Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jews Around theWORLD I

Firman Allah Ta'ala: "Sesungguhnya manusia itu dalam kerugian - Kecuali orang-orang yang beriman dan beramal soleh, dan mereka pula berpesan-pesan dengan kebenaran serta berpesan-pesan dengan sabar” (Surah Al-Asr 103)

"By Time, Indeed, mankind is in loss, Except for those who have believed and done righteous deeds and advised each other to truth and advised each other to patience."


THE Chinese history affirms the city of Kaifengfu to have been the metropolis of the province and the seat of the empire during a long succession of monarchs, till it was at length overflowed and covered with sand by a great inundation.  

It is situated in a large fertile plain, about 5 or 6 miles from the Yellow River, and its low situation occasioned its ruin in 1642, when it was closely besieged by the rebel Li Chung, at the head of 100,000 men.

The general who was sent to relieve it conceived the fatal design of drowning the besieging army by breaking the great bank which had been reared at a vast cost to preserve the country from being overflowed by the Great Yellow River.

His project succeeded, indeed, but proved the ruin and destruction, not only of the noble capital but of three hundred thousand inhabitants, by the violence and rapidity of the inundation.  

Some fifty years after this dreadful catastrophe a Jesuit missionary, going upon some occasion into the province of Honan, found a considerable Synagogue in the city of Kaifengfu.

He soon became acquainted with some of its learned chiefs, who introduced him into their Synagogue and showed him one of the Parchments or rolls of the Pentateuch written in Hebrew, together with the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, some of the prophets, and others containing their liturgy and commentaries they owned. They had lost some of the sacred books and some of their targums or paraphrases.

This loss was caused by a violent overflowing of the great river, which had laid the capital wholly under the water and had damaged their Torah, or roll of the Pentateuch, and upon which they ordered twelve new copies to be taken from it.

Today I find no synagogue, owing to another overflowing of the Yellow River -- "China's Sorrow" -- but in its place a dirty pond and a stone erected on the site bearing the following strange inscription: "A monument in memory of the Great Ching Ching Cenoby.

Oh Wu Lo Hau, the creator of this religion and grandson of the nineteenth generation of Punku, the principal ruler of the Mythical Era, was born in 146th year of the Chow dynasty  (976 B.C.). He proved himself to be very wise, prudent, and merciful.

He understood the mysteries of creation and the ideas of creation and could trace the troubled source of religion.  The religious elements were not to believe in any idolatrous representation and not to flatter the ghost and fairy, and so many people were at liberty to serve his religion as Cenobites in a manner that was as free as running water.

The successor of Oh Wu Lo Hau  was called La, and was born in the 613th year of the Chow dynasty.  His conscience and benevolence were noted by ever one as he traveled to the La-na Mountains for the purpose of informing them regarding the Scripture.  He restricted himself to fruits and vegetables instead of meat and bathed and fasted for forty days and nights.

He attended to his duty with the utmost simplicity and sometimes even forgot to eat or sleep, but never ceased to pray with a sincere heart to his God, for he had obtained a  book containing many sections.

In this book there were strange things that could not be easily explained -- in short, it indicate that the good was affected by those who became good, and the evil by those who did not bear in mind the warning.

The successor of La was called Lo Tze Loh, and received from his predecessor the proper doctrine and explained the four words -- "ching" (clear), "chew" (pure), "li" (ceremonial), and "pai"  to worship with a bow). The word "ching" means to "direct your heart singly to one religion". The word "chew" means "not to be confused by any other secular ideas."

The word "Ii" means "to stand on ceremony." And the word "pai" "to worship with a bow."  With these instructions, the Cenobites were to teach one another in the future.

During the beginning of the Sung Dynasty (96 A. D.) there was a missionary surnamed "Li," who was accompanied by a crowd of Cenobites, and arrived in China with a lot of western cloth, which they presented to the Emperor of the Sung Dynasty and became citizen of the country.  Subsequently one of the grandsons of these people, called "Mu Sy Ta Pan," was appointed to do the preaching, and another, called "Jen Tu La," began to build a cenoby.

It was destroyed after that and had to be rebuilt southeast of Tu Chai, in the 16th year of the Yuen dynasty (1280 A. D.)

The Emperor Tai-Tsu, of the Ming dynasty (1368 A. D.), gave the Cenobites descended from Li a piece of land for their building, because he could well understand their Scriptures, which persuaded the people to good instead of evil.

In the year of "Wung Lo" (1403 A.D.) the Cenoby was rebuilt, and was long afterwards destroyed by, water, and the ruined scene that exists now proves this little bit of narrative. .

The vast community referred to in the inscription has dwindled down to 8 families, numbering in all about fifty persons, who have in a great measure forgotten their characteristic observances through frequent vicissitudes  and varied conditions of life.

I reached the main gate of the city of Kaifengfu (the ancient capital of the Middle Kingdom) one night about ten thirty, with not too favorable an impression of Chinese carts or the shaggy little Chinese pony, which had a great habit of tearing off at every opportunity.

The soldiers belabored the massive gate most industriously for about twenty minutes, when a small trap-door opened and the gate-keeper hurled epithets at us that volcanic and picturesque.

But his sattron-colored palm had been covered with a few coins, his ruffled nature became as smooth as a sheet of polished silver, and we entered the ancient capital of the Middle Kingdom.

Main gate of the city of Kaifengfu

For two miles we had to pick our way through narrow, stinking, slushy streets, packed with men, boys, horses. goats, sheep, dogs, cats. and donkeys, sleeping in all over the place, while the changing of the night watchman's irons and the piercing wail of ragged, starving. filthy beggars carried one for the moment to the land of "tell thousand curses."

What an unspeakable joy to reach the residence of Mr.  C. W.  Shields, the district inspector of China posts, who received me with the courtesy of a prince.  We had scarcely spoken a dozen words when the magistrate's secretary, called for my card.

Next morning, before I was out of bed, another dignitary wanted to copy my passport, and informed me that it would be well to call at the at the Foreign Office.

This I did, and found the officials polite and much interested in the object of my visit to their city, particularly his Excellency Chang Shu Shen, with whom I paid a visit to the imperial palace, one of the greatest curiosities in the whole empire and situated in the very heart of the city---a prodigious group of edifices, vast courts, gardens, kiosks, and palms, surrounded with a stately wall of considerable compass.

It contains all the spacious and stately apartments of the Emperor and his family, and afforded a safe retreat for the Dowager Empress during the occupation of Peking by the foreign troops. 

I discovered were Prayers against the evil influences of the foreign devil that had just arrived, and it was with considerable difficulty  that I managed to get through the tremendous crowds, gathered in the streets to hear the foreign devil speak and curse him as he passed. 

During the first three I located all temples and mosques likely to afford me any data, and on the fourth morning visited the ruinous site, which gave no, evidence of the magnificent synagogue that once stood there or the wealth of its community, save for a weather-beaten commemorative stone that told the strove of these people.

While I was photographing and rubbing this stone, thousands of Chinese gathered around, and they came to the erroneous conclusion that I was a Jewish rabbi come to succor Chinese Jews, which the Mohammedan portion did not particularly relish, owing to the fact that a great many of the Jewish community had merged into Mohammedanism through persecution and distress.

The Chinese always referred to the Jews as the "sect which pulls the sinews" and as the "Mohammedans with blue bonnets," because they wear blue bonnets as well as take off their shoes during all religious ceremonies.

One handsome, intelligent Chinese Jew came forward and introduced himself, inquiring very diligently the reason of my taking the photograph and rubbing of the stone that spoke of the grandeur of his ancestors and their synagogue.  I told him that I wished to inform the Westerners, who feel the deepest interest in the Jews, because our Christian religion has come from a Semitic race. 

The long line of noble men to whom the Jewish nation has given birth, from the time of its founder, Abraham, and the fearless testimony which since the days of captivity it has borne to the lofty truth that there is one God, and none other, must ever give to the scattered people a Iarge place in our veneration and love.

Only it must be not blind, but a pure and true, veneration. born of a careful study of all they have been and all they have done.  I persuaded him to come to the house, and he unfolded the following remarkable story:

"My elder brother -- I am not yet forty years old, but I have thought and talked much with my friends about our ancestors, who were rich and numerous and who worshiped in a fine synagogue, built on the land presented to them bv the Emperor Tai-tsti.

This synagogue, you know, has been swept away by 'China's Sorrow' [the Yellow River].  Our ancestors came to this land from the northwest nearly three thousand years ago, and had with them a roll of the law that was very ancient and in a language that we do not understand today, because we have no teachers.

