A groovy kind of love: A historic and very special ceremony took place last Thursday in the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem: Shoshana Rebecca Li, of the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, wed Ami Emmanuel, am immigrant from the United States.
The wedding ceremony, with over 150 guests, including other members of the Kaifeng Jewish community, was organized by Michael Freund, Chairman of Shavei Israel – a Jerusalem-based organization that reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.
The Jewish Community of Kaifeng flourished for over 1000 years on the banks of the Yellow River in China. Jews first settled in Kaifeng, when it was an important stop along the Silk Route.
Shoshana and Ami at their wedding (Photo courtesy of Shavei Israel)
The community flourished, and numbered as many as 5,000 people in the Middle Ages. After the last rabbi of Kaifeng died in the first half of the 19th century, assimilation and intermarriage prevailed, eventually leading to the collapse of the community.
Nonetheless, around 700 Jewish descendants still live today in the city of Kaifeng, China, and many of them are seeking to reclaim their Jewish identity.
Shoshana Rebecca Li, 29, a descendant of that community, made aliyah to Israel in 2006, and recently completed her formal conversion back to Judaism by Israel's Chief Rabbinate.
Ami Emmanuel, 25, made aliyah two and a half years ago from Florida. The newlyweds intend to live in Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Arava region.
"For me, to have a proper religious Jewish wedding in Israel – it is a dream come true. I am very excited," said Li.
"No one in the world is as happy as I am. I thought it impossible to marry a Jewish woman from China. However, it seems miracles do happen, and this is the biggest miracle of my life," added Emmanuel.
"This wedding symbolizes the beginning of the return of the remnants of the Jewish community of Kaifeng to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel," said Michael Freund.
"This is a special and unique occasion… 150 years after Kaifeng Jewry essentially ceased to exist, a wonderful young woman descended from the community is getting married to a new Oleh from the US, under a Jewish wedding canopy in Jerusalem. I can't think of a more poignant example of kibbutz galuyot – the Ingathering of the Exiles," he added.