Editor’s Wrapup: Wind, Water, Spirit
In the Israeli press, headlines about China usually involve high-tech business ventures. One story that has stayed below the radar is about Chinese Jews who have made their way back to the land of their ancestors. As Wendy Elliman writes, 26-year-old Shi Lei arrived in 2000 with little knowledge of Judaism.
Today, after studying in a yeshiva, he wears a kippa and looks forward to helping other Jews from Kaifeng, the Chinese city in which a Jewish community flourished for nearly 1,000 years. Last spring, Jin Wen-Jing, who lives in Israel with her Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, became the first Chinese-Jewish descendant to formally return to Judaism. See Elliman’s report, “Aliya of the East Wind,” in our Letter from Israel.
The immigrants who stepped ashore at Ellis Island probably didn’t think of their Atlantic crossing as a cruise, but they might be surprised to see how many of us relax on the ocean today. As Gloria Goldreich writes, with leisure comes an unexpected responsibility. Jewish travelers often discover shipmates who are blissfully ignorant of Jewish customs, religion and people. Read her article, “Ambassadors on the High Seas.”
Here’s a case of irony. When a Jewish woman named Hadassah entered the palace of the Persian king, Mordecai suggested she take the distinctly non-Jewish name Esther to hide her faith. Today, a pop icon with the utterly non-Jewish name of Madonna chooses the name Esther to signify her adherence to Kabbala. But if Madonna/Esther gets the headlines (and the jokes), she stands for a real phenomenon—large numbers of Jews and non-Jews delving into what used to be the most esoteric corner of Judaism. Is it a good thing or not? Is the notion of non-Jews learning Jewish mysticism even new? Stacy Perman explores the issue in “High Profile Kabbala.”
High-profile Kabbala may seem as oxymoronic as a Chinese Jew. Both are now part of our world.