Happy New Year! As I’ve noted before, for Jews, the secular New Year is our most wonderful time of the year. We get a second shot at fulfilling our resolutions made on Rosh Hashanah. It’s our “do over.” But there’s even better news for Jews seeking resolution redemption; but it’s restricted to a rare segment of the world’s Jewish population — Chinese Jews. Hear me out: Some of what you’re about to read is based in fact.
On Saturday, Jan. 28, China will ring in its new year — the Year of the Chicken, according to my placemat at Golden Phoenix. Whether it’s a kosher Year of the Chicken depends upon how observant of a Chinese Jew you are.
What do Chinese citizens, Jewish or otherwise, do while counting down the final seconds on New Year’s Eve? My guess is they don’t watch a ball drop … they watch an “Egg Drop.” (Sorry.) OK, lest you think I’m hopelessly politically incorrect, there’s actually serious history to back up the Chinese-Jewish connection.
For centuries, China has provided a safe haven for Jews. China welcomed Jewish refugees during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and provided sanctuary for European Jews in the years leading up to WWII. You can even go as far back as the Middle Ages and uncover a Jewish-Chinese affiliation.
Jewish silk traders were among the first Jews to settle in China. The Chinese Jewish community of Kaifeng built its first synagogue in 1163. (Look it up.) The congregation enjoyed rapid growth. So much so that within a year they added on a reception hall, thanks to a generous donation by Dr. and Mrs. Leo Wongstein. (Do not look that up.)
You don’t need to be a Chinese Jew to understand the historical bond between our people and China. This was never more prevalent than the June 2010 confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. Under questioning by Sen. Lindsey Graham, Kagan was asked what she did on Christmas. Without missing a beat Kagan replied, “Like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”
So, based on the aforementioned historical perspective, I think you’d agree that Jews have multiple opportunities to fulfill New Year’s resolutions. But we don’t need some scientific study to convince us that people, in general, don’t stay committed to their resolutions; it’s common knowledge … but a study was done anyway.
Just this past December, the Statistic Brain Research Institute (SBRI), which claims to be a “trusted research provider” to such folks as Forbes, CNN and Oxford University Press, showed that only 8 percent of Americans succeed at fulfilling their resolutions.
Now, you would think the older and wiser you get, the more committed you would be to resolutions like losing weight or cutting back reliance on your smart phone to 23 hours a day. Well, think again. The SBRI study showed that 39 percent of people in their 20s achieved their resolutions, while people over age 50 were successful only a measly 14 percent of the time.
So, what’s a person to do? I say — just give up. No, I’m kidding. Forget waiting for a New Year to make good on your resolutions. Try again on a new day, a new month; whatever it takes to improve your life.
And if you’re a Chinese Jew, it’s even easier because once you make your resolutions, you know you’re going to feel like making them again an hour later anyway. Either way, may 2017 be your best year ever!
Alan Muskovitz is a writer, voice-over/acting talent, speaker, emcee and a regular guest host on the Mitch Albom Show on WJR AM 760. Visit his website at
laughwithbigal.com and “Like” Al on Facebook.