China’s Jews, Fearing Communist Persecution, Celebrate Hanukkah in Secret

Dec. 18 2020

While the Jewish community in the ancient Chinese capital of Kaifeng dates to the 12th century, there are at present only about 100 Jews remaining who still practice the religion, and perhaps ten-times as many who claim Jewish ancestry. In recent years, a government crackdown on non-official religions—which has exacted such a terrible toll on Christians and Muslims—has driven the Jewish community underground. Aaron Reich reports:

“Every time we celebrate, we are scared,” a Kaifeng Jew identified only by the alias of Amir, due to fears of retaliation, told [a reporter], adding that they work to ensure Chinese authorities never catch wind of their activities. While much attention has been focused on China’s crackdowns on other religious groups, including the five faiths recognized by the Communist party—Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Buddhism, Daoism, and Islam—Judaism is not recognized despite its long history within the country.

Already, the Chinese leadership has worked to erase much of [Kaifeng Jewry’s long history. . . . This includes not only the removal of museum exhibits regarding the community’s history, but also razing any physical trace of the community. . . . They have also removed the few signs in Hebrew that could once be found in the city, and the spot where the few practicing Jews once gathered to pray has now been covered with Chinese propaganda, a security camera, and reminders that Judaism is an illegal, unrecognized religion in the country.

Jews are so terrified they even fear meeting together in public. Instead, they do so in secret, making sure on the holidays to find funds for kosher food and wine. Lacking access to Hebrew Bibles, they use Christian Bibles and simply disregard the New Testament.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: China, Communism, Freedom of Religion, Hanukkah, Kaifeng

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform