(JTA) — Jews living in Asia gathered near the Great Wall of China for the first-ever Limmud event in the world’s most populous nation.
Sunday’s program, run by Limmud International, drew nearly 100 Jews from Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Mumbai, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore, Israel, Britain and the United States.
Limmud, the open Jewish learning program, has held events in some 60 communities on five continents.
Sessions at the China event included Torah and Talmud text study; the role of women in Jewish community life; Chinese interest in Jews and Jewish communities; the history of the Bene Israel in India; the future of Jewish life in Asia; and a workshop on Asian-Jewish cooking.
There are an estimated 20,000 Jews living in East Asia. In China, up to 6,000 Jews live on the mainland and 4,000 Jews live in Hong Kong. Asia is made up both of long-standing, organized Jewish communities like those in India, Hong Kong and Tokyo, and newer smaller communities composed largely of business people and diplomats.
Many Jewish organizations are active in Asia, and the China Limmud was supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
“This inaugural Limmud event in China is a powerful tribute to the determination of Jews throughout Asia to engage with Jewish learning and with Jewish community, overcoming vast distances and other hurdles,” said Helena Miller, Limmud International Co-Chair.
"Limmud in China would probably surprise most Jews in the world," said Clive Lawton of Limmud International. "Not least because one of the most popular sessions was a Chinese professor telling a group of Jews from at least six countries in Asia how wonderful the Jews are and how any Chinese person knows it. Naturally, this gave rise to much discussion which continued into lunchtime — also naturally including hummus and sweet and sour fish."