The beautiful synagogue had a number of courts, and in the center of the first there was a large, noble arch, dedicated to the Creator, Preserver, and Father of all men.  

The second comprised sacred trees, and the houses of the good men who cared for the buildings.

The third had many trees, and on its walls tablets in memory of our great Chao [a Jewish mandarin judge, who rebuilt the synagogue on one occasion] and other holy men.  It was very large and contained the Hall of Ancestors, the brazen vases of flowers and the censors, in honor of Abraham and others.  The nerves and sinews were extracted from the animals slain for food in this court.

The synagogue itself was small, but exceedingly beautiful, and in the center was the throne of Moses, a wonderfully carved chair, covered with embroidered silk, upon which they placed the sacred book while it was read.

Above the throne, in letters of gold, were wise and good words our ancestors brought from afar: 'Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God is one God, Blessed be the name of the Glory of his Kingdom forever and ever,' and in another part of the synagogue, 'Blessed be the Lord forever; the Lord is God of gods and the Lord; a great God, strong and terrible.'

Near the arch on which these last words were written our ancestors always washed their hands except the chief rabbi who entered the 'House of Heaven' [a little square room, which none but the rabbi can enter during the time of prayer].

In the 'House of Heaven' the rolls of the law were kept in silken curtains, and on the western wall the Ten Commandments were written in large golden letters. 

After much difficulty and tipping I persuaded my visitors to be photographed, and then accompanied by Mr. Shields, My Hu (my interpreter), and two soldiers, I visited mosque after mosque, which excited and annoyed the Mohammedans, who mistook me for a Jewish rabbi in disguise.

The fourth proved to be the one I wanted, for in a small room I saw the ark on a table, and made toward it, when the crowd objected and pushed me out, emphasizing their disapproval in no uncertain manner.  The soldiers were helpless, but I had a strong suspicion that they were at heart with the mob.

The climax came when I clambered on the roof of the mosque and began to examine the tiles, for thousands of Chinese surrounded the mosque, yelling out, "Kick the devil's stomach!"' "'Batter his devil's brain on the stones!" "Kill the Jew!" "Choke the sinew-puller!"

"Tear the foreign devil's entrails out!" and other diabolical things too numerous and too disgusting to mention.  The majority were armed with bricks, clubs, or knives and were mad with rage.  Every second I thought would be my last, for the fury of the Chinese mob beggars all description.

A happy thought flashed through my mind and, quick as lightning, I pulled out my folding camera and turned it toward them, thinking to photograph the murderous beasts before they butchered me. The shock was tremendous; they dropped their bricks, knives, and clubs, and crushed and jammed one another in their rush from the "devil's glass."

My friend, interpreter, and soldiers very discreetly banged and fastened the doors after them, and the interpreter explained to the Mohammedan priests that I was not a Jew, but a British traveler, and only wanted to see these things.

They said if I would promise that in the event of the Jewish synagogue being rebuilt their mosque would not be interfered with, the people would be pacified and permit me to see the ark and examine the tiles.

They are much afraid their mosque will be destroyed if the synagogue is rebuilt, in order to get tiles which they have stolen.  I promised everything they asked. 

The Chinese government, which now recognizes Jews as an official Chinese ethnic group, is also paying more attention to the country's Jewish past.

The Jewish presence in China is at least one thousand years old, and elements remain today, despite assimilation and Communist anti-religious persecution.

An Ancient Letter Tells the Story

A letter written around 718 by a businessman seeking to sell some sheep was found preserved 100 years ago in western China. The document, which was written on paper, then made only in China, is in Judeo-Persian, then a common business language in Central Asia, using Hebrew letters. Scholars believe it indicates a Jewish presence.

Later, another paper containing a Selihot, a Hebrew prayer, was found in the Caves of One Thousand Buddhas in Dunhuang.

Silk Road Merchants Flourish

Capital of the Sung Dynasty, Kaifeng was a bustling Silk Road trading center one thousand years ago. Around 960, a group of Persian Jews, merchants or refugees, arrived in the city.

The emperor allowed them to build a synagogue, commemorated by a 1489 stone tablet in the Kaifeng Museum. In addition, a street in what was once the Jewish quarter is known as "The Lane of the Sect that Teaches the Scriptures." A Chinese-language Torah from the Kaifeng synagogue is in the British Museum in London.

Working on the Railroad

Russian Jews were numerous in Harbin around the turn of the century. Many came to build railroads in China. BBC News recently reported that officials think several hundred buildings in Harbin were part of the Jewish community. The city also contains a Hebrew cemetery.

European Refugees

Shanghai has long been one of the most cosmopolitan cities in China. Jews fleeing Russia in the 1900s were followed by refugees from the Nazis during World War II. Once there were 30,000 Jews in Shanghai.

Most fled when the Communists took over in 1959. On Sept. 29, 2000, Rosh Hashanah services were held at the Ohel Rachel Synagogue for the first time in nearly 50 years. There are also a Jewish library and a Jewish museum in the city.

Kaifeng Jews

The Kaifeng Jews are members of a small Jewish community that has existed in Kaifeng, in the Henan province of China, for hundreds of years. Jews in modern China have traditionally called themselves Youtai (, from Judah) in Mandarin Chinese which is also the predominant contemporary Chinese language term for Jews in general.

However, the community was known by their Han Chinese neighbors as adherents of Tiaojinjiao, meaning, loosely, the religion which removes the sinew (a reference to kashrut).


According to historical records, a Jewish community lived in Kaifeng from at least the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127) until the late nineteenth century and Kaifeng was Northern Song's capital. It is surmised that the ancestors of the Kaifeng Jews came from Central Asia.

It is also reported that in 1163 Ustad Leiwei was given charge of the religion (Ustad means teacher in Persian), and that they built a synagogue surrounded by a study hall, a ritual bath, a communal kitchen, a kosher butchering facility, and a sukkah. .

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a Ming emperor conferred seven surnames upon the Jews, by which they are identifiable today: Ai, Shi, Gao, Jin, Li, Zhang, and Zhao.
Interestingly, two of these: Jin and Shi are the equivalent of common Jewish names in the west: Gold and Stone.

The existence of Jews in China was unknown to Europeans until 1605, when Matteo Ricci, then established in Beijing, was visited by a Jew from Kaifeng, who had come to Beijing to take examinations for his jinshi degree.

According to his account in De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, his visitor, named Ai Tian (Ai T'ien)  explained that he worshipped one God. It is recorded that when he saw a Christian image of Mary with the child Jesus, he believed it to be a picture of Rebecca with Esau or Jacob, figures from Scripture.

Ai said that many other Jews resided in Kaifeng; they had a splendid synagogue ( libai si) and possessed a great number of written materials and books.

About three years after Ai's visit, Ricci sent a Chinese Jesuit Lay Brother to visit Kaifeng; he copied the beginnings and ends of the holy books kept in the synagogue, which allowed Ricci to verify that they indeed were the same texts as the Pentateuch known to Europeans, except that they did not use Hebrew diacritics (which were a comparatively late invention).De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, p. 109 in Gallagher's English translation (1953)

When Ricci wrote to the "ruler of the synagogue" in Kaifeng, telling him that the Messiah the Jews were waiting for had come already, the "Archsynagogus" wrote back, saying that the Messiah would not come for another ten thousand years.

Nonetheless, apparently concerned with the lack of a trained successor, the old rabbi offered Ricci his position, if the Jesuit would join their faith and abstain from eating pork. Later, another three Jews from Kaifeng, including Ai's nephew, stopped by the Jesuits' house while visiting Beijing on business, and got themselves baptized.

They told Ricci that the old rabbi had died, and (since Ricci had not taken up on his earlier offer), his position was inherited by his son, "quite unlearned in matters pertaining to his faith". Ricci's overall impression of the situation of China's Jewish community was that "they were well on the way to becoming Saracens [i.e., Muslims] or heathens."

Later, a number of European Jesuits visited the Kaifeng community as well.

The Taiping Rebellion of the 1850s led to the dispersal of the community, but it later returned to Kaifeng. Three stelae with inscriptions were found at Kaifeng. The oldest, dating from 1489, commemorates the construction of a synagogue in 1163 (bearing the name, Qīngzhēn Sì, a term often used for mosques in Chinese).

The inscription states that the Jews came to China from India during the Han Dynasty period (2nd century BCE-2nd century CE). It cites the names of 70 Jews with Chinese surnames, describes their audience with an unnamed Song Dynasty emperor, and lists the transmission of their religion from Abraham down to the prophet Ezra.

