The Lost Jews of Kaifeng

The Lost Jews of Kaifeng

By ZIV HELLMAN * 10/17/2010 *

“WELCOME TO Kaifeng, and thanks for coming all the way here,” says Tzur. Charming, with a warm smile, Tzur is an experienced licensed tour guide running the Jewish China Tours Company, which, as the name implies, specializes in Jewish heritage trips through China. He is fluent in Hebrew and English, and is a walking trove of historical knowledge on China’s Jews.

But Tzur is not a transplanted Israeli or American who came for a visit to China and happened to have stayed. Tzur is the Hebrew name he adopted nearly a decade ago in Israel; he is more commonly known by the name he was born with, Shi Lei. His surname, Shi, means “stone” in Chinese, which is why he translated it to “Tzur” in Hebrew. And not only is he a native of Kaifeng, a city of over four million in China’s Henan province, he is a scion of the family that was among the leaders of the ancient Jewish community of Kaifeng.


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