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A Chinese Seder Story

April 17, 2014 By:
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The Chinese Jews at the Passover seder led by Boaz (second from left), recall the 10 plagues with which God smote the Egyptians. Photo courtesy of Shavei Israel.

An ancient Jewish community in Kaifeng, China, held a first-of-its-kind traditional Passover seder that was sponsored by Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based nonprofit. 

"We are proud and excited to organize this historic event," Michael Freund, Shavei Israel chairman and founder, said in a statement. "Kaifeng's Jewish descendants are a living link between China and the Jewish people, and it is very moving to see the remnants of this community returning to their Jewish roots as they prepare for Passover."

According to a news release from Shavei Israel, Jews first settled in Kaifeng around the 8th or 9th Century. Those first immigrants are believed to have been Sephardic Jewish merchants arriving from Persia or Iraq via the Silk Route.

At one point, the community was believed to be as large as 5,000 strong but is today estimated to include about 1,000 members.

“In recent years, many members of the community have begun to explore their heritage — thanks in part to the Internet, which opened up new worlds for them and provided access to information about Judaism and Israel that was previously inaccessible to them,” Freund noted.

To watch a video of Ram, the community's cantor, singing V'hi She'amda, click on the video icon at the top right of the screen.

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