My trip to Kaifengfu was a terrible disappointment. I had for years been looking forward to making the journey; to seeing and speaking to that old colony of Jews who, though living for centuries among a strange people, had remained faithful to their heritage. Imagine my sadness to find that the Jewish Colony, so-called, is a colony in name only; that those who profess to belong to the Jewish stock know nothing of their religion, know nothing of Jewish history and traditions, know nothing of Jewish rites and customs. The Chinese Jews are Jews in name only; the few descendants of the once existing colony (there are only about a hundred and fifty left) live in different quarters of the town, never meeting together for religious or communal purposes. In their own homes they observe no Jewish customs; the same gods adorn their altars as are found in the ordinary Chinese home. They have no sacred books left; inundations swept some away, poverty forced them to dispose of them to others. They no longer have a temple; ignorance and spiritual apathy consumed it. No one is left to them to expound the Law; no one is there among them who has even the slightest knowledge of the Hebrew language, or the faintest conception of what it means to be a Jew. They do not even circum-size; as to keeping their race pure, it is difficult to say to what extent intermarriage has thinned their Jewish blood. One wonders in what sense they can be called Jews. In appearance, in behaviour, in practice and belief, they are indistinguishable from the Chinese around them. A Chinese-in-scribed tablet is the only record they have of their history, and very meagre at that; even the laver that once was the property of their synagogue was sold and is now used in a Christian church as a baptismal fount. The few manuscripts they had up to recent times preserved, are now dispersed to the four corners of the world, lodged in different museums and libraries as witness to the complete demoralization of a once-unified people. In memory only does their race exist, and that perchance will soon fade, if nothing is done to resurrect their Jewish consciousness and give it a new life. It will practically mean making converts of a strange people. For they are Jews no longer. They are Chinese. Absorbed, assimilated, rendered indistinguishable; every vestige of Jewishness as completely effaced as last year’s snow, a terrible warning to the assimilating Jews all over the world. The sadness of it makes one weep.
The Jewish Colony is no more. A once-flourishing branch of the Jewish tree has withered and died.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.