While the first members of Beijing’s Jewish community arrived here as early as the 1930s and 1940s, the history of Kehillat Beijing dates back to 1979, the year Deng Xiaoping’s “Open Door” policy went into effect. In those early days, the members of the community were primarily North American business people, journalists, diplomats and students, and efforts focused on getting together for Passover and the High Holy Days, which were usually celebrated at the homes of members. The community’s first seder took place in 1980.
By the early 1990s, in addition to people from the U.S.A. and Canada, Beijing’s Jewish community had grown to embrace Jews from Australia, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Luxembourg, Poland and Russia. We coalesced as a community in 1995 and began regular Friday night services in that year, courtesy of the Capital Club of Beijing, which continues to provide the venue today. Dr. and Mrs. Jordan Phillips of the U.S.A donated a Sefer Torah, we began to celebrate all major holidays, and we put together a class for younger children and a discussion group for adults. In 1996 we celebrated our first bar mitzvah, and in 1997 our first b’rit milah–no mean feats in a city with neither a rabbi nor a mohel.
Contacting Kehillat Beijing
Have a question about Jewish life in Beijing? Jake Laband helps with the organizing and logisticating for the Kehillat Community, and also answers the emails. Shoot him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions you might have about traveling in China, attending services, or where to get the best dumplings in town.