Communist China has five authorized state religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism and Taoism. Judaism was unofficially tolerated since the 1980s, but for some unknown reason, this quiet acceptance was recently revoked. The surprising crackdown is happening at a time when Israel and China are strengthening their economic and political ties.
The Kaifeng Jewish community was believed founded in the 8th or 9th century by Persian and Iraqi Jewish traders along the Silk Road. At its height, from the 14th to 17th centuries, it numbered some 5,000 strong, with a synagogue, rabbi, educational institutions and a cemetery.
Intermarriage and conversion to both Islam and Christianity weakened the community, and by the mid-19th century the formal group had largely disappeared.
Today, 1,000 people identify as being of Jewish descent of which a few hundred are thought to be involved in the community.
In the past year, a few dozen of this community celebrated Passover and lit Chanukah candles at the Jewish center. Now that their organizations are illegal, they will have to pursue any interest in Judaism privately.