21 Feb Campaign Kaifeng: Meet Li Yuan
The aliyah from China continues. We have one more in our series of profiles of the five young women from the Chinese Jewish community in Kaifeng who have just immigrated to Israel. Please meet Li Yuan.
When Li Yuan was a little girl growing up in Kaifeng, China, her family began keeping Shabbat and the laws of kashrut. “We don’t eat pork, we don’t eat fish without scales and we don’t eat blood,” she explains. But her neighbors found the Yuan family’s new lifestyle perplexing, to say the least. “Chinese people think what we are doing is very strange.”
Li has now entered a new phase of her life – where the people around her won’t think observing the Sabbath and the Jewish dietary laws are in any way out of the ordinary. With Shavei Israel’s help, last week, she made aliyah and has started a new life in Israel.
Unlike most of the Jews of Kaifeng, this isn’t Li’s first time in Israel. In fact, she’s practically a veteran! From 2006-2010, Shavei Israel helped Li study at the Yemin Orde boarding school near Haifa. “It was a religious school,” Li explains, “so I had the opportunity to live a real religious life, every day. Those four years were so special for me.” She came back again in August 2015 on a tourist visa to visit her Israeli friends.
This experience, and the fluency in Hebrew that her years in Israel provided her with, will give Li, now 26, a running start on her aliyah and conversion process. She knows there’s still much more to learn. “Gaining new knowledge is very important to me. It’s not a simple thing to be a real Jew,” she admits. “I will keep on learning hard.”
After Li returned to Kaifeng in 2010, she became active in the Jewish community, attending the regular activities Shavei Israel sponsors in China, celebrating the holidays together, and polishing her Hebrew with Shavei Israel’s emissary to the community, Tuvia Gering.
In Kaifeng, Li – who has a degree in education – worked as the administrator of a local middle school. She liked the work and would be happy to continue in the same profession in Israel. Perhaps as more Jews from China make aliyah, there will be an opportunity!
Li is now in Israel , but she still needs your help. To smooth Li’s transition into her new life in Israel, we have established “Campaign Kaifeng” where you can donate to help Li and her four Chinese Jewish friends as they make their way in the Holy Land.
“The power of faith is strong,” Li says. “Every morning when I open my eyes, I pray. I say thank you G-d.” With Li’s faith – and your help – Li will have the resources to open her eyes each day in the land of her ancestors, as one of Israel’s newest Chinese Jewish citizens.