Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mort Reichek on Jews and Chinese food

The Octogenarian comments on the Jews' love affair with Chinese food. It makes one wonder why noodles and won-tons were not mentioned in Leviticus.

According to a venerable borsht-circuit gag, the Jewish civilization began in 3,000 B.C., and the Chinese civilization began in 2,000 B.C., which proves that Jews can exist without eating Chinese food. The historical accuracy may be flawed, but the joke does underscore the curious passion that American Jews have developed for the Chinese cuisine.


There are even intriguing historical links between the Chinese and the Jews. The first Jews, probably merchants from Persia, visited and settled in China around the year 1,000. Their descendants, Oriental in appearance and bearing Chinese names, continued to practice the Jewish religion. In the 13th Century, Marco Polo found several influential Jews at the court of Kubla Khan.

Four centuries later, a Jewish mandarin rebuilt a synagogue in the city of Kaifeng, which had been originally constructed hundreds of years earlier. Built like two adjacent Buddhist temples, the synagogue fell into disuse as the community disappeared during the 18th and 19th Centuries. An exquisite model of the Kaifeng synagogue now stands in Beit Hafutzot, the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv.

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