Synagogue Models (4)

This is the 4th stamp in a series of four stamps featuring synagogue models from the display at Tel Aviv's Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora. It displays the model of the synagogue in Kai-Feng-Fu, China.

The origin of the synagogue in Kai-Feng-Fu is uncertain; some think the Jews may have originated from Persia, but Yemen, Bokhara and India have also been suggested. As a result of intermarriage with the local population, it became indistinguishable from its Chinese neighbours. At one time its numbered several thousand but by the 17th century had dwindled to a thousand. Today there is no Jewish community but a number of clans still retain the tradition of their Jewish origin.

The first synagogue in Kai-Feng was built in 1163. Several synagogues stood on the same site but were often destroyed as the result of fire and the flooding of the near by Yellow River but were always rebuilt. The last synagogue was dedicated in 1663. It had a pagoda-like exterior with a three-tiered roof and Chinese furnishings but retained a strong Jewish atmosphere. Entrance was from the Lane of the Pluck-Sinew Religion (which was what the local population called Judaism after its method of preparing meat). The orientation was towards Jerusalem in the west, and over the entrance the words 'Temple of Purity and Truth' were written in Chinese. The area was spacious and access to the synagogue was through three courtyards. On one side of the synagogue was a 'hall of ancestors' obviously derived from Confucianism.

Community life ended in the 19th century and the synagogue fell into disrepair, In 1860 it was demolished. No pictures of the building are known, but Italian missionary priests had made drawings of it in the 18th century and these form the basis of the Diaspora Museum reconstruction.

The stamp was issued in 1988. Designer: D. Ben-Dov.