The second tablet, dating from 1512 (found in the synagogue Xuanzhang Daojing Si) details their Jewish religious practices. The third, dated 1663, commemorates the rebuilding of the Qingzhen si synagogue and repeats information that appears in the other 2 steles.Weisz, Tiberiu. The Kaifeng Stone Inscriptions: The Legacy of the Jewish Community in Ancient China. New York: iUniverse, 2006 (ISBN 0-595-37340-2)

Ink rubbings of the 1489 stele (left) and 1512 stele (right)

2 of the stelae refer to a famous tattoo written on the back of Song Dynasty General Yue Fei. 

The tattoo, which reads "Boundless loyalty to the country", first appeared in a section of the 1489 stele talking about the Jews’ “Boundless loyalty to the country and Prince”.

The second appeared in a section of the 1512 stele talking about how Jewish soldiers and officers in the Chinese armies were “Boundlessly loyal to the country.” 

The same source even claims that Israelites served as soldiers in the armies of Yue Fei.

Father Joseph Brucker, a Roman Catholic researcher of the early twentieth century, notes that Ricci's account of Chinese Jews indicates that there were only in the range of 10 or 12 Jewish families in Kaifeng in the late sixteenth to early 17 centuries, De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, p. 108 in Gallagher's English translation (1953) and that they had reportedly resided there for five or 600 years.

It was also stated in the manuscripts that there was a greater number of Jews in Hangzhou. This could be taken to suggest that loyal Jews fled south along with the soon-to-be crowned Emperor Gaozong to Hangzhou. In fact, the 1489 stele mentions how the Jews "abandoned Bianliang" (Kaifeng) after the Jingkang Incident.

Earth Market Street, Kaifeng, 1910. The synagogue lay beyond the row of stores on the right.

Despite their isolation from the rest of the Jewish diaspora, the Jews of Kaifeng preserved Jewish traditions and customs for many centuries. In the seventeenth century, assimilation began to erode these traditions.

The rate of intermarriage between Jews and other ethnic groups, such as the Han Chinese, and the Hui and Manchu minorities in China, increased. The destruction of the synagogue in the 1860s led to the community's demise.

However, J.L. Liebermann, the first Western Jew to visit Kaifeng in 1867, noted that "they still had a burial ground of their own". S.M. Perlmann, the Shanghai businessman and scholar, wrote in 1912 that "they bury their dead in coffins, but of a different shape than those of the Chinese are made, and do not attire the dead in secular clothes as the Chinese do, but in linen".

Today, 600-1,000 residents of Kaifeng trace their lineage back to this community. After contact with Jewish tourists, the Jews of Kaifeng have reconnected to mainstream Jewry. With the help of Jewish organizations, some members of the community have emigrated to Israel.


One scholar, Dr. Xun Zhou, doubts the authenticity of the Kaifeng community, believing it to have been largely a Western cultural construct. Xun Zhou, a research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, maintains that the community had no Torah scrolls until 1851, when they suddenly appeared to be sold to eager Western collectors.

She also states that drawings of the synagogue were doctored in the West because the original did not look like one, and that the Kaifeng community claimed to have kept some Jewish practices since before they are known to have begun. Xun Zhou's conclusion is that the Kaifeng community was not Jewish in any meaningful sense.

Kaifeng Jews today

Due to the political situation, research on the Kaifeng Jews and Judaism in China came to a standstill until the beginning of the 1980s, when political and economic reforms were implemented. The establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel in 1992 rekindled interest in Judaism and the Jewish experience, especially in light of the fact that 25,000 Jewish refugees fled to Shanghai during the Nazi period.

The Kaifeng Jews intermarried with local Chinese, and are thus indistinguishable in appearance from their non-Jewish neighbors. Within the framework of contemporary rabbinical Judaism, matrilineal transmission of Jewishness is predominant, while Chinese Jews based their Jewishness on patrilineal descent.

As a result, they are required to undergo conversion in order to receive Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Most descendants of Kaifeng's Jewish community are only vaguely aware of their ancestry.

Some, however, say their parents and grandparents told them that they were Jewish and would one day "return to their land." The one trait that differentiated them from their neighbors was not eating pork. They also have celebrated Jewish events such as Chanukah.

Interior of the Kaifeng synagogue

The last census revealed about 400 official Jews in Kaifeng, now estimated at some 100 families totalling approximately 500 people, to 1,000 residents have ties to Jewish ancestry, though only 40 to 50 individuals partake in Jewish activities. It is difficult to estimate the number of Jews in any country, but in China it is nearly impossible.

Numbers may change simply because of a change in official attitudes. For example, the number of ethnic Manchus during the reign of the last Manchu emperor was estimated at 2 million; after the fall of the Manchu Empire, Manchus, fearing persecution, virtually disappeared and only 500,000 were counted in the succeeding census.

When official policies regarding minorities were changed, affording them protective rights, the number of ethnic Manchus jumped to 5 million.

Although overseas Jewish communities have been indifferent toward the putative descendants of the Kaifeng Jews, a Sino-Judaic Institute has been established in California to further research the history of the Jewish communities in China, promote educational projects related to the history of the Jews in China and assist the extant Jews of Kaifeng.

Recently a family of Kaifeng Jewish descendants formally converted to Judaism and accepted Israeli citizenship. Whether or not more Kaifeng Jewish descendants will follow in this family's path remains a matter of speculation.

The upcoming documentary film, Kaifeng, Jerusalem, by Dr. Noam Urbach, describes the ordeal of this family. 

On October 20, 2009, the first group of Kaifeng Jews arrived in Israel, in an aliya operation coordinated by Shavei Israel.

Documentary films

In his 1992 documentary series Legacy, historian Michael Wood walked down a small lane in Kaifeng that he said is known as the "alley of the sect who teach the Scriptures", that is, of the Jews. He mentioned that there are still Jews in Kaifeng today, but that they are reluctant to reveal themselves "in the current political climate."

The documentary's companion book further states that one can still see a "mezuzah on the door frame, and the candelabrum in the living room.

"Similarly, in the documentary Quest for the Lost Tribes, by Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici, the film crew visits the home of an elderly Kaifeng Jew who explains the recent history of the Kaifeng Jews, shows some old photographs, and his identity papers that identify him as a member of the Jewish ethnic group.

A recent documentary, Minyan in Kaifeng, documents and covers the present-day Kaifeng Jewish community in China during a trip to Kaifeng that was taken by some Jewish tourists.

Books about the Kaifeng Jews

Kaifeng city map, 1910. It shows the exact placement of the Kaifeng synagogue on the site now occupied by Number 4 People's Hospital

In The Kaifeng Stone Inscriptions: The Legacy of the Jewish Community in Ancient China, Tiberiu Weisz, a teacher of Hebrew history and Chinese religion, presents his own translations of the 1489, 1512, and 1663 stone stelae left by the descendants of the Kaifeng Jews.

Based on the new info gleamed from this translation, Weisz theorizes after the Babylonian exile of the sixth century BCE, disenchanted Levites and Kohanim parted with the Prophet Ezra and settled in Northwestern India.

Sometime prior to 108 BCE, these Jews had migrated to Gansu province, China and were spotted by the Chinese general Li Guang, who was sent to expand the borders of Han Dynasty China.

Centuries later, the Jews were expelled from China proper during the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution (845-46), where they lived in the region of Ningxia. Weisz believes they later returned to China during the Song Dynasty when its second emperor, Song Taizong, sent out a decree seeking the wisdom of foreign scholars.

In a review of the book, Irwin M. Berg, a lawyer and friend of the Kaifeng Jewish community, claims Weisz never figured the many religious documents—Torah, Haggadah, prayer books, etc.—into his thesis and only relied on the stelae themselves. Such documents can be roughly dated from their physical and scribal characteristics.

Even though he refers to Persian words utilized in the stelae, Weisz did not include a study on when the Judeo-Persian language of the liturgical documents first came into use in his thesis. Judeo-Persian first developed in Central Asia during the eighth century, well after the author supposes the Jews first entered China.

Berg questions the historical reliability of the three stone inscriptions themselves. He gives one anachronistic example where the Jews claim it was an emperor of the Ming Dynasty who bequeathed the land used to build their first synagogue in 1163 during the Song Dynasty.

Chinese Jews reading the Torah from a "chair of Moses."

Kaifeng manuscripts

Little of the written works of the Kaifeng have survived. A significant portion, however, are kept in the library of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. Among the works in that collection are a siddur (a Jewish prayer book) in Chinese characters and a Hebrew codex of the bible.

The codex is fascinating in that, while it ostensibly contains vowels, it was clearly copied by someone who did not understand them. While the symbols are accurate portrayals of Hebrew vowels, they appear to be placed randomly, thereby rendering the voweled text as gibberish.

