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Chinese Jewish Records Exhibited in New York

April 2, 1926
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Prayerbooks, manuscripts, scrolls and tombstones of the lost Jewish colony at Kai-Fung-Foo, China, the property of the Hebrew Union College Library of Cincinnati, are being shown for the first time in the East at the exhibition of Jewish life in Oriental countries at the New York Public Library. The New York Public Library exhibition of which it is a part has been assembled from the literary treasures of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, Dropsie College for Hebrew and Cognate Learning, Philadelhia, as well as the Hebrew Union College and the Semitics Department of the New York Public Library.

The Chinese collection is probably the most unique and valuable.

Kai-Fung-Foo was settled by Jews approximately 950 A. D. There is no accurate knowledge of the origin of these wanderers, but among their writings are words in old Persian, and it is believed that these Jews came to China via Persia and Turkestan after the destruction of the Temple by Titus. Chinese manuscripts of a very early date make reference to the colonists, and many theories have been advanced regarding them; one that they are descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel; another that they formed a portion of Alexander’s conquering army, and a third, that they were traders in silks on the caravan routes.

The first synagogue at Kai-Fung-Foo was built, it is believed, during the middle of the 12th century. The colony was discovered and rediscovered by historians from Marco Polo down to the librarian of the Hebrew Union College. The manuscripts were first brought out of China by the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews. Twelve scrolls of the law and 63 smaller manuscripts were obtained from the synagogue at Kai-Fung-Foo by a Commission of Inquiry sent out by the missionary society in the year 1850. All of these, with the exception of a few which were stolen from an exhibition in London several years ago, are now in the possession of the Hebrew Union College. The College also acquired the wooden Ark which housed the scrolls of the law in the old Chinese synagogue. According to present information, all traces of the Jewish settlement have been lost, and nothing remains in China except a few tombstones on which is some sort of record of the strange community.

The acquisition of these manuscripts two years ago was made possible by a gift of $50,000 from Ben Selling of Portland, Oregon, and other contributions.

A conference for the discussion of leadership problems as they apply to Jewish club work and to Young Judaea Clubs, will be held in New York on April 10.

The conference, which is the first of its kind to be held in five years, will be held at the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, 15 W. 86th Street. Dr. David de Sola Pool, President of Young Judaea; Maurice Samuel, author of “You Gentiles,” and Louis Lipsky, chairman of the Zionist Organization of America, will be the speakers.

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