Ancient Chinese Community Celebrates Its Jewish Roots, and Passover

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Becky Davis reports: Over the remains of the Chinese-style Passover banquet – soups with bamboo and huge chunks of fresh tofu, steamed fish and platters of crisp greens in mustard sauce – Li Penglin, 16, lifted a glass of Israeli wine from his place at the head table. Quietly but without faltering, he read out a Chinese translation of a Hebrew prayer.

About 50 guests, including several local government officials, responded with a chorus of amens, downing their thimblefuls of wine while self-consciously leaning to the left. Some poked neighbors who, unfamiliar with the Jewish custom, had neglected to incline.

It was an atypical scene on an atypical occasion: a Chinese celebration of Passover, the Jewish holiday commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt more than 3,000 years ago.

“There’s no conflict between Passover and Qingming. They’re both about remembrance of ancestors – very similar, just with different methods.”

In a hotel dining room festooned with purple garlands for a coming wedding, Chinese of Jewish descent in the central city of Kaifeng came together on Friday night for a Seder, the traditional Passover meal over which the Exodus story is recounted. Just two days before Qingming, the “tomb-sweeping” festival when Chinese traditionally pay their respects at family graves, they had gathered to recall ancestors even more ancient and a world away.

The millennium-old Jewish population of Kaifeng has witnessed a surprising revival in recent years, a phenomenon all the more notable for the tolerant eye that the Chinese government, which does not count Judaism among state-sanctioned religions, seems to have turned toward it.

Eight clans in Kaifeng claim to be able to trace their lineage back to a small number of Sephardic Jews who made this fertile region their home in the 12th century, when Kaifeng was the capital of the Northern Sung Dynasty and a bustling hub on the Silk Road. But intermarriage, assimilation and isolation eroded their numbers over time. Floods and fires repeatedly destroyed the city’s synagogue, which was not rebuilt after a flood in the 1850s. The Cultural Revolution in the 1960s further quashed any lingering expressions of religious practice. Read the rest of this entry »


Deroy Murdock: ‘Are We Prepared to Handcuff a Feminist Photographer Who Won’t Take Pictures at a Strip Club?’

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At National ReviewDeroy Murdock asks some questions.

• Do we still respect a woman’s right to choose not to bake a cake for a gay couple?

• Do we respect a woman’s right to choose not to take photographs at a Christmas party at a men’s club because she is a feminist who deeply loathes all-male establishments?

• Do we respect the rights of groups of women to choose to enjoy the sisterhood of a women’s club where they need not cope with men?

• Do we respect the Junior League’s right to choose to remain a female-only group, as it has been since 1901, or must they now accept male members?

[Read the full text here at National Review]

• Do we respect a lesbian bar owner’s right to choose to post a No Men Allowed sign in her window because her customers want to enjoy their all-female company in peace and don’t want to associate there with a bunch of hairy dudes with Adam’s apples, brawny shoulders, testosterone in their veins, and penises in their pants?

• Do we respect a gay merchant’s decision to tell a heterosexual couple to stop making out inside his club full of gay men who could live without such a spectacle while meeting other gay men?

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“Bake this!” — Can a gay baker just say no?

• Do we respect a gay baker’s right to choose not to bake a cake for the Westboro Baptist Church with icing that reads God Hates Fags?

• Do we respect a fundamentalist Muslim baker’s choice not to bake a cake for a bar mitzvah because she really is not crazy about the Star of David?

[Also see –  Indiana’s Law Is Not the Return of Jim Crow,” by Jonah Goldberg]

• Do we respect a black jazz band’s choice not to perform at a Ku Klux Klan chapter’s “Negro Minstrel Show”?

• Do we respect a pro–gun control photographer’s right to choose not to snap pictures at a Sharpshooter of the Year banquet organized by the local chapter of the National Rifle Association? Read the rest of this entry »


Captain America Won’t Save Us

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Republicans look like they’re obsessed with finding a superhero

Daniel Henningerrenocol_DanHenninger writes: You have to feel sorry for the Democrats. In a world warming to presidential politics, what do they talk to each other about? Nearly two years from the election, they’ve already got their launch vehicle in place, former everything Hillary Clinton . Fire and forget.

The one-time First Lady, U.S. senator and Secretary of State pumped up a political crowd in Silicon Valley this week by vowing, presumably as president, to “crack every last glass ceiling.” As a political issue, the “glass ceiling” dates back to . . . 1984. It may be older than “income inequality.”

“The U.S. just tried electing a rookie president and had six years of amateur hour. It doesn’t work.”

But anywhere else two people gather who aren’t Democrats, you will fall into the same intense political conversation with a one-word question: Whoduyalike? Who do you like among the names floating in GOP circles for the 2016 nomination? Walker, Bush, Paul, Rubio, Jindal, Perry, Cruz, Christie, Fiorina, Carson, Santorum, Pence. I kind of like…

“And it won’t work again if the next president, whether rookie or former governor, shows up in the Oval Office in January 2017 with not much more than his victory cape and some political pals.”

Two significant meetings of conservative groups take place today through Saturday, and some of these people will pitch themselves at both the CPAC conference just outside Washington, and to the Club for Growth in Palm Beach. Mike Huckabee will preach on his own behalf Thursday evening to the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Nashville.

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It’s all great fun. But there’s something a little off about the Republican presidential conversation right now. It doesn’t come close to reflecting the seriousness of the task facing voters in 2016: Elect a successor to the most catastrophic American presidency in over 80 years. And it ain’t over yet.

“Their Captain America could be named Rand, Scott, Jeb or Marco, but the mere landing of this political superhero in the Oval Office will turn the country around. Really? That’s all it is going to take?”

Instead of offering an anxious electorate a recognizable alternative to this status quo, the Republicans look like they’re obsessed with discovering Captain America.

Their Captain America could be named Rand, Scott, Jeb or Marco, but the mere landing of this political superhero in the Oval Office will turn the country around. Really? That’s all it is going to take?

It is hard to overstate what one-man-shows these presidential candidates have become—one guy, some political pros they’ve hired, their donors and whatever thoughts are running through their or their pollsters’ heads.

In normal times, it might not matter much that a CPAC conference with its gauntlet of speeches and straw polls looks a lot like the NFL Scouting Combine. Chris Christie has no vertical leap, but man can he lift.

The task that Barack Obama is dumping on the next U.S. president, of either party, is overwhelming. Read the rest of this entry »


Why is it Only Okay When the Government Runs the Racket? Let Gamblers Gamble

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  writes:  Baptists do not abide drunkenness, which is why (it has been said) they never recognize one another in the liquor store. In much the same vein, Virginia will not abide gambling.

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Gaming and the laying of odds, however, are another matter.

5-slotGambling is a low and dirty act that starts in cupidity and ends in crime, bankruptcy and broken homes—or at least so say its foes, as they have been saying for centuries. As early as 1727, Virginia adopted the Statute of Anne—which rendered gambling debts unenforceable—and in 1744 the colony prohibited gambling in public places altogether.

Such attitudes linger today. Thirty-nine states have some form of casino gambling, but Virginia is not one of them, noted a Washington Post article a little while ago. The story quoted Richard Saslaw, the Democratic leader in the state Senate: “Forty-nine states will have it before we get it,” he said before adding, “maybe 48” — a nod to Utah’s Mormon ways. Small chance, then, that Sen. Louise Lucas’ proposal will win approval. She wants to introduce casino gambling to Hampton Roads.

Yet if gambling as an end in itself is an outrage against decency in the state’s eyes, then wagering as a means to other ends is something else altogether. Thus the state runs a hugely successful lottery. And like all those in the numbers racket, Virginia’s “house” fixes the odds in its own favor: Last year alone, the state raked in nearly half a billion from suckers who played its games of chance and lost.

But the official line denies that this constitutes gambling. It is, rather, government-provided “fun”—and it raises money for the schools! One hundred percent of the state’s proceeds go to Virginia’s K-12 education system, the lottery website notes. (It does not note that this transfer thereby frees up money for lawmakers to spend on other things.)

Read the rest of this entry »