Since Hebrew is generally written without vowels, a literate Hebrew speaker can disregard these markings, as the consonants are written correctly, with few scribal errors.

Literary references to Chinese Jews

Pulitzer-prize-winning American novelist Pearl S. Buck, raised in China and fluent in Chinese, set one of her historical novels ("Peony") in a Chinese Jewish community. The novel deals with the cultural forces gradually eroding the separate identity of the Jews, including intermarriage.

The title character, the Chinese bondmaid Peony, loves her master's son, David ben Ezra, but cannot marry him due to her lowly station. He eventually marries a high-class Chinese woman, to some consternation of his mother, who is proud of her unmixed heritage.

Descriptions of remnant names, such as a "Street of the Plucked Sinew", and of customs such as refraining from the eating of pork, are prevalent in this novel.

History of the Jews in China

Jews and Judaism in China have had a long history. Jewish settlers are documented in China as early as the 7th or 8th century CE, but may have arrived during the mid Han Dynasty, or even as early as 231 BCE. Relatively isolated communities developed through the Tang and Song Dynasties (7-12th cent. CE) all the way through the Qing Dynasty (19th cent.), most notably in the Kaifeng Jews (the term "Chinese Jews" is often used in a restricted sense to refer to these communities).

By the time of the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, few if any native Chinese Jews were known to have maintained the practice of their religion and culture. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, some international Jewish groups have helped Chinese Jews rediscover their heritage.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Jewish immigrants from around the world arrived with Western commercial influences, particularly in the commercial centers of Hong Kong, which was for a time a British colony, Shanghai (the International Settlement and French Concession), and Harbin (the Trans-Siberian Railway).

In the first half of the 20th century, thousands of Jewish refugees escaping from the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Holocaust in Europe arrived in China.

Today, with the current expansion of trade and globalization, Jews of many ethnicities from multiple regions of the world have settled permanently and temporarily in China's major cities. Jews may be considered one of the officially undistinguished ethnic groups in China.


China's Jewish communities have been ethnically diverse ranging from the Jews of Kaifeng and other places during the history of Imperial China, who, it is reported, came to be more or less totally assimilated into Chinese culture, to 19th and 20th century Baghdadis, to Indians, to Ashkenazi Jews from Europe.

The presence of a community of Jewish immigrants in China is consistent with the history of the Jewish people during the first and second millennia CE, which saw them disperse and settle throughout the Eurasian landmass, with an especial concentration throughout central Asia"." Asia Society. 12 July 2000 (Accessed 19 Nov 2006).

By the ninth century, ibn Khordadbeh noted the travels of Jewish merchants called Radhanites, whose trade took them to China via the Silk Road through Central Asia and India.

Jacob of Ancona, the supposed author of a book of travels, a scholarly Jewish merchant who wrote in vernacular Italian, had reached China in 1271, although some authors question it.

During the period of international opening and quasi-colonialism, the first group to settle in China were Jews who arrived in China under British protection following the First Opium War. Many of these Jews were of Indian or Iraqi origin, due to British colonialism in these regions. The second community came in the first decades of the 20th century when many Jews arrived in Hong Kong and Shanghai during those cities' periods of economic expansion.

Many more arrived as refugees from the Russian Revolution of 1917. A surge of Jews and Jewish families was to arrive in the late 1930s and 1940s, for the purpose of seeking refuge from the Holocaust in Europe and were predominantly of European origin.

Shanghai was notable for its volume of Jewish refugees, most of whom left after the war, the rest relocating prior to or immediately after the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

Over the centuries, the Kaifeng community came to be virtually indistinguishable from the Chinese population and is not recognized by the Chinese government as a separate ethnic minority. This is as a result of having adopted many Han Chinese customs including patrilineal descent, as well as extensive intermarriage with the local population.

Since their religious practices are functionally extinct, they are not eligible for expedited immigration to Israel under the Law of Return unless they explicitly convert.

Today, some descendants of Jews still live in the Han Chinese and Hui population. Some of them, as well as international Jewish communities, are beginning to revive their interest in this heritage.

This is especially important in modern China because belonging to any minority group includes a variety of benefits including reduced restrictions on the number of children and easier admission standards to tertiary education.

The study of Judaism in China has been, like other Abrahamic religions, a subject of interest to some Westerners, and has achieved moderate success compared to other western studies in China.


It has been asserted by some that the Jews who have historically resided in various places in China originated with the Lost Ten Tribes of the exiled ancient Kingdom of Israel who relocated to the areas of present-day China. Traces of some ancient Jewish rituals have been observed in some places.

One well-known group was the Kaifeng Jews, who are purported to have traveled from Persia to India during the mid-Han Dynasty and later migrated from the Muslim-inhabited regions of northwestern China (modern day Gansu province) to Henan province during the early Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

A massacre of Jews in Canton, China occurred during the Chinese Tang Dynasty in the 9th century during the Huang Chao Rebellion.


thumb|left|200px|Jews of Kaifeng, late 19th or early 20th c. There is an oral tradition that the first Jews immigrated to China through Persia following the Roman Emperor Titus's capture of Jerusalem in 70 CE. A large number of Jews emigrated from Persia during the reign of Emperor Ming of Han (58-75 CE). Writing in 1900, Father Joseph Brucker hypothesized that Jews came to China from India by a sea route during the Song dynasty between 960 and 1126.

3 steles with inscriptions found at Kaifeng bear some historical suggestions. The oldest, dating from 1489, commemorates the construction of a synagogue (1163) (bearing the name Qīngzhēn Sì, a term often used for mosque in Chinese), states the Jews entered China from India in the Later Han Dynasty (25–220 CE), the Jews' 70 Chinese surnames, their audience with an "un-named" Song Dynasty Emperor, and finally lists the transmission of their religion from Abraham down to the prophet Ezra.

The second table, dated 1512 (found in the synagogue Xuanzhang Daojing Si) details the Jews' religious practices. The third is dated 1663 and commemorates the re-rebuilding of the Qingzhen si synagogue and recaps the information from the other two steles.Weisz, Tiberiu. The Kaifeng Stone Inscriptions: The Legacy of the Jewish Community in Ancient China. New York: iUniverse, 2006 (ISBN 0-595-37340-2)

2 of the stelae refer to a famous tattoo written on the back of Song Dynasty General Yue Fei. The tattoo, which reads jǐn zhōng bào guó ("Boundless loyalty to the country"), first appeared in a section of the 1489 stele talking about the Jews’ “Boundless loyalty to the country and Prince”.

The second appeared in a section of the 1512 stele talking about how Jewish soldiers and officers in the Chinese armies were “Boundlessly loyal to the country.” One source even claims that Israelites served as soldiers in the armies of Yue Fei.

Father Joseph Brucker believed Matteo Ricci's manuscripts indicate there were only approximately ten or twelve Jewish families in Kaifeng in the late 16–early 17th century, and that they had reportedly resided there for five or 600 years.

It was also stated in the manuscripts that there was a greater number of Jews in Hangzhou. This could be taken to suggest that loyal Jews fled south along with the soon-to-be crowned Emperor Gaozong to Hangzhou. In fact, the 1489 stele mentions how the Jews "abandoned Bianliang" (Kaifeng) after the Jingkang Incident.

thumb|right|150px|Section of the 1512 stele which mentions Yue's famous tattoo.

Many Jewish communities were established in China in the Middle Ages. However, not all left evidence of their existence. The following are those known today: Kaifeng, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Yangzhou, and Ningxia.


The contemporary term for Jews in use among Chinese today is Youtairen () in Mandarin Chinese. The term Youtai has similar phonetic sound of Jude or Judah, Greek terms for Jew.

It has been recorded that the Chinese historically called the Jews Tiao jin jiao (挑筋教), loosely, "the religion which removes the sinew," probably referring to the Jewish dietary prohibition against eating the sciatic nerve (from Genesis 32:32).

Jewish dietary law (kashruth), which forbids the eating of, among other foods, non-ruminant mammals, shellfish and reptiles, would have most likely caused Jewish communities to stand out from the surrounding mainstream Chinese population,  as Chinese culture is typically very free in the range of items it deems suitable for food.

Jews have also been called the Blue-Hat Hui, in contrast to other populations of Hui people, who have identified with hats of other colors. The distinction between Muslim and Jewish Hui is not, and historically has not been, well recognised by the dominant Han population.

A modern translation of the "Kaifeng Steles" has shown the Jews referred to their synagogue as "The Pure and Truth", which is essentially the same as the term used in modern China to refer to Muslim mosques (清真寺).

