Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chinese Jews Of Kaifeng Welcome New Year

This is a story that warmed my heart. YNET News has reported that the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China has welcomed in the Jewish New Year with the following statement.

"From here in Kaifeng, China, we want to send our best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year to our brothers - the people of Israel,"

For years, people who study the Jewish diaspora reported with sadness that the Kaifeng Jewish community had all but assimilated and had lost all of its distinctive customs. Fortunately, the reports of the loss of Kaifeng's Jews to the Jewish nation have been proven not to be true. In recent years, the descendants of the Kaifeng community have been returning to Jewish observance and in some cases to Israel itself.

Where did the Chinese Jews come from? YNET notes as follows.

"The Jewish community of Kaifeng was founded in the 9th century, apparently by Jewish merchants from Persia or Iraq. The city's synagogue was built in 1163. At its height the community consisted of 5,000 Jews, many of whom were involved in Kaifeng's commerce.

All of Kaifeng's Jewish descendants belong to one of seven clans, each identifiable by its surname and family trees that stretch back for centuries."

It is a fortuitous blessing for the Jewish people to be so diverse in appearance and customs and to still share underlying similarities. When people see that you can share a faith and look totally dissimilar, it points to common denominators of humanity and a G-d given soul.

In returning to the Jewish people, the descendants of Kaifeng's Jewish community have added a great deal to the Jewish people in returning. The Rosh haShanah greetings from Kaifeng are tidings that gladden my heart. May G-d assist them and all Jews in returning to the Jewish people, land and law. And may idea of unity and diversity prove contagious to the entire world. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one.
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