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Sunday, May 21, 2023 

New comic starring Asian-Jewess

The JTA/Times of Israel reports about an indie comic spotlighting a heroine who's a Chinese-Jewish descendant of the Kaifeng community from that country:
An independent comic book publisher that aims to promote diversity in comics is about to spotlight a historic new character: the Asian-Jewish Leah Ai Tian, also known as “The Last Jewish Daughter of Kaifeng.”

The character is the brainchild of Fabrice Sapolsky, co-founder of the Queens, New York-based FairSquare Comics, which works to “promote and give more exposure to immigrants, minorities and under-represented creators of the word.”

“The Last Jewish Daughter of Kaifeng,” which debuts June 7, is the latest installation of the Intertwined series of comics, which Sapolsky and fellow Frenchman Fred Pham Chuong started in 2017.

Leah, who made a brief appearance in the first Intertwined book, has the ability to manipulate anything water-based and travel through streams — not unlike a certain character in the popular TV show “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

The book tells her complex origin story, which Sapolsky said is meant to “explain the reality of being a minority in a country that does not accept you as a minority.”

At first, Leah lives freely as a Jew in 1970s New York City — she wears a chai necklace, has opened a kosher Chinese restaurant and says her rabbi calls her powers “a blessing” from god. But the reader learns that she had left China to avoid a forced marriage to a mob lord who now terrorizes Kaifeng — a large city in eastern China home to the remnants of the country’s only native Jewish community.

That community, once thought to be at least a few thousand strong, by the time of Leah’s story was thought to be mostly dispersed or assimilated into the non-religious society of the Cultural Revolution. Leah returns home to try to save her parents and bring them to New York, where they could practice their religion freely.

Sapolsky’s interest in the Jewish community in Kaifeng dates back to the 1990s, when he was a teenager and his Jewish camp in France one year held “Kaifeng-themed” activities, meant to educate campers about Chinese Jews.
The premise is certainly an interesting one. But it's honestly a shame if the writers don't want to confront the issue of China's communism, which has led to persecution of the Kaifeng and suppression their practices and customs. The plus here is that this comic can give some insight into a far-eastern community of descendants of Israel and how they practice Judaism. But it's still a shame if this comic doesn't take the more challenging path of confronting the issue with communism.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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