped at the chance to shed their ancient identity and assimilate.
As Rabbi Shemtov stood on the stage and looked out at the attendees, he told them that “Rather than take photos with your cellphones, take a mental photo and keep this Shabbat in your mind and take it with you throughout your life.”
Yeshiva v’Kollel Bais Moshe Chaim will be holding a grand celebration on the occasion of the institution’s 40th anniversary on Sunday evening, December 7. Alumni, students, friends and faculty of the yeshiva, also known as Talmudic University of Florida, will celebrate the achievement and vision of its founders and the spiritual guidance of its educational […]
The yeshiva night accommodates all levels of Jewish education.
Recently, Fort Lauderdale has been the focus of international news, and it has not been about the wonderful weather.
Rabbi Sacks held the position of chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for 22 years until September 2013.
The event included a dvar Torah by student Pesach Bixon, an overview of courses, information about student life and a student panel that answered frequently asked questions from a student perspective.
While still a student in a small Midwest college she learns that her aunt in New York has passed away, resulting in her life turning topsy turvy.
Green was an American volunteer in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, but something happened In Israel that has haunted him ever since.
Witnessed by Theodore Herzl, who was a journalist for a Viennese newspaper covering the trial, the cause célèbre became the spark that eventually caused the rise of the State of Israel in modern times.
These eleven nursing home residents and their accompanying staff from the Connecticut nursing home could represent any of us or our own loved ones…
There are three kinds of travelers: there are tourists, there are businesspeople, and then there are historians like Ben G. Frank.
The last kind doesn’t simply go from here to there. They try to relive history and find the real meaning behind what they experience.
Behind “the news” there’s almost always a story that isn’t being reported, and certain kinds of phenomenon occur almost simultaneously all over the world in almost every era.
Whether this is a memoir or autobiography or whether this book was written as an article of regional diplomacy, King Abdullah does come across in this book as a quite sincere person making a valiant effort at regional diplomacy, who is trying to quell terrorism in the Mideast and raise the social and economic levels of his countrymen.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/review-the-jews-of-kaifeng-china-history-culture-and-religion/2003/10/10/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: