Under the Radar in China

Chabad regularly astound me with their remarkable mission to provide Jewish services absolutely wherever Jews may be present on the globe.

I had the privilege and pleasure of visiting Chabad in China recently, during a business trip.

The rabbi there explained how they operate - in a grey area, under the radar.

On the one hand, China's constitution upholds freedom of religion.

On the other hand, there are just five religious organizations which are officially recognised; these are (see Wikipedia)  the Buddhist Association of China, Chinese Taoist Association, Islamic Association of China, Three-Self Patriotic Movement (ie Protestantism) and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

Judaism, with a tiny minority following in this vast country, understandably, is off the list of five.

Therefore, by the letter of the law, any Jewish organized religious activity is officially banned.

This is why the Chabad locations are outwardly discrete - no signage, banners, outsized Chanukiot, nothing...Just another villa on the row.

The unofficial deal with the authorities is that Chabad solely provide services to foreigners. There is no missionising to Chinese nationals.

As long as Chabad keep to this rule, the authorities do not interfere.

On occasion, they receive interested approaches by Chinese nationals, and they politely turn them away.

In still-communist China, you can't be too careful.


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