Monday, October 9, 2017

The Chinese Jews of Kaifeng: A Millennium of Adaption and Endurance

The Chinese Jews of Kaifeng: A Millennium of Adaptation and Endurance, edited by Laytner and Paper, is divided into two parts, Past and Present.  By far the past is the most interesting section, with the papers by Berstein and Paper examining the unique Chinese Jewish elements which characterized the Kaifeng community during its prime.

The Present is far less interesting, as it is readily apparent the ancestors of the Kaifeng Jews show little interest in returning to Judaism in any meaningful sense.  Although some of the essays on the Chinese government crackdown on attempts by descendants of Chinese Jews and Western Jews at reviving the religion are fascinating.  

Judaism is not an “official” religion in China.  The Chinese government is wary of religions they don’t understand or control, as some of the most destabilizing wars in Chinese history (like the Taiping Rebellion) were led by messianic figures at the helm of east/west hybrid religions.

The Chinese government even covered the old well on the former grounds of the Kaifeng synagogue with gravel, the only remnant of the building on site, the last bit of the synagogue in situ!

Kaifeng synagogue well, now buried

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