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Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

As China opens to the rest of the world, how are you reaching out to members of your faith group there?

Your question reminds me of one of the major human rights issues of the last century, the plight of Jews and other religious denominations in what was then called the Soviet Union.

For a long time, it was almost impossible to gain entry to the Soviet Union. I remember trying to get in, but was denied entry. And I was not unique in that regard. Finally, the iron curtain began to melt, and the Soviet Union became more accessible.

Because the Jews of the Soviet Union were in such dire straights, it became the challenge and responsibility of the global community, Jewish and non-Jewish, to address their plight and help them either to leave, or to be allowed to practise their faith.

In Canada, the Parliamentary Group for Soviet Jewry became the largest friendship group, with so many members that it was impossible to list them all on the stationery. Thanks to a massive effort to which so many lent their support, the barriers came down, many Jews left, and many remained but in an atmosphere of greater freedom of religion. The outreach from every Jewish community in the free world to the Jews of the Soviet Union reflected the great peril those Jews were in.

The same cannot be said for the Jews of China, who are not so imperilled. The Chinese interaction with the Jewish community has been one of acceptance and appreciation of the Jewish people there. Additionally, the numbers are not the same. There were millions in the Soviet Union, and only a few thousand in China. And they are managing on their own as a community.

Undoubtedly, the more China opens up, the more traffic there will be between the communities. But that traffic already exists, and has existed for years. The Internet will allow for better communication with that community, as will community-to-community exchanges, which, with the cost of travel skyrocketing, are a less likely prospect.

For now, the level of communication between communities is a work in progress, with a long way to go.

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on  August 02, 2008

Sat, November 28 2020 12 Kislev 5781