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Journal Article

The Kaifeng Jews: A Reconsideration of Acculturation and Assimilation in a Comparative Perspective

Stephen Sharot
Jewish Social Studies
New Series, Vol. 13, No. 2 (Winter, 2007), pp. 179-203
Published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4467770
Page Count: 25
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Kaifeng Jews: A Reconsideration of Acculturation and Assimilation in a Comparative Perspective
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Abstract

The permeable boundaries of the major components of Chinese religion (Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism) and the relatively tolerant pluralism of the religious milieu are important factors in accounting for the religious acculturation of the Jewish community in the Chinese city of Kaifeng. A comparison of the acculturation of Chinese Jews with that of Muslims in Imperial China shows that, though the small size of the Jewish community and its lack of contact with other Jewish communities for a long period made it particularly susceptible to the influence of the Chinese milieu, this milieu was conducive to the acculturation of even a large minority. The unwillingness of the Catholic Church to compromise with the syncretistic milieu and its demand for an exclusive commitment from Chinese converts led to the expulsion of its missionaries. A comparison of Buddhism and Islam in China indicates that an important social structural basis for the long survival of the Kaifeng Jewish community was the combination of communal and congregational religion.

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