18 Jan Campaign Kaifeng: Meet Li Jing
The aliyah from China continues. In the coming months, five young Jewish women from the Jewish community in Kaifeng will be immigrating to Israel. Each has her own fascinating to story to tell. In the first of our new series of “getting to know you” profiles, please meet Li Jing.
At 27-years-old, Li Jing is the oldest of the five women. Li grew up in Kaifeng, but studied business English at university in Xi’an, a six-hour train ride away and home to the famous Terracotta Warriors.
Following her studies, Li worked as a customer service manager in Kaifeng until two months ago, when she left her job to begin preparing more intensively for her aliyah. “I liked my job very much,” she says. Nevertheless, she is ready for new business opportunities in Israel. These days, she is studying Hebrew and English online with a special Shavei Israel tutor.
Unlike some other communities that Shavei Israel works with, the Kaifeng Jews never forgot or hid their Jewish identity. “I’ve known since I was very little that I am a Jew,” Li Jing says. “My father told us that our ancestors came from Israel. Still, I know I have a lot of things to learn. When my father first told me, I was filled with pride. But then I was a bit puzzled. I mean, what does it mean to be a Jew?”
As Li grew up, her parents did their best to teach her what it means. “We kept the Sabbath, celebrated the New Year and all the holidays –Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hanukah, Passover – according to Jewish Law,” she says. “We do Kiddush [sanctification of the wine] on Shabbat and the other festivals.” Li’s family has been active in the Jewish community of Kaifeng, participating in group celebrations and activities.
Li has friends not just in the Jewish community, of course. “But I only eat food that is kosher,” she says. “My friends all respect that.”
Li says one of her greatest passions is travel – and she will soon get to fulfill that as she heads to Israel. Receiving the letter from Shavei Israel that told Li she would be making aliyah “was the happiest moment of my life,” she says. “I had been waiting for more than six years, ever since the seven men came to Israel.” (Li is referring to the seven young Chinese men whom Shavei Israel helped make aliyah in 2009.)
Shavei Israel has been a big part of Li’s life. “They’ve sent books and teachers to our community,” she says. All this has helped Li prepare for the big day. “If there’s any lesson in life that I’ve learned, it’s to cherish everything I have – my family and my friends. And that opportunity is given to those who have prepared!”
And while the current opportunity is Li’s, she is sure that her aliyah will impact her fellow Kaifeng Jews. “I hope that I can give something in return to my community, to make it better and better.”
For now, there is more Hebrew to learn – now in Kaifeng and soon in Jerusalem. “I know learning the language will be a hurdle. But I always try to be optimistic in everything I do.”
With such a can-do attitude, there’s little doubt that Li Jing will succeed in the land of her forefathers.
To learn more about Shavei Israel’s “Campaign Kaifeng” and how you can get make a real difference with your donation, please visit our donation page. And watch this site for more profiles of the newest immigrants from the Land of the Red Dragon.