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May 03, 1985 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-05-03

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Friday, May 3, 1985



Rare Volumes Remain
Of Jews Of Kai-Feng



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A register of the Jewish residents ofKai-Feng during the Ming Dynasty,

Sinai Hospital.
At the center of everything.

No matter where you live, you
shouldn't have to sacrifice the
quality of your medical care for
convenience. That's why we're
glad to be at the center of every-
thing... at West Outer Drive,

between Greenfield and Hubbell.
From here we serve the entire
tri-county area, and we're within
easy reach of most suburban
cities. In fact, from anywhere
on this map you're less than

20 minutes away. From the
beginning at Sinai, we've wanted
to be metropolitan Detroit's lead-
ing medical center... and to us,
that means being at the center
of the community we serve.

©Sinai Hospital of Detroit 1985.



Cincinnati — Of the many rare
manuscripts and treasures of
Hebraica and Judaica housed in
the libraries of Hebrew Union
College-Jewish Institute of Reli-
gion, few collections have aroused
as much interest as the 59 manu-
scripts from the now extinct
Chinese Jewish community of
Kai-Feng. The collection was
originally acquired by English
missionaries in 1851, and pur-
chased by the college in the 1920s.
It is today the largest and most
varied collection of existing
manuscripts from Kai-Feng.
The manuscripts are of three
types: Passover Haggadahs,
prayerbooks for daily and festival
services, and portions of the Bible.
They are written in large, clear
Hebrew characters in the blackest
of ink, and are clearly legible.
Some manuscripts, however, were
evidently recovered from a flood,
for in many places the writing has
been washed off on both sides of a
long strip of many-layered rice
paper, folded in a "fan-fold" for-
A prayerbook in the collection
concludes with what appears to be
a register of the community writ-
ten in Hebrew and Chinese char-
It is not known when Jews first
set foot on the soil of China. Some
scholars conjecture that Jewish
traders, working their way east-
ward from Babylonia by way of
Persia and Turkestan in the first
centuries, C.E., were the founders
of the community.
The earliest account of Kai-
Feng, which is located on the Yel-
low River in the province of
Honan, goes back to the year 950,
and relates that 70 Jewish
families were settled there. In
1153, a synagogue was con-
structed with the permission of
the emperor, and the Jews ap-
peared to be flourishing and pros-
In the centuries that followed,
the Jews adopted Chinese dress
and language, and came to look
like the Chinese. They were
allowed to practice their religion
undisturbed and enjoyed com-
plete equality. Though the
synagogue was destroyed three
times between 1461 and 1515
when the Yellow River over-
flowed its banks, it was quickly
rebuilt after each flood. The

Chinese Jewish community re-
mained isolated and unknown to
Europeans until the 17th Century
when Christian missionaries
began to uncover the existence of
the Jews of Kai-Feng.
The great Chinese civil war in
1642, which led to the establish-
ment of the Manchu dynasty, is
thought to have dealt the blow
which eventually undermined the
stability of the settlement. As a
war measure, the defenders of
Kai-Feng cut the dikes protecting
the city. In the ensuing flood, the
synagogue was demolished, the
books of the congregation were
swept away and many ceremonial
objects were lost. The synagogue
was rebuilt in 1653, but the com-
munity never recovered.
In the years that followed, one
fact about the Chinese Jews has
been recorded. Their material
condition declined and they were
described as completely poverty-
stricken. By 1870, the synagogue
was gone. In 1900, the Jewish
community had no rabbis _and no
religious services. In the 1940s,
during the Japanese invasion of
China, the last traces of the jews
of Kai-Feng disappeared.

'White Rose'

New York (JTA) — Two Chris-
tian leaders of the "White Rose"
resistance movement who were
beheaded by the Nazis in 1943
will be remembered today by
American and European Jewish
and Christian leaders who will
gather at a cemetery near Munich
for a memorial service.
The American Jewish Con-
gress, in announcing the planned
memorial service at the graves of
the two German resistance lead-
ers, Hans Scholl and his sister
Sophie, also announced that a
memorial service will be held
today at the site of the Dachau
concentration camp.
The communal services are an
outgrowth of opposition to
President Reagan's planned visit
Sunday to a German military
cemetery in Bitburg, West Ger-

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