According to an oral tradition dictated by Xu Xin, Director of the Center for Judaic Studies at Nanjing University, in his book Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, the Kaifeng Jews called Judaism Yīcìlèyè jiào (一賜樂業教), lit. the religion of Israel. Yīcìlèyè is a transliteration and partial translation of "Israel". Xu Xin translates this phrase as "Chosen people, endowed by God, and contented with their lives and work".

Early record

The earliest evidence showing the presence of Jews in China is from the beginning of the eight century: a business letter written in the Judeo-Persian language, discovered by Marc Aurel Stein. The letter (now housed in the British Museum) was found in Danfan Uiliq, an important post along the Silk Road in northwest China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

The text is thirty-seven lines in length and was written on paper, a product then manufactured only in China. It was identified, by David Samuel Margoliouth, as dating from 718 C.E. Ibn Zeyd al Hassan of Siraf, a 9th century Arabian traveler, reports that in 878 followers of the Chinese rebel leader Huang Chao besieged Canton (Guangzhou) and killed a large number of foreign merchants, among others Jewish, resident there.

Sources indicate that Jews in China were often mistaken for Muslims by other Chinese. The first plausible recorded written Chinese mention of Jews uses the term Zhu-hu, or Zhu-hu-du (perhaps from Hebrew Yehudim, "Jews") found in the Annals of the Yuan Dynasty in 1329 and 1354. The text spoke of the reinforcement of a tax levied on "dissenters" and of a government decree that the Jews come en-masse to Beijing, the capital.

Famous Venetian traveler Marco Polo, who visited China, then under the Yuan Dynasty, in the late 13th century, described the prominence of Jewish traders in Beijing. Similar references can be found in the notes of the Franciscan John of Montecorvino, first archbishop of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing at the early of 14th century, and the writings of Ibn Batuta, an Arabian envoy to the Mongol Empire in the middle of 14th century.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), a Ming emperor conferred seven surnames upon the Jews, by which they are identifiable today: Ai, Shi, Gao, Jin, Li, Zhang, and Zhao'; sinofications of the original seven Jewish clan's family names: Ezra, Shimon, Cohen, Gilbert, Levy, Joshua, and Jonathan.

Interestingly, two of these: Jin and Shi are the equivalent of common Jewish names in the west: Gold and Stone.

The first modern Western record of Jews residing in China is found in the records of the seventeenth century Jesuit missionaries in Beijing. The prominent Jesuit Matteo Ricci, received a visit from a young Jewish Chinese man in 1605.

Ricci mentioned this man's name as Ngai, who has since been identified by the French sinologist Paul Pelliot as a Jew named Ai T'ien, who explained that the community he belonged to was monotheistic, or believing in only one God.

It is recorded that when he saw a Christian image of Mary with the child Jesus, he took it to be a picture of Rebecca with Esau or Jacob, figures from Hebrew Scripture. Ngai (Ai Tian, Ai T'ien) declared that he had come from Kaifeng, and stated that this was the site of a large Jewish population.De Christiana expeditione apud Sinas, Book One, Chapter 11. Pages 107-111 in the English translation: Gallagher (1953). "China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matteo Ricci", Random House, New York, 1953.

The Latin original text, can be found on Google Books. The corresponding text is on of Book One of the Latin text.

Ricci sent an ethnic Chinese Jesuit Lay Brother to visit Kaifeng; later, other Jesuits (mostly European) also visited the city. It was later discovered that the Jewish community had a synagogue (Libai si''), which was constructed facing the west, and housed a number of written materials and books.

19th century

During the Taiping rebellion of the 1850s, the Jews of Kaifeng apparently suffered a great deal and were dispersed. Following this dislocation, they returned to Kaifeng, yet continued to be small in number and to face hardships, as is recorded in the early 20th century.

Shanghai's first wave of Jews came in the second half of the 19th century, many being Mizrahi Jews from Iraq. The first Jew who arrived there was Elias David Sassoon, who, about the year 1850, opened a branch in connection with his father's Bombay house. Since that period Jews gradually migrated from India to Shanghai, most of them being engaged from Bombay as clerks by the firm of David Sassoon & Co.

The community was composed mainly of "Asian," (Sephardi) German, and Russian Jews, though there were a few of Austrian, French, and Italian origin among them. Jews took a considerable part in developing trade in China, and several served on the municipal councils, among them being Silas Aaron Hardoon, partner in the firm of E. D. Sassoon & Co., who served on the French and English councils at the same time.

During the early days of Jewish settlement in Shanghai the trade in opium and Bombay cotton yarn was mainly in Jewish hands.

Modern times

Contemporaneous sources estimated the Jewish population in China in 1940 - including Manchukuo - at 36,000 (source: Catholic Encyclopedia).

Jewish life in Shanghai had really taken off with the arrival of the British. Mizrahi Jews from the Middle East came as traders via India and Hong Kong and established some of the leading trading companies in the second half of the 19th century.

Later, after World War I, many Ashkenazi Jews came from Europe. Rebbe Meir Ashkenazi (Chabad-Lubavitch) was the Chief Rabbi of Shanghai (1926-1949).

At the early 20th century many Russian Jews fleeing pogroms in several towns in Russian Empire decided to move to northeast China for permanent settlement (Rabbi Aaron Kiselev served in Harbin from 1913 until his death in 1949). After the Russian Revolution of 1917, a lot of White Russians, fled to Harbin (former Manchuria).

These included, among others, Dr. Abraham Kaufman, who played a leading role in the Harbin Jewish community after 1919, the parents of future Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Teodor Parnicki at the age of 12.

The Japanese occupation of northeast China in 1931 and the establishment of Manchukuo in 1932 had a negative impact on the Harbin Jewish community (13,000 in 1929). Most of those Jews left Harbin for Tianjin, Shanghai, and British Mandate of Palestine. Until 1939, the Russian Jews were about 5,000 in Shanghai.


Another wave of 18,000 Jews from Germany, Austria, and Poland immigrated to Shanghai at the end of 1930s and the early of 1940s. Shanghai at the time was an open city and did not have restrictions on immigration, and some Chinese diplomats such as Ho Feng Shan issued "protective" passports.

In 1943, the occupying Japanese army required these 18,000 Jews, formally known as "stateless refugees," to relocate to a 3/4 square mile area of Shanghai's Hongkew district (today known as Hongkou District) where many lived in group homes called "Heime" or "Little Vienna".

The total number of Jews entering Shanghai during this period equaled the number of Jews fleeing to Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa combined. Many of the Jews in China later moved to found modern Israel.

Shanghai was an important safe-haven for Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, since it was one of the few places in the world where one didn't need a visa. However, it was not easy to get there. The Japanese, who controlled the city, preferred in effect to look the other way. Some corrupt officials however, also exploited the plight of the Jews. By 1941 nearly 20,000 European Jews had found shelter there.

thumb|Jacob Rosenfeld, a doctor for the [[New Fourth Army, between Liu Shaoqi (left) and Chen Yi (right).]]

Notable Chinese Jews during the Second Sino-Japanese War include Hans Shippe, Dr. Jakob Rosenfeld, Eva Sandberg, photographer and wife of Communist leader Xiao San, and Morris Abraham Cohen.

Late in the War, Nazi representatives pressured the Japanese army to devise a plan to exterminate Shanghai's Jewish population, and this pressure eventually became known to the Jewish community's leadership.

However, the Japanese had no intention of further provoking the anger of the Allies after their already notorious invasion of China and a number of other Asian nations, and thus delayed the German request until the War ended.

With the intercession of the Amshenower Rebbe and the translation skills of Leo (Ariyeh) Hanin, the Japanese ultimately kept the Jews of Shanghai safe.

The relative safety of the Jews during the period, in contrast to the Japanese treatment of Chinese during the war, was linked to an appreciation of Jewish culture and history by the Japanese and to the connections that many Jews had in the United States. Nevertheless, conditions in the Designated Area were unpleasant, particularly during the summer months.

In general, in the period of 1845 to 1945 more than 40,000 Jews came to China for business development or for a safe haven.

Late 20th century

After World War II and the establishment of the PRC in 1949, most of these Jews emigrated to Israel or the West, although a few remained. Two prominent non-Chinese lived in China from the establishment of the People's Republic of China to the contemporary period: Sidney Shapiro and Israel Epstein, two American emigres, are of Jewish descent. Another Jewish-American, Sidney Rittenberg served as interpreter to many top Chinese officials.

Sara Imas, the Shanghai-born daughter of Shanghai's Jewish Club president, Leiwi Imas, became the first Jewish-Chinese immigrant to Israel after the two countries established formal diplomatic relations in 1992. Leiwi Imas, who had to leave Germany for Poland in 1939, arrived in Shanghai the same year.

