Kaifeng, Jerusalem, a full-length documentary filmed over six years in Israel and China, follows the descendants of the Chinese Jewish community in the ancient capital city of Kaifeng on their quest to recover their Jewish heritage. It examines the community’s odd political situation, in which both China and Israel—each for its own reasons—refuse to recognize them as Jews.
The film focuses on the Jin family of Kaifeng—Shlomo, Dina, and their daughter Shalva—who managed to leave China for Israel in 1999, with the assistance of a Christian Zionist group. With no official status in Israel, but with dogged persistence and a unique brand of Jewish identity, the Jins try to communicate their extraordinary circumstances to the Israeli establishment and to educate the authorities as well as the public. The family endures many trials and tribulations. At one point Shlomo is even picked up by the police as an illegal migrant worker.
Insisting that they are already proper Jews, the family at first refuses to convert. Later, however, they go through the entire process, accepting that Kaifeng Jews must retrieve their Jewish background if they want to rejoin the Jewish people and make aliya. As Shlomo becomes more devout, he clings on to his original mission—to open the gates for the rest of the Kaifeng Jews.
In 2005, after completing the official conversion process, Shlomo and Dina visit Kaifeng, where he fulfills his dream of teaching other Jewish descendants about Judaism. While that dream is fulfilled, the prospects that the rest of the Descendants will be able to return to Judaism and Israel remains bleak.
This truly international story is told using interviews and footage of a type that is extremely difficult to shoot in China. The film will affect how Jews and non-Jews everywhere perceive the “lost“ Jewish communities all over the world and raise questions about what constitutes the global Jewish identity.
Noam Urbach has completed an M.A. in East Asian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His thesis focused on recent developments related to the Kaifeng Jews. Urbach directed and photographed the documentary short "Sorry, Selichot" broadcast on Israel’s Channel One in 2004. He currently lives with his wife and son in Jinan, China, where he studies and teaches Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Shandong University.
BUDGET AND FUNDING
The overall budget for this film is US$130,000. Now that filming is near completion we are ready for the post-production stage. For this we need funds and are seeking appropriate partners both for financing and for distribution and/or broadcast. Donations are highly encouraged.
A trailer containing a collection of the type of footage that will make up the complete film is availiabe here
, but is password protected. To obtain a password, please contact the producer at the email below.
Noam Urbach: Nurbach (at) gmail.com
Phone: (China) +86-1357-316-5042; (Israel) +972-546-440516