Campaign Kaifeng: Meet Gao Yichen
The aliyah from China continues. In our continuing series of profiles of the five young women from the Jewish community in Kaifeng who will be immigrating to Israel in the coming months, please meet Gao Yichen.
Gao Yichen is the youngest of the five women Shavei Israel is helping make aliyah. Just 22-yers old, she is working part time while completing her studies at the Jiangxi University of Traditional Chinese Medicine where she also received a B.A. in Music Therapy. “Music is my passion,” she says. That, and Israel, of course.
Even though she has never visited the Jewish state, Gao insists she would like to make aliyah quickly. “The sooner the better!” she says. “Israel is where my ancestors lived. My father has always wanted to bring me back. Israel is where I belong.”
She has been waiting a long time. “For six long years,” she says, referring to the last aliyah from Israel of seven young Chinese men, which Shavei Israel facilitated in 2009.
What does Gao know of her new home-to-be? “Technology and agriculture are highly developed in Israel,” she says. “And that relations between Israel and the surrounding countries have been tense.” On a personal level, she admits that language will be a “hurdle to overcome” but she’s ready for the challenge. “Coming to Israel will surely change the direction of my life, but I’m really looking forward to it!”
Gao is one of the regulars at Jewish community activities in Kaifeng. That’s not surprising given that her father is the chazan (the cantor) when the community gets together for prayer services. Her family keeps the Sabbath, eats only “clean foods” (kosher according to what’s available in pork-centric China) and celebrates the Jewish holidays “according to all the precepts” – she mentions Rosh Hashana, Sukkot, Yom Kippur, Hanukah and Passover in particular. Her non-Jewish friends have all been “completely respectful” of her choices.
Despite her connection to her friends and family in Kaifeng, Gao is ready to embark on her journey to the Holy Land where she feels she can “make a difference. Right now, my goal is to study in Israel, but I hope that in the future, through my efforts I can help more people in my community, particularly my parents, return to Israel.”
Putting all she can into everything she does is what gives Gao her greatest sense of well being, she adds. “When my efforts are recognized and I know I have made good progress, these are the happiest moments of my life.”
Gao’s ever-optimistic attitude reads like an old Chinese proverb. “One of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far in life is not to waste time. Chance favors the prepared mind,” she says.
Gao has clearly prepared – mentally and emotionally – for this next stage. Now she needs your help to complete the financial preparations. We have established a new program – “Campaign Kaifeng” – to raise money to ease Gao’s transition to her new life, one that will be much more than a shift from rice and tofu to falafel and humous.