He spent his final years in Shanghai until 1962, prior to the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Although Sara Imas's non-Chinese appearance and family background brought her much trouble during the Cultural Revolution when she was accused of being a foreign capitalist and spy, today Sara Imas has returned to Shanghai, working as the Chinese representative of an Israeli diamond company.

The Institute of Jewish Studies was established at Nanjing University in 1992.

Since the 1990s, the Shanghai municipal government has taken the initiative to preserve historical Western architectures that were constructed during Shanghai's colonial past. Many formerly Jewish-owned hotels and private residence have been included in the preservation project. In 1997, the Kadoorie-residence-turned Shanghai Children's Palace, had their spacious front garden largely removed in order to make room for the city's overpass system under construction.

A One Day Tour of the history of Jewish presence in Shanghai can be arranged through the Center of Jewish Studies Shanghai. Rabbi Shalom Greenberg from Chabad-Lubavitch in New York arrived in Shanghai to serve this community in August 1998.

Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation of New York, donated a Torah to the community that same year. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, in September 1999, a Jewish New Year service was held at the Ohel Rachel Synagogue for first time since 1952.

21st century

Synagogues are found in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong today, serving both international Jews and native Jews. In 2001, Rabbi Shimon Freundlich from the Chabad came and settled in Beijing with the mission of building and leading the center of Chabad-Lubavitch of Beijing, an Orthodox congregation. In 2005, the Israeli embassy to China held their Hanukkah celebrations at the Great Wall of China.

Jews Around the World American Jews

In Egypt the Karaites had customs which differed from those of the Rabbinates, although some were similar. In Cairo, more members of both communities lived in certain neighborhoods, in 'Abbasiyah, Ghamrah, Sakakini and al-Dahir. The well-to-do lived in Hilwan, Ma',adi, or Heliopolis. The wealthy had villas in Garden City or Zamalek.

That, of course, does not include many among the poor, the middle class and even a few well-to-do members who preferred to stay in the Karaite neighborhood in Khurunfish where they felt more secure and were very near to Rab Simhah synagogue.

Because most of the Karaites were of Egyptian origin, they acquired certain Egyptian customs. The men dressed like natives. Until early in the 20th century, most of the goldsmiths used to wear the gibbah and quftin. Lower class men wore the galabiyah with a coat over it, especially in winter.

Most women wore a two-piece dress, usually black. The bottom part was almost like a skirt, the top a plain piece of material that covered the head and shoulders to the waist. It could also be used to veil the face.

This is the same kind of clothing that the middle class Muslim women in Egypt and in Turkey used to wear during the first quarter of the 20th century; it is called habarah. Upper middle class and wealthy women wore European dress. In the period covered, there were no restrictions on the kind of material or the style of clothes, as was the case in earlier centuries.'

It was not easy, therefore, to distinguish Jews, Christians, or Muslims by their style of dress. Karaites tended to be more conservative than Rabbinates. While the latter quickly adopted European customs, the Karaites held on longer to the Oriental ways, especially with regard to women's activities. Rabbinate girls occupied many different jobs, while Karaite girls were more interested in getting married.

Until the early 1930's it was not acceptable for young Karaites of different sex to meet with each other. Karaites in general mingled more freely with non-Jewish Egyptians. They did not have a noticeable accent, as did the Rabbinates. They did, however, use some Arabic words in a manner different from the non-Jews.'

Some Karaite women, especially the poor, were affected by their Muslim neighbors and wore amulets to keep away the evil eye and evil spirits.

Until the first quarter of the 20th century, the poor among the Karaites depended a great deal on folk medicine.

Egyptian men were more attracted to fat women. Karaites were no different. It was not difficult for women to put on more weight. In the neighborhood of al-Azhar there was and still is a market called "Suq al-'Attarin" spice market, where one can find all kinds of spices, herbs and the like.

Women used to visit the market and buy what was usually offered as a sure formula to put on more weight. The spice market is a short distance from al-Saghah, where most of the Karaite men carried on their businesses as silver or goldsmiths. It was no trouble to get what their women wanted.

Karaites were well known for their cleanliness. Even the poor among them kept a clean house and especially a clean kitchen. Until they left Egypt, Karaites used to clean their utensils with soft sand and yellow clay.

It was common to see two copper containers next to the kitchen sink, one for the soft sand and the other for the yellow clay (Tafl).

Social activities among the Karaites were limited to visits among relatives and friends. Sunday was the preferred day for this. Late in the 1930's dance parties were held at homes to encourage young people to get together.

Gambling with cards was very common among rich and poor members. Rich people used to get together in their villas, while the poor used to play in the cafes owned by Jews.

Karaite synagogues did not carry on any social activities, but there were some educational activities such as teaching Hebrew and the faith. From time to time, there were lectures in the synagogue or in the center of any existing association.

Jews Around the World American Jews

Jews arrived in England from Normandy with William the Conqueror and the Normans after 1066. It is unclear whether these Jews, most of who were involved in finance, had received any charters or invitations or whether they arrived in England as aliens without any rights from the start.

The fortune of the Jews of England deteriorated very rapidly. Although because at first they were needed, they received protection, but soon hostility developed, their assets were expropriated and they were expelled within two centuries.

During the twelfth century the Jews of England enjoyed the right to inherit property and benefited from more rights than Christians whose lives were very limited by the feudal system.

By the end of the century, however, the king shifted from borrowing money from the Jews to taxing them heavily. As a result, in 1187, during the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), tillage of one quarter of their possessions was imposed on the Jews of London.

Jews Around the World American Jews

In 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte had a problem. Jews had been living in France for a thousand years, since Charlemagne, but until the French Revolution, they had remained, in Abram Sachar’s words, disinherited politically, restricted economically, and despised socially.

Suddenly, in 1791, they were granted citizenship along with everyone else living in France. But although fifteen years had gone by, it still wasn't clear to many in France how this was going to work.

And so Napoleon gathered in Paris a select group of over one hundred Jewish notables, including rabbis, businessmen, financiers and scholars to represent all the Jews living in France. They came to be called a "Sanhedrin" -- a Hebrew/Greek term referring to the supreme judicial body in ancient Judea.

In France, as in the Germanic lands, new developments in popular agitation against the Jews included the spread of accusations against them, however, unlike the German Emperors who challenged the authority of the pope, the kings of France were sympathetic to the wishes of the popes, especially to their Jewish policy, which further diminished the opportunities for the Jews for long-term success in France.

Jews Around the World American Jews

The present Jewish Community dates back to the year 1671 when several Jewish families arrived after being expelled from Vienna. After the Thirty Years War the country was in ruins and the Emperor Frederick William of Prussia allowed different groups to enter the country and build it up.

Before the Nazis came to power, the Berlin Jewish community had 160.000 members. Today Berlin’s Jewish community is the fastest growing in the world due to Russian Jewish immigration. Jewish Community, an umbrella organization which provides for 6 synagogues, 2 mikvot, schools, adult education programs and social services has 12000 members, but many Jews several thousand say the estimates living in Berlin are not affiliated. The small orthodox community Adass Yisroel has 1000 members.

Jews Around the World American Jews

One of the most important Jewish peoples of India are the Bene Israel ("Sons of Israel"), whose main population centers were Bombay, Calcutta, Old Delhi, and Ahmadabad. The native language of the Bene Israel was Marathi, while the Cochin Jews of southern India spoke Malayalam.

The Bene Israel claim to be descended from Jews who escaped persecution in Galilee in the 2nd century BCE. The Bene Israel resembles the non-Jewish Maratha people in appearance and customs, which indicate intermarriage between Jews and Indians. However, the Bene Israel maintained the practices of Jewish dietary laws, circumcision, and observation of Sabbath as a day of rest.

The Bene Israel says their ancestors were oil pressers in the Galil and they are descended from survivors of a shipwreck. In the 18th Century they were "discovered" by traders from Baghdad. At that time the Beni Israel were practicing just a few outward forms of Judaism (which is how they were recognized) but had no scholars of their own. Teachers from Baghdad and Cochin taught them mainstream Judaism in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The first Jews in Cochin (southern India) were the so-called "Black Jews", who spoke the Malayalam tongue. The "Sephardic Jews" settled later, coming to India from western European nations such as Holland and Spain.

A notable settlement of Spanish and Portuguese Jews starting in the 15th century was Goa, but this settlement eventually disappeared. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Cochin had an influx of Jewish settlers from the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain.

The Jews of Cochin say that they came to Cranganore (southwest coast of India) after the destruction of the Temple in 70ce. They had, in effect, their own principality for many centuries until a chieftainship dispute broke out between two brothers in the 15th century.

