Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Recent news about Jews in China...and Chinese Jews in Israel

First, a nice video by Jewish Fan about Chinese of Jewish extraction in China:

And this is a cool video about a Chinese woman of Jewish descent who moved to Israel, converted to Judaism, and then married an American in a Sephardic-style wedding ceremony. This was definitely a very multi-cultural wedding and is so beautiful.

Some translation:
* 5 months after she converted to Judaism, the woman now known as Shoshana Rivkah (formerly Chiang Li, if I am spelling that correctly), is marrying Ami Emanuel, an American Jew.
* The speaker at 1:01, Michael Freund, the founder of Shavei Israel is saying that there are 700-1000 Jews in China that identify themselves as Jewish, and at least a couple hundred of them are interested in learning more about Judaism and the State of Israel. Over the last few years, they have brought several Chinese Jews to Israel, and they are learning about Judaism in order to convert.
* At around 1:50, you see a lovely young lady named Chiang Jin (again, not sure how to spell this), who, I have so say speaks an excellent Hebrew! Really amazing! Her father is next to her. They moved to Israel and converted about 5 years ago, currently living in Jerusalem. She talks about how her grandfather always spoke about being Jewish since she was a child, and on the Sabbath they would like candles, drink wine, and read the Bible. That's all they knew.
(Note: I'm a little wary of the groom's comment at the end. Ummmm....)

Of course, I managed to find many other videos about China and the Jews. Must save some of this for later. But I really enjoyed this video where a JTA reporter interviewed Chinese in China about what they think/know about Jews. I finally got confirmation that Jews are indeed called "Yoh Tai Ren" in Chinese, which may mean "big noses". Maybe. Gotta look that up in The Bamboo Cradle again.

This is a nice video about how the non-Chinese Jewish community is growing in Shanghai:

As I've mentioned before, my brother-in-law's mother, aunts and uncle(s) were all born in Shanghai during and immediately after WWII, and have fond memories of their treatment by the Chinese. We actually included some details about the history of the Chinese and the Jews in our home study, I think. I was a little worried that my Israeli citizenship could be an issue, but as y'all know, we've been through review with no questions! Yay!

My in-laws did a Jewish cultural tour of China in 2007 and I believe they met with the family in Kaifeng that were featured in the first video. They brought back a knitted yarmulke and a paper cutting of a menora from the family. It's nice to see that at least some of the culture has endured throughout several hundred years.

Oh, and not to forget, this is the article that inspired this post in the first place:
From Kaifeng to Kibbutz: Chinese Descendants of Jews Come Home
"For the first time, a group of seven descendants of the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China has moved to Israel.The new arrivals, who were brought here by the Shavei Israel organization, arrived at Ben-Gurion airport late Tuesday night.

The city of their birth, Kaifeng, sits on the banks of the Yellow River and was home to a flourishing Jewish community for more than a millennium.

"I am very excited to be here in the Holy Land," said Yaakov Wang, one of the new immigrants. "This is something that my ancestors dreamed about for generations, and now thank G-d I have finally made it."

Wang said that he eventually hopes to become a rabbi, so that one day he can help other Kaifeng Jewish descendants to learn more about their heritage."
Read the rest of the article here.

P.S. Partial hat-tip to Robert Avrech of Seraphic Secret. Make sure to check out his blog post that includes details about about doing his morning prayers (that require a whole odd-looking uniform of prayer shawl and phylacteries) on the Great Wall of China. I was laughing pretty hard at the complete freak-out by his "guide". Hm. I wonder if my husband should try to do the same, or just stick to praying on the tour bus. I think he just may be stuck without a minyan during most of our time in China.