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How to keep it kosher
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Many Chinese food exports are certified as kosher after an inspection by a rabbi to verify that the products follow religious laws. In fact, half of China's $2.5 billion a year in food ingredient exports to the US are kosher. The ironic thing is the rabbis who travel to remote Chinese factories to certify them as kosher will often have a hard time finding something to eat. Rabbi David Moskowitz of Shatz Kosher services, a kosher certification company with offices in Shenzhen of Guangdong province and Qingdao of Shandong province, says he often eats "lots of fruits and vegetables" when he is on the road in China.

In order to continue the Jewish way of life, it is important for a community to provide Jewish education for their youth. Again, in major cities in China, it is possible to find options for Jewish foreigners to enroll their kids in a school. In Hong Kong's Shuva Israel there is even a "kolel", a place for adult study of religious texts.

"You can't have a community if you don't have a school," says Elissa Cohen, head of the Kehillat Beijing Sunday school.

In Beijing, there is also a Chabad day school for nursery and elementary ages. French Jew Gilles Perez works for Peugeot. He only agreed to bring his family to Beijing when he discovered his son could still attend Jewish day school.

Although there may be an impression that Jews in China are just beginning to build a community, many places in China have an historic Jewish presence. Jews came from Persia as early as the 8th century via the Silk Road, and a community in Kaifeng, Henan province, was established in 1163 by the Chinese emperor.

More Jews from areas in the Middle East came to trade in China in the late 19th century, and some like the Sassoon family established successful businesses. New communities of Russian Jews were also founded in Shanghai, Harbin and Tianjin. By 1903 Shanghai had three synagogues, with a population of around 10,000. Another 20,000 came from Europe during World War II seeking refuge from the Nazi regime.

While Jews can find community and history in China, many have also found acceptance from Chinese people as well. Lazar in Beijing says: "It's refreshing to be in a place where anti-Semitism has no historical roots."

(China Daily March 28, 2008)

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