< HOME  Monday, November 30, 2009

Chinese, Indian Jews Move to Israel - Meanwhile, Chabad Expands in China

Lost Tribes of Jews From China, India, Make Aliyah

Chabad of China - Bringing the Jews in the Far East Closer

From China - The Lost Jew of Dali:

After being in China for a year I have to say I sorely missed Jews, especially their sarcasm and irony and a specific, sardonic type of humor seemingly nonexistent in China. And then I met Guri at Lost Angel Café in Southern China’s Yunnan Province. “You have real Yunnan coffee, right?” he asked the barista. “Not Nescafe?” And then he turned to me and asked where I’m from. I told him New York and he said, “Crown Heights?” What? “The organization I’m involved in is based in Crown Heights,” he said. “Chabad.” And he pulled a Star of David amulet out from his shirt. I was vaguely aware of Chabad, and was more than a bit taken aback to find a one of their members in this ancient small city under Cangshan Mountain.

Vice: Do you work for Chabad?

Guri Katz: No, no. I just attend their meetings, and I did once make applesauce for Hanukkah, you know, at least I think it was applesauce. Yes, it was, three years ago, Hanukkah on the Great Wall, lighting the menorah. We got a lot of press for that, two different television networks covered it, and people were telling me from around the globe that they’d seen me celebrating Hanukkah on the Great Wall. The next year they set us up in a princely palace near Houhai, and the next year at Chinese Ethnic Culture Park, with police stationed all around us. You know that joke, right? What are the two biggest lies of all time? The check’s in the mail and some of my best friends are Jews. Jews tell the best Jewish jokes, of course. I’ve got a lot of good ones from the Rabbi in Beijing, but he seems to have stopped telling any, which is too bad really.

What’s the situation with being Jewish in China?

The problem is Judaism isn’t one of the officially recognized religions in China [those would be Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism], so you can’t open a synagogue. There were three in Shanghai, dating from the early 20th century, but two were demolished, one in the 80s, and one as recently as the early 90s, if you can believe that, and the third we can’t even go into and hold services because it’s been turned into a museum that’s entirely under Chinese control. But generally we have a lot to be thankful for here, in that Jews have never been really oppressed in China and it’s been a haven.

Back to the Jews, can you tell me more about Chabad in China?

Chabad came to China seven yeas ago, and now there are seven Chabad houses, in Beijing, Shanghai, Pudong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Kowloon, and a new one is starting in some big industrial city I’d never heard of before, one of those huge unknown cities in China, Yiwu. They are based in Crown Heights, and are also called Lubavitchers.

Are they ultra-orthodox?

No, not all, they are very tolerant and accept all Jews who want to come together, at any level of observance. They are a uniting force, they accept even people who don’t go to Shul or Synagogue. Of course they’re Eastern European Jews, Ashkenazis, but they are very inclusive.


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