Friday, February 26, 2016

There are still Jews in Kaifeng, China

AND SOME OF THEM ARE COMING TO ISRAEL: Five Chinese Jews come home after thousands of years. In first Aliyah from Kaifeng in seven years, five women who reconnected with their ancient Jewish roots have their 'prayers answered.' (Arutz Sheva).
After arriving in Israel, the five women plan to continue their Jewish studies at Jerusalem’s Midreshet Nishmat – The Jeanie Schottenstein Center For Advanced Torah Study For Women, with the support of Shavei Israel, which will also cover their living expenses and support them as they prepare to undergo formal conversion by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. After completing the conversion process, they will receive Israeli citizenship.

The last time Shavei Israel managed to bring Chinese Jews back from Kaifeng on Ailyah came in October 2009, when seven young men returned home.

The Kaifeng Jewish community is thought to have been founded by Iraqi or Persian Jewish merchants who went east in the 8th or 9th century CE.

Back in 1163 CE the community built a large and beautiful synagogue that was renovated over the years. The community may have numbered as many as 5,000 people during its peak in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE), but intermarriage and assimilation, together with the death of the community's last rabbi, led to the end of the community in the early 19th century CE.

Now, the community claims 500 to 1,000 members who are increasingly returning to their Jewish roots despite the pressure to assimilate.
More on the Jewish presence in Kaifeng, which goes back to the early Middle Ages and perhaps earlier, is here and links. Some comparably early evidence from the Taklamakan desert is noted as well.