Friday, 22 October 2010

Kaifeng Jews

The Kaifeng Jews are members of a small Jewish community that has existed in Kaifeng, in central China, for many hundreds of years - the earliest records of a Jewish community in Kaifeng are from the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127). The ancestors of the Kaifeng Jews most likely came from Central Asia. Over the centuries, they intermarried with the local population but preserved their religion.

Here is a report on German TV about a group of cute young Kaifeng Jews who are immigrating to Israel. Unlike the contemporary rabbinical Judaism, where the transmission of Judaism is matrilinear (if you have a mother who is a Jew, you are a proper Jew), the Kaifeng Jews base their Jewishness on patrilinear descent. So, to receive Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, Kaifeng Jews must undergo conversion, a long and complicated process.
"But the true challenge", the narrator says, "is to assert themselves in Israeli society." Just like Ethiopian Jews, Kaifeng Jews might find themselves considered second rate citizens by many other Israelis, simply due to their skin colour.