Back in San Francisco last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article called “Chinese Jews face Existential Questions” in their Asia section. A friend forwarded the article to me at work and I devoured it quickly. Before my own discovery, I had no idea Jews existed in China, nor did I care (that’s another story…)…
According to this article, Persian Jews arrived in Kaifeng around the 11th Century as merchants and traders. They married the local women and rose to become mandarins and military officials. They were able to keep a distinctive Jewish culture intact until around 1860, the date when their synagogue was destroyed in a flood and never rebuilt. The timing for this is still off for my great-great-grandfather. He could be a descendent….or not…..too early to tell!
I did some more research myself on Kaifeng. It is located in Henan province, just west of Shanghai (my hometown). Henan is known as the cradle of Chinese civilization, meaning it played an important role in political and economic history of China back in the glory days.
I think this calls for a trip to Henan province, namely Kaifeng for me in the near future! If you have gone, email me!