Thursday, January 31, 2008


I have an upcoming mega-post on Israel/Diaspora relations that I've been sitting on for a couple of months. In the meantime, chew on this.

Someone found the last Chinese Jews still in China. What's their first thought?

"How sad, they don't know anything about the importance of aliyah. And even if they did, they probably will never be able to get there."

AARG! Hey look, some Jews (or descendants of Jews) living somewhere, complete with their own fascinating culture(s) and history. I know, let's ship them out!

Hey, we spotted another one!

Shoshana Rebecca Li, 29, made Aliyah [immigrated to Israel] two years ago from China, and recently underwent formal conversion by Israel's Chief Rabbinate. "For me, to have a proper religious Jewish wedding in Israel, it is a dream come true. I am very excited," Li said prior to the ceremony. "I was raised knowing that I am a Jew and I made Aliyah because of our tradition."

Li's husband, Ami Emmanuel, 25, arrived in Israel two years ago from Florida after studying film and directing. “No one in the world is as happy as I am," said Emmanuel. "I thought it impossible to marry a Jewish woman from China. However, it seems miracles do happen, and this is the biggest miracle of my life.”

The newlywed couple plan to make their home on Kibbutz Ketura in Israel's Aravah region, north of Eilat... The Shavei Israel organization, which helped arrange Shoshana's Aliyah, assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people. "This wedding symbolizes the beginning of the return of the remnants of the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel," Freund said.

What an amazing accomplishment! We found the last remnants of the Kaifeng community and brought them to Israel! Sure, it may suck for any Kaifeng Jews still in China that one of the last committed Jews (or quasi-Jews) left and is never coming back, but the important thing is that one more Kibbutz gets a new couple. Because it's not like Israel's getting any more Jews anytime soon.

More from Freund.

"150 years after the Kaifeng Jewish community essentially ceased to exist," Freund said, "a wonderful young woman descended from that community is getting married to a new immigrant from the United States under a Jewish wedding canopy in Jerusalem. I cannot think of a more poignant example of kibbutz galuyot – the Ingathering of the Exiles."

Maybe it's my own biases talking, but you know what would might be even better than bringing ONE Kaifeng Jew "back" to Israel? Sending a delegation of rabbis and Jewish educators BACK to Kaifeng, LED by committed and knowledgeable Jews like Mrs. Emmanuel.

Of course, that's entirely at cross-purposes with visions like Freund's, which seems to think that the only place Jews belong is that tiny sliver next to the Mediterranean.

I'm all for aliyah. And I'm all for giving Jews (or those of Jewish descent) from far-off areas assistance to live full Jewish lives, in Israel or anywhere else. But there's a problem in the assumption- and putting that assumption into real practice- that the Diaspora is no longer viable as a place to perpetuate Judaism.

Places like Kaifeng are tremendously important to the history of Judaism and the Jewish people. It would be a shame if the organized Jewish community let them disintegrate because they're so obsessed with "Ingathering the Exiles."

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