First known Chinese-language dreidels produced for China’s Kaifeng Jews

December 1, 2021 by TPS
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In honour of Chanukah, the Jerusalem-based nonprofit Shavei Israel designed and produced hundreds of dreidels with Mandarin lettering for the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng, China, as well as for 20 members of the community who have already made Aliya to Israel with the organization’s assistance.

Photo by Courtesy of Shavei Israel

Kaifeng is a city in the central Chinese province of Henan located southwest of Beijing and is home to hundreds of descendants of a once-thriving Jewish community that resided there for well over a millennium.

The Dreidels are probably the first ones that have Chinese text on them which appears as follows:

伟大的 – Big; 奇迹 – Miracle, 发生过 – Happened; 这里曾 – here.

Shavei Israel’s Founder and Chairman Michael Freund said that the first Jews to have settled in Kaifeng, one of the ancient imperial capitals of China, were Iraqi or Persian Jewish merchants who travelled along the Silk Road in the 7th or 8th century CE. The community grew and prospered, and in 1163 built a large synagogue, which was renovated repeatedly down through the centuries.

“At its peak, during the Ming Dynasty, Kaifeng had as many as 5,000 Jews,” said Freund.

He explains that widespread intermarriage and assimilation eventually set in, and the death of the community’s last rabbi in the early 19thcentury heralded the community’s demise as a collective entity. The synagogue, which had stood for 700 years, was destroyed by a series of floods that struck the city in the mid-19th century.

Freund estimated that 1,000 people in Kaifeng are identifiable via family trees and genealogical records as descendants of the city’s Jewish community.

“The Chinese Jews of Kaifeng are a living link between China and the Jewish people,” said Freund. “Despite the severe restrictions imposed on them by the Chinese government in recent years, the Chinese-Jewish descendants are anxious to learn more about the heritage of their forefathers and we hope these Chinese-language Dreidels that we’ve prepared for them will give them a dose of happiness and light during Chanukah.”



One Response to “First known Chinese-language dreidels produced for China’s Kaifeng Jews”
  1. Naomi Be says:

    Would be great if Israel were to do something for those Jews in China, which are not recognised as a religion, are prevented from leaving and meanwhile thoroughly discriminated upon – Instead of producing dreidels they will most likely never get anyways!

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