The dispute led neighboring princes to dispossess them. In 1524, the Moors, backed by the ruler of Calicut (today called Kozhikode) attacked the Jews of Cranganore on the pretext that they were "tampering" with the pepper trade.

Most Jews fled to Cochin and went under the protection of the Hindu Raja there. He granted them a site for their own town, which later acquired the name "Jew Town".

Unfortunately for the Jews of Cochin, the Portuguese occupied Cochin in this same period and indulged in persecution of the Jews until the Dutch displaced them in 1660. The Dutch Protestants were tolerant and the Jews prospered.

In 1795 Cochin passed into the British sphere of influence. In the 19th century, Cochin Jews lived in the towns of Cochin, Ernakulam, and Parur. Today most of Cochin's Jews have immigrated (principally to Israel).

Typical is the founder of the Calcutta community, Shalom Aharon Ovadiah HaCohen. He was born in Aleppo in 1762 and left in 1789. He arrived in Surat in 1792 and established himself there. He traded as far as Zanzibar.

In 1798 he moved to Calcutta. In 1805 he was joined by his nephew, Moses Simon Duek HaCohen, who married his eldest daughter Lunah. Soon other traders swelled the community and Baghdad's outnumbered those from Aleppo.

Under British rule, the Jews of India achieved their maximum population and wealth, and the Calcutta community continued to grow and prosper and trade amongst all the cities of the Far East and to the rest of the world.

The Indians were very tolerant and the Jews of Calcutta felt completely at home. Their numbers reached a peak of about 5000 during WW-II when refugees fleeing the Japanese advance into Burma swelled them.

The first generations of Calcutta Jews spoke Judeo-Arabic at home, but by the 1890s English was the language of choice. After WWII, nationalism fever caught the Indians rather strongly and it became less comfortable for the Jews who came to be identified with the English by the Indians. India's Jewish population declined dramatically starting in the 1940s with heavy immigration to Israel, England, and the United States.

It is in these 3 nations where the most significant settlements of Indian Jews exist today. Today there is just a handful of old people and the once vital community with its 3 synagogues is no more.

The Baghdadi Jews migrated to British India around the end of the 18th century for purposes of trade, and settled mainly in the port cities of Bombay, Calcutta and Rangoon. They retained their language, Arabic, and a separate cultural identity.

Mostly traders and financiers, their contribution to the industrial growth of Bombay is well documented. David Sassoon, a member of this community was a well-known philanthropist. After independence there was a continuous migration of the Baghdadi Jews to Israel. At present the community is almost extinct in India.

Jews Around the World American Jews

The Jewish community of Persia, modern-day Iran, is one of the oldest in the Diaspora, and its historical roots reach back to the 6th century B.C.E., the time of the First Temple. Their history in the pre-Islamic period is intertwined with that of the Jews of neighboring Babylon.

Cyrus, the first Achaemid emperor, conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.E. and permitted by special decree the return of the Jewish exiles to the Land of Israel; this brought the First Exile to an end.

The Jewish colonies were scattered from centers in Babylon to Persian provinces and cities such as Hamadan and Susa. The books of Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel give a favorable description of the relationship of the Jews to the court of the Achaemids at Susa.

Under the Sassanid dynasty (226-642 C.E.), the Jewish population in Persia grew considerably and spread throughout the region, yet Jews nevertheless suffered intermittent oppression and persecution. The invasion by Arab Muslims in 642 C.E. terminated the independence of Persia, installed Islam as the state religion, and made a deep impact on the Jews by changing their sociopolitical status.

Jews Around the World American Jews

The history of the Jews of Iraq began, with the exile of the Jews of Palestine by the Assyrians and, later, the Babylonians. The deportation of Palestinian Jewry to Babylon occurred in three waves the first the Exile of Samaria, in which ten Hebrew tribes were exiled by the Assyrians. The second the Exile of Jehoiachin, in which ten thousand inhabitants of Jerusalem was brought to Babylonia by Nebuchadnezzar.

The third the Exile of Zidqiah, which marked the end of the Kingdom of Judah, the ruin of Jerusalem and the destruction of King Solomon's first temple. About forty thousand Jews were exiled by the Babylonians during that time.

In 1950, Iraqi Jews were permitted to leave the country within a year provided they forfeited their citizenship. A year later, however, the property of Jews who emigrated was frozen and economic restrictions were placed on Jews who chose to remain in the country.

Jews Around the World American Jews

Commodore Matthew Perry's opening of Japan in 1853 paved the way for a permanent Jewish community. Alexander Marks, who arrived in Yokohama in 1861, was the first Jewish resident of modern Japan; by the end of the 1860's, the city had 50 Jewish families from Poland, the United States and England.

Toward the close of the nineteenth century, 2 more communities emerged: a predominantly Sefardic one in Kobe and a mainly Russian one in Nagasaki.

The first Jewish-Japanese encounter to have a lasting impact on Japan came in 1904. Japan was at war with Russia and the governor of the Bank of Japan was sent to London to arrange for loans to finance the war effort.

He got nowhere with the British banking elite, but while in London he had a chance meeting with the American investment banker Jacob Schiff, whose hatred for the Russians was fanned by the pogroms of the time. Schiff arranged for more than $200 million in loans, Japan won the war, and an American Jewish financier became a hero in Tokyo and was invited to lunch by Emperor Meiji.

But his help also set the stage for a stereotype that would resurface periodically in Japan with both positive and negative facets the belief in the world-wide influence of Jewish wealth.

In 1942, Mitsugi Shibata, the Japanese consul in Shanghai, became privy to a plan by the local Gestapo representative to kill the 18,000 Jews who lived there. He warned the Jewish community, whose leaders used contacts in the foreign ministry to have the plan quashed.

There are areas in which Jews have left their marks on Japan, although not always in ways that are visible to the Japanese. Raphael Schoyer was mayor of Yokohama's foreign colony in the 1860's. He was also the founder of one of Japan's first foreign language newspapers; Jews subsequently played a prominent role in English language journalism.

The Japan Times, largest of the country's four English-language dailies, traces its roots to the prewar Japan Advertiser, which was owned by the Fletcher family.

Jews Around the World American Jews

When Christian Arabs ruled Lebanon, Jews enjoyed relative toleration. In the mid-50’s, approximately 7,000 Jews lived in Beirut. As Jews in an Arab country, however, their position was never secure, and the majority left in 1967.

Muslim-Christian civil war swirled around the Jewish Quarter in Beirut, damaging many Jewish homes, businesses and synagogues. Most of the remaining 1,800 Lebanese Jews emigrated in 1976, fearing the growing Syrian presence in Lebanon would curtail their freedom of emigration. In the mid-1980's, Hezbollah kidnapped several prominent Jews from Beirut most were leaders of what remained of the country's tiny Jewish community.

Four of the Jews were later found murdered. Nearly all of the remaining Jews are in Beirut. Because of the current political situation, Jews are unable to openly practice Judaism. In Beirut there is a committee that represents the community.

Jews Around the World American Jews

The date of the arrival of the first Jews onto Polish soil is unknown. Ibrahim ibn Jakub in the account of his journey in 965 mentioned Krakow and wrote of his first historic Duke of Poland, Mieszko I. The author of these historically valuable notes was certainly not the only Jew to travel through the Piast lands.

Some settled here permanently with their families to make their livelihoods through commerce and the crafts. In later times, banished from many countries, victims of social and religious upheavals, intolerance, and persecution, Jews looked to Poland for asylum and here they found it.

Polish dukes and kings, such as Boleslaw Pobozny and Kazimierz Wielki, appreciated their talents and thus granted them privileges and conditions for a peaceful life. Boleslaw Pobozny's Charter of Kalisz guaranteed full security for Jews, their communities, and property.

The major influx of Jews into Poland took place between the 12th and 15th centuries. This was the period when the Crusades and the Holy Inquisition led to the persecutions of Jews in the countries of Western Europe and their subsequent wandering eastwards in search for asylum.

They found the protection and tolerance they sought in Poland, a country that was, at that time, poorly developed and in need of merchants and craftsmen.

Poland became host over time to the largest concentration of Jews in Europe and the most potent hub for Jewish culture as well. Poland became home to primarily the Ashkenazi, and the Sephardi.

There existed a diversity of various religious and cultural currents, from Chassidim a movement for religious renewal in Poland as Podolia (now the Ukraine) under the leadership of the legendary Baal-szem-tov all the way through progressive movements of the Enlightenment - the Maskilim (proponents of assimilation).

