Wherever you go, as that old Hebrew-school song goes, there’s always someone Jewish—even in Kaifeng, China, as it turns out. The Israeli papers are carrying news of seven Chinese descendents of the Jewish community there who arrived earlier this week at Ben Gurion Airport, made a first stop at the Western Wall, and then will spend up to a year learning Hebrew on a kibbutz and then completing the conversion process. No one is quite sure how Jews ended up in Kaifeng, but the prevailing theory is that they’re all descended from Persian traders who arrived there on the silk road in the 10th through 12th centuries, according to an article in Ynet. The community now numbers about 1,000, Ynet says, and while its members have almost completely assimilated, they’ve preserved some Jewish traditions like avoiding pork and baking matzo at Passover. “My dream is to complete the process of converting to Judaism and become a certified rabbi, after which I will return to my community and serve as its first rabbi since the dissolve [sic] of the Jewish community some 150 years ago,” 23-year-old Yaacob Wang told Ynet, in a statement that suggests he’ll have an excellent career crafting soundbites if the rabbi thing doesn’t work out. “I am excited to arrive to the holy land,” he added. “It is a dream come true.”
Jesse Oxfeld, a former executive editor and publisher of Tablet Magazine, is a freelance theater critic. He was The New York Observer’s theater critic from 2009 to 2014.