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

December 18, 2020 | Aaron Reich
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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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