Oh, to Be Jewish in China

Oh, to Be Jewish in China

When I tell people in China that I am Jewish, I often get the same response. ‘‘Ah, so clever!’’ the Chinese person will say with a nudge. ‘‘So good with money! The Chinese and the Jews — we have so much in common!’’

Aside from visits to the Chabad community center for the High Holy Days and Passover meals shared in Jewish friends’ courtyard homes, little differentiates me from the thousands of other Europeans living in China’s capital.

On the outside I am a laowai, a faceless foreigner from a world whose history and people the vast bulk of the Chinese population knows very little about. Yet when I reveal my ethnicity I am always surprised by the expressions of affection that the Chinese show for the Jews. Both cultures, the Chinese emphasize, share respect for family, learning and, yes, money.

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