28 January 2020 - 3 Shevat 5780 - ג' שבט ה' אלפים תש"פ
Crackdown in Kaifeng E-mail

By the time that New York Times correspondent Chris Buckley had alerted the world to the crackdown against the Jewish descendants in Kaifeng in September 2016, members of that community had already been living with it for over a year.

The reason for the delay in reportage was that members of the community had advised the two Jewish organisations working with them not to go public with the news. They hoped that if they remained silent, the previous status quo would return. But 16 months on, the only Chinese-language exhibit on the Jewish community was missing.

This author reluctantly broke the silence when an Israeli reporter asked to be put in contact with some Kaifeng Jews so that she could include them in a story about how Pesach is observed around the world.

For over a year, the Sino-Judaic Institute had heard reports that Jewish life in Kaifeng was being curtailed. Then the author received independent confirmation from Mark Ellison of Hong Kong, who had visited Kaifeng in March 2016.

Ellison reported that indeed Shavei Israel’s school had been closed down and community gatherings were prohibited; that the revered well on the ancient synagogue site had been filled in and closed off; that the historical plaques marking the old Jewish street had been removed; that the stelae (inscribed memorial stones) and other artifacts in the Municipal Museum were off-limits; that the only Chinese language exhibit on the Jewish community, housed in the Merchant Guildhall Museum, had been taken down; and that Jewish tour groups (although not individuals) were prohibited from visiting Kaifeng.

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