Meeting Biblical Esther-namesake in Kaifeng, China

In October 2012, we went to Henan province, one of the poorest in China and definitely off the tourist tack. We wanted to get to Kaifeng to meet Esther, “A Kaifeng Jew” as she proudly calls herself. On this photo, Irene is standing with Esther, in front of the entrance to Esther’s house. Shema is visible on the opposite wall.

A small house where Esther was born and raised, and where her family lived for generations, used to be a part of the ancient synagogue structure. For almost 800 years, Esther says, her family was charged with maintaining the synagogue, and when it was ruined by recurring floods, with supervising its reconstruction. Now her house bears a proud name: The Kaifeng Jewish History Memorial Center.

Like her Biblical namesake, Esther is on a mission. “It is my job,” she proudly states, “to bring back a strong sense of Kaifeng Jewish tradition and not let it get lost in history as it did before.” For every Jewish pilgrim coming to Kaifeng, this petite vivacious young woman is an institution by herself: she educates visitors, one person at a time. Read more in my article