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A Spark of Hope in Trying Times

By Michael Freund
11/9/2005, 12:00 AM

In these trying times for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, it is especially important to remember that not all is dark and gloomy.

Just last week, a very special ceremony took place in Jerusalem, one that underlines both the power of Jewish memory as well as G-d’s unfolding plan to restore His people to their Land.

For the first time, descendants of the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, got married under a wedding canopy in Jerusalem.

Jin_family_wedding2 With the help of Shavei Israel, the organization that I head, Shlomo and Dina Jin recently completed their conversion back to Judaism by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, and they have now been joined together as husband and wife in accordance with Jewish law. Their daughter Shalva, who also returned to Judaism, recently completed a year of volunteer national service (Sherut Leumi) at the Shaarei Zedek Medical Center, and will soon begin her studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Jin family hails from Kaifeng, on the banks of the Yellow River, where Jews first settled over 1,000 years ago. At its peak, under the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the community may have numbered as many as 5,000 people. But by the middle of the 1800's, assimilation and intermarriage had taken a heavy toll, weakening the community spiritually and numerically. The last rabbi of Kaifeng died sometime in the first half of the 19th century; a few decades later, the synagogue and the community it had served were no more. Until today, however, there are still some 500 people in Kaifeng who continue to cling to a Jewish identity.

The return of the Jins marks the closing of an historical circle. Nearly 200 years after the Kaifeng Jewish community essentially ceased to exist, the first of its offspring have now come home to Jerusalem.

This symbolizes the indestructible spirit of the Jewish people – as well as the fact that even in the face of governmental retreat and withdrawal, the march of the people of Israel toward redemption continues to move forward.