Jews From Ancient Chinese Community Make Aliyah to Israel

February 24, 2016

2 min read

Five women from the ancient Jewish Chinese community of Kaifeng will be fulfilling their dream as they ready themselves to move to Israel at the end of February.

It is prophesied that at the end of days, Jews from all over the world will make aliyah (move to Israel). Thanks in no small part to the organization Shavei Israel, this prophecy is coming true today as Jews from Kaifeng, China will merit to call Israel their home.

Little is known about the history of Kaifeng’s Jewry. Scholars dispute over the exact period when a small group of Jews emigrated from either Persia or India to the city of Kaifeng and erected a synagogue there, though most agree that it was around the 11th century BCE.

Though the community was few in number, no more than 5,000 at its strongest, it managed to preserve Jewish traditions and customs until the 17th century. Over the past several hundred years, however, intermarriage and assimilation have caused the number to dwindle significantly. Today, the Jewish population of Kaifeng amounts to fewer than 1,000 people.

Despite the overwhelming pressure to assimilate, there are still a large group of Jews in Kaifeng seeking to preserve and revive their Jewish identity for the next generation. Shavei Israel supports the Jews still living in Kaifeng while aiding some to fulfill their dreams of moving to Israel.

Said Michael Freund, founder of Shavei Israel, “After centuries of assimilation, a growing number of the Kaifeng Jews in recent years have begun seeking to return to their roots and embrace their Jewish identity.”

Israel’s rabbinic laws require that the Chinese Jews undergo an official conversion in order to be eligible for aliyah. The five women who will be moving to Israel next Monday – Li Yuan, Yue Ting, Gao Yichen, Li Jing, and Li Chengjin – have been intensely studying Judaism for several years. Subsidised by Shavei Israel, they will continue to study in Jerusalem as they prepare for their conversions to Judaism. As per Israeli law, upon conversion they will receive official Israeli citizenship.

Said Li Jing, “Being part of the Jewish people is an honor, because of the heritage and wisdom.” Jing has visited Israel prior to her upcoming aliyah flight, and placed a note in the Western Wall with a prayer that she would merit to return and live in Israel.

The women will land in Israel on February 29th in Ben Gurion Airport. Immediately upon arrival, Freund will take them personally to the Western Wall, where they will have the opportunity to thank God for bringing them home.

Added Jing, “My prayer has been answered.”

In this short clip, all five women introduce themselves in Hebrew, saying their names. At the end, they say together “Israel, we love you!”

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