Chinese authorities reportedly crack down on Jewish revival in Kaifeng


(JTA) — Chinese authorities reportedly have cracked down on a Jewish revival in the city of Kaifeng.

The government has shut down Jewish organizations, prohibited residents identifying as Jewish from gathering for Jewish holidays and removed public identification of Jewish historical places on the city in central China, The New York Times reported over the weekend.

About 1,000 Kaifeng residents claim Jewish ancestry in a city population of 4.5 million, and about 100 to 200 have been active in Jewish religious and cultural activities, the Times reported.

Judaism is not one of China’s five state-licensed religions, which are Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism and Taoism.

Anti-Semitism reportedly is rare in China, but there is a mistrust of religion, according to the report.

The first synagogue was built in Kaifeng in the 12th century, likely by merchants from Persia.

Some Jewish identity survived intermarriage and later decades of Communist rule, however, with parents telling their children about their Jewish roots and warning them not to eat pork. A revival began in the 1990s when Jewish tourists and scholars from around the world began to visit Kaifeng and explore the area’s Jewish history, according to the Times.

Authorities have been suspicious of the foreign visitors and the Jewish religion, however. Residents told the Times that the current clampdown has gone much further than previous ones, though Jews can gather in small groups in their homes to pray and there have been no arrests. Police reportedly are monitoring those active in their Judaism.

In February, five women in their 20s from Kaifeng arrived in Israel to make aliyah. They were required to formally undergo a conversion by the Chief Rabbinate.

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