ENCINO, Calif. --
China is not high on the list of destinations for exploring Jewish
heritage, but some tour operators are offering itineraries that
show that China has a richer Jewish history than most first-time
visitors would expect.
In the lead are
Sita World Travel, based here, and Pacific Delight Tours, based in
According to Max
Ali, Sita World Travels director of sales, there is a significant
amount of Jewish heritage in China, and Sita has included the most
notable sites on its Chinas Ancient Heritage program.
The tour is
framed around Chinas major historical sites and attractions but
also includes several Jewish heritage sites.
For groups of up
to 15, Sita will tailor the package to focus more on Jewish
We thought of
doing it as a Jewish heritage tour, Ali said, but theres not enough
to justify the title. But there is something to appeal to people of
the Jewish faith, and we have done tours with a special focus for
those who are interested.
One of the
richest sites for Jewish heritage is in the city of
There is a Torah
teaching lane there, a whole lane full of homes and a synagogue,
said Ali. Its not active, but its preserved, like a museum. And
there are Chinese with Jewish ancestry still living in the
On the grounds of
the former synagogue there is now a hospital as well as a museum,
Ali said. The museum shows how the Jewish people of Kaifeng lived
during various periods.
One farmhouse we
visit belongs to the Jin family, who are descendants of the Jewish
people who lived in that area, said Ali. We visit their farm and
meet with them. On their farm there are a few graves of their
In Shanghai, the itinerary
includes the Ohel Moshe Synagogue, which was founded in 1927 and
was the center of religious activities for Jewish refugees during
World War II.
In Beijing, the
tour visits members of a small expatriate Jewish community who have
come to Beijing for business from the U.S. and Europe.
If its a Friday,
we might arrange for a Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath) dinner, Ali
For groups with
an interest in Jewish heritage, Sita will add the city of Harbin to
Its near the
Mongolian border, almost a Mongolian city, said Ali. It had a
thriving Jewish community. There are well-preserved monuments, a
Jewish cemetery with headstones [engraved] in Yiddish and Russian
and a museum with Jewish artifacts.
People who are
interested can contact us about the possibility of putting a small
The land price
starts at $1,840 per person, double, for summer departures. In
fall, it increases to $2,140. Roundtrip air is available from the
West Coast for $770 to $990 per person and from the East Coast for
$1,140 to $1,250 per person.
For the complete
itinerary or more information, see www.sita.com. For reservations, call (800)
in China is explored by Pacific Delight
Tours in a 12-night Heritage Tour that traces the history of the
Jewish diaspora and the establishment of the Jewish community in
China. The earliest Jewish immigrants arrived in Kaifeng in 998 at
the invitation of the Chinese emperor.
The tour includes
Jewish heritage sites in Beijing, Kaifeng and Shanghai as well as a
general introduction to China.
includes a Shabbat dinner, religious services with members of the
local Jewish communities, lectures on the Jewish diaspora as it
relates to China, a tour of a historical synagogue and visits to
neighborhoods once inhabited by Jews who escaped the Nazis. A
three-night sailing on the Yangtze is also featured.
The tour includes
many of the highlights of an introductory China tour, such as the
Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in the Beijing
area and the terra-cotta warriors in Xian. It also includes a
wealth of Jewish history.
One of the
richest stops on the tour is Shanghai, which was known as The Port
of Last Resort for Jews fleeing Nazism.
The tour includes
the Ohel Moshe Synagogue; the 70-year-old Peace Hotel, which was
built by Victor Sassoon, a wealthy Iraqi Jew; and Old Jewish
Shanghai, which was once a thriving Jewish community. The group
will have a Shabbat dinner and services with the Jewish communities
that still thrive in Beijing and Shanghai.
four-day extension explores Jewish heritage in the cultural climate
of Hong Kong, with visits to the Jewish Community Center, the
Sino-Judaic library, a kosher restaurant and a kosher
The price is
$2,699 to $2,999 per person, including roundtrip air from Los
Angeles, San Francisco or New York, as well as intra-China air and
information, call (800) 221-7179 or (212) 818-1781 or log onto www.pacificdelighttours.com.
reporter David Cogswell, send e-mail to [email protected].