Rosh Hashana Profile: Xue Fei, China
“My deep Jewish soul was elevated” – Xue Fei, 24, from Kaifeng, China, tells his story for Rosh Hashana.
I was born into a regular Chinese family: A father, a mother and a child – me. My mother is from a Jewish family and her last name is Li.
It should be noted that Kaifeng Jews have seven last names from 1,000 years ago, which were given to them by the then-king of China, who was the first one to permit Jews to live in Kaifeng.
1,000 years ago there was an active Beit Midrash (place of Torah study) here and a rabbi who kept the Jewish life, customs and kashrut(laws of keeping kosher) for centuries.
A natural disaster led to the end of the Jewish community in its historic form: The Beit Midrash was completely destroyed, the rabbi died and tradition was slowly lost. That was when the assimilation into the Chinese people began.
But there were families who continued keeping tradition, like my mother’s family: They only ate kosher animals, kept Shabbat, and marked Passover, Sukkot and Hanukkah in their own way.
The Shavei Israel organization sent a teacher to Kaifeng to teach us about Jewish life. We marked our first Rosh Hashana with the Kaifeng community: We heard the sound of the shofar, we ate the holiday meal together, we sang Rosh Hashana songs and studied a Torah lesson together.
I came to Israel three years ago – in October 2009. We visited Jerusalem, and when I first stood at the Western Wall I was very excited. I felt that I was at home. I said the Shema Israel prayer and my deep Jewish soul was elevated. G-d gave me a very big present.
Our first stop in Israel was Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu. We studied Hebrew and worked. In China I was a dentist, but here I worked in the kitchen and I was so happy with every job I got.
Five months later, we rented an apartment in Jerusalem, and I began studying Judaism from the basic level: Halacha (Jewish Law), musar(ethics), the weekly Torah portion and everything one needs to know.
Shortly afterwards, I was accepted into a yeshiva near Jerusalem, and I felt I had found a sympathetic year among the rabbis in terms of daily life.
I spent two years in the yeshiva, and at the end of last month I went to the Rabbinical Court as part of my conversion process. I pray that the conversion process ends soon, because all I can think about these days is that I want to become Jewish.
After I complete the conversion process, I hope to join the army – and maybe even serve as a dentist. I hope to marry a Jewish girl and settle here. It’s my dream.
A version of this article appeared on Ynet in advance of the Jewish holidays 2012.