“Every time we celebrate, we are scared,” said one member of the Kaifeng Jewish community.
By Josh Plank, World Israel News
The government of China has cracked down on “unapproved religion” in recent years, forcing the country’s small Jewish community to observe their religion in hiding, UK’s The Telegraph reported Sunday.
“Every time we celebrate, we are scared,” said one member of the Kaifeng Jewish community. He spoke with The Telegraph on the condition of anonymity due to the threat of government retaliation.
“Whatever we do, we’re always very careful to make sure the authorities don’t find out,” he said.
He lights Chanukah candles in secret, worried that Chinese officials will visit him again as they have on previous religious occasions.
“We love our country; we’re not criminals; we just don’t eat pork,” the man said.
“Why do we have to practice our faith in secret, and live floating on the fringes of society? It’s really hard to bear,” he said.
Since 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping has led the Communist Party’s harsh crackdown against foreign influence and unapproved religion.
“Their goal is to make sure the next generation doesn’t have any Jewish identity,” one man told The Telegraph, saying that he teaches his children everything he knows about Judaism secretly at home.
In an attempt to erase the community’s history, the government has destroyed its monuments.
An ancient well, the last remnant of Kaifeng’s 12th-century synagogue, has been covered over with concrete.
Authorities also removed 500-year-old stones, engraved with the community’s beliefs and ancestry, from the site.
A security camera now guards the place where a few dozen Jews would meet for services. The site is now home to government propaganda and notices that Judaism is prohibited.
Jews settled in Kaifeng over 1,000 years ago, when the city on the banks of the Yellow River was the bustling capital of the Northern Song Dynasty.
Approximately 1,000 people in Kaifeng today claim Jewish heritage. Experts say that only around 100 are practicing Jews.
After generations of intermarriage, the Jewish status of most members of the Kaifeng community cannot be verified, though a small number have moved to Israel and undergone formal conversion to Judaism with the help of organizations like Shavei Israel.
This morning, 5 young Chinese Jews from Kaifeng, China, whom Shavei Israel brought on Aliya, formally returned to the Jewish people at the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court. Mazal Tov!!#FromKaifengToTheKotel #Chinese犹太 https://t.co/6uAEug5CVW
— Michael Freund (@msfreund) May 1, 2018