A leading Reform rabbi has launched a campaign to get the Chinese government to recognise Judaism as a faith.
Rabbi Jonathan Romain has written to the Chinese ambassador in the UK, requesting that Judaism be added to the list of religions officially acknowledged by China, and has asked Foreign Secretary William Hague for his support.
Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Islam and Taoism are the five faiths currently recognised by the Chinese government.
According to Rabbi Romain, the Beijing government’s decision to overlook Judaism is a result of “historical circumstances” rather than antisemitism.
During a recent trip to China, he met members of the country’s re-emerging Jewish community, who, he says, “have never expressed their Judaism publicly.”
One Jewish woman, named Esther, told him, “because Judaism isn’t recognised, I feel like an alien in my homeland.”
Limits are placed on the size of Jewish congregation — no more than 10 are allowed to gather in one place. “This means that the Jewish community has had to keep their heads down,” said Rabbi Romain.
He added: “Recognising Judaism would be fully in keeping with the more liberal social and cultural policies of the current Chinese government. It would also be another signal that China was indeed throwing off its restrictive past and emerging as a more open society.