The long exile of the Jewish people has contributed to an often intense yearning for the messiah, at times leading to attempts to locate the lost tribes of the Jews and perhaps speed up the ultimate redemption. A record of one such interesting attempt is recorded in a book I acquired this week, titled Sefer Haberit Hachadash, published in Piotrikov in 1911.
The book records information gleaned by a man named Uziel Haga from Boston, who petitioned then-president of the Unites States, William McKinley, to join a U.S. army expedition that was leaving to China. Permission was granted and he traveled to China, meticulously recording the customs, life, and habits of the natives he encountered.
His findings convinced him that some of their customs, such as a seven-day period of mourning, were remnants of their Jewish past, and that the Jews in Kaifeng in the Hunan Province of China were descendants of the tribe of Asher. Haga argued that they were exiled to this area by the king of Ashur.
Unfortunately, the author’s investigation coincided with the Boxer Rebellion in China, which took place between 1899 and 1901 and involved anti-imperialist and anti-foreign sentiments. Accused of espionage, Haga was imprisoned by the Boxers and died after suffering much torture at the hands of his captors.