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September 10, 2010

Kaifeng’s Jewish Renaissance

Your August 20 article “Israel’s Keenest Yeshiva Students” focuses on the Kaifeng Jews studying for conversion in Israel. But the real news is that the Jewish descendants — or Jews, as they see themselves — are organizing again as a community in Kaifeng.

There are at least two Jewish schools in Kaifeng, including Beit Tikvah, which offers Hebrew, as well as Jewish history and culture classes in Chinese language. As your article notes, this revival is due in part to China’s liberalization, the ease with which foreign Jews can visit Kaifeng and the Internet, via which the descendants can access all sorts of information about their heritage. Unfortunately, this open access has also allowed Messianic Jews and Christian missionaries to visit the community and to prey upon its naïveté and lack of knowledge.

Shavei Yisrael, which brought the students cited in your article to Israel, is one organization working with the Kaifeng Jews; Kulanu is another, and a third is our organization, the Sino-Judaic Institute, which has been working with the Kaifeng Jews and Chinese scholars since 1986. We are attempting to limit the influence of the missionaries and to foster initiatives that lead to greater Jewish educational opportunities both in Kaifeng and abroad.

Anson Laytner
Sino-Judaic Institute
Seattle, Wash.

An Inapt Analogy for Ground Zero Dispute

Jonathan Sarna made an incongruous connection between the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero and the banning of synagogues at some times and places in early American history (“When Shuls Were Banned in America,” August 20).

The crux of the issue today is not bigotry, as was the case with Jews in early America. The banning of synagogues was based upon centuries of Christian bigotry, while the opposition to the Islamic center at Ground Zero is based upon Islamic terrorism that has viciously struck our country.

Heshy Riesel
North Miami Beach, Fla.

This Is No Way To Treat Our Mainline Protestant Friends

Adam Gregerman’s July 30 opinion piece “Our Mainline Protestant Friends” is an example of what’s wrong with the organized Jewish community’s response to principled opposition to the policies of the State of Israel on the part of Protestant denominations. Gregerman distorts these faithful, responsible actions by Protestant churches as being driven by “small but determined groups of activists” whom he smears as “hostile or unsympathetic to Israel.”

Like Gregerman, I was present at the Presbyterians’ General Assembly. But what I saw was that, despite the highly organized effort of a phalanx of Jewish organizations to demonize the report of the church’s Middle East Study Committee, the delegates embraced it. Once the report passed, with some changes made to smooth its passage, these Jewish groups began to spin the outcome as a victory, exaggerating the nature of the changes and claiming credit for them.

Christians shouldn’t have to choose between their values and preserving their ties with the Jewish establishment. This painful choice has come about because of Israel’s unchecked expansionism and the American Jewish establishment’s bullying, defensive response to Christian efforts to address the injustice.

We Jews need to understand that our true friends are those who call us to account for our misdeeds. Until we get past the categories of “pro-Palestinian” and “pro-Israel,” we condemn both Israelis and Palestinians to continued conflict.

Mark Braverman
Bethesda, Md.

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