Jewish Life in Beijing, China
As in many Asian countries, Buddhism, Taoism, and Islam are prominent among its residents. However, residents of China may freely choose and express their religious beliefs, and therefore the religious landscape is quite diverse. This includes an active and flourishing Jewish community.
The first members of Beijing’s Jewish community arrived in China as early as the 1930s. By the 1990s, it included members from the United States, Canada, Australia, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Luxembourg, Poland, and Russia. The community is greatly enriched by its diverse population. Anti-Semitism has no roots in China, and for this reason Jewish immigrants find Beijing to be a place that is truly welcoming.
The Jewish community in Beijing, China is has been in existence since 1979, the year that Deng Xiaoping’s Open Door Policy took effect. This same year marked the opening of Kehillat Beijing. Kehillat Beijing holds Shabbat service every Friday night, and most services are accompanied by a Seudah, or festival meal. Kehillat is a liberal setting, where men and women pray together in mixed seating.
2001 brought the arrival of Chabad Lubavitch in Beijing. Rabbi Shimon and Dini Freundlich together with their two daughters, Chaya Mushka and Devorah Freundlich, were sent to establish and run Chabad’s office in Beijing. They are now joined by their daughters, Chava and Grunia and their son, Aaron. Chabad’s main mission is to reach out to the 1,500 Jews living in China. They also welcome the 3,000 tourists and business people who travel through Beijing every year, and aim to serve all of their Jewish needs as their “home away from home.” They offer many services including Hebrew school, Bar and Bat Mitzfah lessons, and holiday services and meals.
While many Jews living in China have no choice but to eat food prepared in their own homes, Beijing does have an excellent kosher restaurant called Dini’s, which just recently opened in 2007. Dini’s has a beautiful setting for dining, and also offers takeout and delivery. The restaurant is a meat facility and under the kosher supervision of Rabbi Shimon Freundlich – Director Chabad Beijing.
Kosher products are found almost exclusively in Beijing’s western-style grocery stores, meaning the stores that cater and serve mainly westerners. There are currently 7 different grocery stores within Beijing, all of which sell a variety of different kosher products. These products have been imported from Australia, the United States, and European countries. Cholov Yisroel Milk is not available in Beijing. (Local milk is not considered Cholov Stam.) The only milk that can be considered Cholov Stam in China is long life imported milk from countries such as Australia and France. Glatt Kosher beef and chicken is available for purchase at the new Kosher Corner located in Dini’s restaurant.