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Kaifeng’s Jews

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A number of families in Kaifeng trace their lineage back to the Jews, though these origins remain a mystery. It’s likely that their ancestors came here from central Asia around 1000 AD, when trade links between the two areas were strong. The community was never large, but it seems to have flourished until the nineteenth century, when – perhaps as a result of disastrous floods, including one in 1850 that destroyed the synagogue – the Kaifeng Jews almost completely died out. However, following the atmosphere of greater religious tolerance in contemporary China, many Jews have begun practising their faith again. You can see a few relics from the synagogue in the museum, including three steles that once stood outside it, but most, such as a Torah in Chinese now in the British Museum, are in collections abroad.

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