|TESTING-China's Kaifeng descendAnts make aliyah to israel|
By Staff writers and agencies
For the first time, a group of seven young adults, descendants of the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, has moved to Israel. The group arrived in October this year in an effort launched by Shavei Israel. This is a non-profit organisation founded by Michael Freund, who himself immigrated to Israel from the United States with the aim of strengthening ties between the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world. The organisation is currently active in nine countries and provides assistance to a variety of different communities such as the Bnai Menashe of India, the Bnai Anousim in Spain, Portugal and South America,the Subbotnik Jews of Russia,the “Hidden Jews” of Poland from the Holocaust era and others. Shavei Israel received special permission from Israel’s Interior Ministry to bring them home after negotiating with the government for the past two years. The Interior Ministry agreed to issue one-year entry permits to the seven young adults, during which time they will study Hebrew at a kibbutz Ulpan and then undergo conversion to Judaism. “I am very excited to be here in the Holy Land,” said Yaakov Wang, 23, one of the new immigrants said on his arrival, “This is something that my ancestors dreamed about for generations, and now thank God I have finally made it.” Wang added that he eventually hopes to become a rabbi, so that one day he can help other Kaifeng Jewish descendants to learn more about their heritage. “This is a historic event,”
In 1163, Kaifeng’s Jews built a large and beautiful synagogue, which was subsequently renovated and rebuilt on numerous occasions throughout the centuries. At its peak, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Kaifeng Jewish community may have numbered as many as 5,000 people.
Mumbai marked the passing of one year since terror attacks claimed a multitude of victims. Multi-faith religious leaders gathered at the Chabad House
on 17 November for a memorial service for the victims of the terrorist attacks that took place in Mumbai on 26-29 November,2008. More than 170
people died then. The service was organised by the Simon Wiesanthal Center and India’s Art of Living Foundation. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,Founder Art of
Living Foundation declared that: “26/11 in Mumbai was the ultimate test of patience and forgiveness. Terrorists were striking every month before that.
By now a strong message has gone out that we do not react, but we will respond to these acts resolutely.” “Religious leaders have a special obligation
to publicly condemn terrorist attacks that are inspired and sanctioned by those who call themselves servants of God. We are gathering at the site of last
years attacks in solidarity with the people of India as they remember all the victims of 26/11, including the first-ever attack on Jewsin India” said Rabbi
Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesanthal Center. “Thisis a time for people of faith to openly repudiate the culture of death nurtured
in the name of religion while standing beside our Indian friends to promote the sanctity of life, tolerance and freedom.
Hotel, one of the places of the terrorist attacks, Israel Consul General Orna Sagiv, in her address pointed out that the world should address the root cause of
terrorism along with fi ghting it with unity and determination. On the 26 November another event took place at the Chabad centre. Mr Ashok Chavan, Chief
Minister of the Indian State of Maharashtra addressed the memorial ceremony. At this place gunmen charged up the stairs and holed themselves up inside for three
days, killing the centres directors,Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, and their four Jewish guests. Throughout the almost twohour long ceremony, speakers
invoked the memory of the Holtzbergs and the courageous heroism of their Indian nanny Sandra Samuel, who spirited the couple’s two-year-old son
Moshe to safety during an apparent lull in the crisis. Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of the Chabad-Lubavitch educational arm, said that what made
the attack at the Chabad House so painful was that “it was not a hotel, it was their home,” he continued, “of a young couple who relocated from the United
States, who opened their doors” to Jewish travellers, backpacking Israelis and local residents of all ages.
Israel Ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, addressed the gathering at the Chabad House. “Almost 200 people were killed last year, each and every one
of them a world with dreams and families, all of these unfulfi lled,” said Sofer, who cautioned that while he had a prepared speech, a recent tour of
the shell of the Chabad House –its walls still riddled with bullet holes – had left him unable to speak from a text.
Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky,vice chairman of Chabad educational arm also gave an emotional speech, “We will rebuild,”said Kotlarsky, “so that
the light that shone and continues to shine from the souls of Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg will continue to shine throughout the world.”
Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, director of the Chabad Mumbai Relief Fund told reporters that US$2.5 million remained to be
raised in the rebuilding campaign. With a year of mourning over, he said, the time had come to redouble efforts.Towards the end of the ceremony,
which was broadcast live by the website chabad.org, Chasidic singer Benny Friedman performed a popular Jewish song in English, Hebrew and
Hindi comparing the world to a “very narrow bridge” and stressing that “the main thing is to be strong and have no fear at all.”
Six native Mumbai residents, who had been taught by Gavriel Holtzberg, also got up on stage and started dancing and jumping
in time to a melody they had sung on countless occasions with their friend and rabbi.