Heritage

Chinese women descended from medieval Jewish community move to Israel

Gao Yichen (“Weiwei”), Yue Ting, Li Jing, Li Yuan, and Li Chengjin (“Lulu”) (Shavei Israel/Facebook)

Five Chinese women, who are descended from the centuries-old Jewish community of Kaifeng, journeyed to Israel on Monday, launching the first phase of their immigration to the country. The Israeli publication Ynet News reports that Gao Yichen, Yue Ting, Li Jing, Li Yuan, and Li Chengjin will live at Midreshet Nishmat: The Jeanie Schottenstein Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women, as they prepare for their official conversion. The women had been studying Hebrew and learning about the Jewish religion in advance of the move.

The Jewish community of Kaifeng is thought to have been founded by Iraqi or Persian merchants in the 8th or 9th century. Its population may have grown to about 5,000 during the Ming Dynasty, but has dwindled to fewer than 1,000 due to assimilation and intermarriage. The community’s remaining members have shown increased interest in reconnecting to their heritage, according to Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, an organization that facilitated the women’s move to Israel.  “[T]hey are still identifiable as descendants of Jews even if some of them have nothing to do with Judaism,” Freund said.

In advance of her arrival, Li Jing expressed her excitement, saying that she had been praying to make a home in Israel. “Now, my prayer has been answered,” she said.

Read the full story at Ynet News.

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