Jews Around the World American Jews

The history of Spanish (Sephardic) Jewry goes back at least 2,000 years to the time of the Roman Empire. The first anti-Jewish laws were passed in 589 CE, when it was ruled that children of a mixed Jewish-Christian marriage should be baptized and this soon led to a policy of forced conversion of all Jews in the kingdom.

In 1694, the 17th Council of Toledo made all Spanish Jews slaves. In the period of Arabic rule, the Jews of Spain fared better, scholarship and culture flourished.

Beginning in 1478, in the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, no less than the Inquisition executed 13,000 secret Jews. At the same time, the monarchs continued to employ Jewish functionaries, such as Don Isaac Abravanel, in their court.

On March 31, 1492 the Edict of Expulsion was signed, resulting in 300,000 Sephardic Jews leaving for refuge in North Africa, Turkey, etc. The last Jews left on August 2, 1492, the day before Columbus sailed, and that was also the traditional day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples.

Thus, the first words Columbus wrote in his log were: "After you expelled the Jews your majesties sent me with a fleet."

Jews Around the World American Jews

Sultan Bayazid II's offer of refuge gave new hope to the persecuted Sephardim. In 1492, the Sultan ordered the governors of the provinces of the Ottoman Empire "not to refuse the Jews entry or cause them difficulties, but to receive them cordially".

According to Bernard Lewis, "the Jews were not just permitted to settle in the Ottoman lands, but were encouraged, assisted and sometimes even compelled".

Immanuel Aboab attributes to Bayazid II the famous remark that "the Catholic monarch Ferdinand was wrongly considered as wise, since he impoverished Spain by the expulsion of the Jews, and enriched Turkey".

The arrival of the Sephardis altered the structure of the community and the original group of Romaniote Jews was totally absorbed.

Over the centuries an increasing number of European Jews, escaping persecution in their native countries, settled in the Ottoman Empire. In 1537 the Jews expelled from Apulia (Italy) after the city fell under Papal control, in 1542 those expelled from Bohemia by King Ferdinand found a safe haven in the Ottoman Empire.

In March of 1556, Sultan Suleyman "the Magnificent" wrote a letter to Pope Paul IV asking for the immediate release of the Ancona Marranos, which he declared to be Ottoman citizens. The Pope had no other alternative than to release them, the Ottoman Empire being the "Super Power" of those days.

By 1477, Jewish households in Istanbul numbered 1647 or 11% of the total. Half a century later, 8070 Jewish houses were listed in the city.

The present size of Jewish Community is estimated at around 26.000. The vast majority live in Istanbul, with a community of about 2.500 in Izmir and other smaller groups located in Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Canakkale, Iskenderun, Kirklareli etc. Sephardis make up 96% of the Community, with Ashkenazis accounting for the rest.

There are about 100 Karaites, an independent group who does not accept the authority of the Chief Rabbi.

Turkish Jews are legally represented, as they have been for many centuries, by the Hahambasi, the Chief Rabbi. Rav David Asseo, Chief Rabbi since elected in 1961, is assisted by a religious Council made up of a Rosh Bet Din and 3 Hahamim. 35 Lay Counselors look after the secular affairs of the Community and an Executive Committee of fourteen, the president of which must be elected from among the Lay Counselors, runs the daily affairs.

Synagogues are classified as religious foundations (Vakifs). There are 16 synagogues in use in Istanbul today. Three are in service in holiday resorts, during summer only. Some of them are very old, especially Ahrida Synagogue in the Balat area, which dates from middle15th century. The 15th and 16th century Haskoy and Kuzguncuk cemeteries in Istanbul are still in use today.

Jews Around the WORLD: American Jews

Jews have made an important contribution to the history and culture of America from the time of Columbus till today.

The first group of Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jewish settlers arrived in New Amsterdam in September 1654, following their escape from the onslaught of the Inquisition in Brazil. But, they did not receive a warm welcome.

Peter Stuyvesant tried to refuse haven to the penniless refugees, and protested. Fortunately, he was overruled thanks to the influence of some people.

Probably in deference to Stuyvesant, the Jews were not permitted to build a synagogue. However, this situation changed after the surrender of New Amsterdam to the British in 1664. While there is some evidence that services were held in a private home as early as 1695, the first congregation - Shearith Israel - was organized around 1706.

Circa 1730, they erected a small synagogue on Mill Lane. At this time there were only about 30 Jewish households in New York City. The synagogue was expanded and rededicated in 1818.

Jews sailed with Columbus and were burned at the stake in Mexico and Peru. Jews explored Iowa with LaSalle and surveyed the Northwest Territories with Washington. The Jews traded with Indians, fought in the Revolution and brought the Liberty Bell from England. Jews defended the American nation in the War of 1812.

Early Jewish Americans explored, wrote poetry, created industries, formed congregations. In the War Between the States some of them served in Northern armies, some in the armies of the South. Jews became Legislators, Governors, judges, artists, businessmen, soldiers and scientists. They helped build the country.

The African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem are comprised of approximately 2,000 men, women and children residing in three development towns Dimona, Arad and Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel. They maintain a vibrant culture which includes a communal lifestyle, a vegan diet, a system of preventive health care and high moral standards, a holistic approach to life based on righteousness.

Their intent is to live according to the laws and prophecies of God. Since their arrival in Dimona, in 1969, it has been their objective to be the foundation for the establishing of God's Kingdom on Earth. The accomplishments of the past years have only strengthened their faith in the words of the prophets.

In 70 C.E. the remnants of The African Hebrew Israelites were driven from Jerusalem by the Romans into different parts of the world, including Africa. Many Hebrew Israelites migrated to West Africa where they, once again, were carried away captive, this time by Europeans on slave ships, to the Americas along with other African tribes’ people.

In 1966 their spiritual leader, Ben Ammi, had a vision that it was time for the Children of Israel who remained in America (the land of their captivity) to return to the Holy Land (the land of their origin).

Jews were among the first convicts deported from the United Kingdom to Australia in the 18th century. By the 19th century, there was an established Jewish community, overwhelmingly made up of free settlers.

In the late 1930s, about 7,000 Jewish refugees, mainly from Germany and Austria, found sanctuary in the country. After the war, Australia admitted tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors, and today Australia has the highest percentage of Holocaust survivors of any Jewish community in the world.

The leading communal organization is the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

In Australia Zionism is strong and Australian Jews have emigrated to Israel in larger numbers than any other English-speaking Jewish community.

The Australian Jewish community is characterized by a number of phenomena that distinguish it from other English-speaking Jewish communities. These include a high rate of enrollment in Jewish day schools and a low rate of intermarriage. Melbourne and Sydney each boast Jewish day schools.

There are 2 Jewish weeklies (the Melbourne and Sydney editions of the Australian Jewish News) and several other periodicals, including the Australia-Israel Review and Generation. Each week Australia's ethnic radio stations feature several hours of programming of Jewish interest in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish.

After their exclusion during the period of French rule, Jews arrived together with the British soldiers who made their homes in Montreal. The first synagogue, Shaarei Israel, was consecrated there in 1768. The census of 1831 recorded 107 Jews.

In 1832 Canadian Jews were granted full civil rights. However, until the 1850s aside from a few Jews scattered throughout the country, nearly all of Canadian Jewry lived in Montreal. In the 1850s Jewish immigrants arrived from Lithuania and began to settle in Toronto and Hamilton, raising the number of Jews to 2,500 by the early 1880s.

This was a watershed year for Canadian Jewry. Russian oppression brought a new influx of Jewish refugees which increased the Jewish population to 16,000 in 1900 and to 126,000 in 1921. In the face of the Nazi onslaught against European Jews, Canada slammed its doors shut. In the years preceding the war, and during the Holocaust itself, only a few thousand Jews managed to find sanctuary here.

The energetic campaign of the Canadian Jewish Congress after the war helped to open the gates to Holocaust survivors and refugees from North Africa. This immigration significantly increased the size of Canadian Jewry from 170,000 to 260,000. 

by Windows of the West 1WORLDCommunity

Prophet of Allah, Shallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam Said: Three hundred fourteen (314) among those who are female, joined the AlMahdi who will act on the leader are doing wrong and uphold justice as hoped for by everyone. After that, there is no longer good on this earth is more than good at the time of AlMahdi. Sabda Nabi Shallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam: Tiga ratus empat belas (314) orang yang diantaranya adalah perempuan, bergabung dengan AlMahdi yang akan bertindak ke atas setiap pemimpin yang berbuat zalim dan menegakkan keadilan seperti yang diharap-harapkan oleh semua orang. Setelah itu, tidak ada kebaikan lagi dimuka bumi ini yang melebihi pada masa AlMahdi.