The Jews of Kaifeng - Chinese Jews on the Banks of the Yellow River


1984

The exhibition “The Jews of Kaifeng” recounts the story of a small community of Jews who lived in Central China, in the city of Kaifeng. Jews initially arrived in China from the Near East by way of the Silk Route – the commercial road linking China to the West – more than 1,000 years ago, and settled in different cities, among them Kaifeng, which was then the capital of the North Sung Dynasty. Their relations with the rest of the Jewish world were tenuous; and when, in the 16th century, China shut itself off from the West, these relations ceased completely. only in the 17th century, following the Jesuit missionaries’ arrival in China, did new reports reach Europe of Jews who were indistinguishable from their Chinese neighbors in appearance, yet who maintained a Jewish way of life. The size of this community probably never exceeded 1,000 to 2,000 people. They were well integrated into the surrounding environment, economically well established and of respected status. Some even gained high official rank. Their synagogue, which resembled a Chinese temple, was originally founded in 1163.

Curator: Leorah Kroyanker

Historical Consultants: Prof. Irene Eber, Michael Pollak

Design: David Gafni