A small community of Chinese Jews completely lost their religion, but kept practising certain traditions and this sustained them as a community.
Jin and her relatives belong to a community of Chinese Jews that was established in the 9th century by Persian traders who traveled along the Silk Road to Kaifeng, at the time China’s capital.
Records documenting the group’s history are spotty, but experts do know that some of the Jewish traders settled in Kaifeng and eventually built a synagogue with official recognition from the emperor. After the last rabbi in Kaifeng died in 1809, many began to forsake their religious practices while holding on to certain traditions, like the prohibition against pork and the celebration of a communal meal on Passover.
These kinds of stories suggest that there’s something to be said about supporting the values and traditions from religion as opposed to the actual worship of God. The value of Judaism comes more from community and ritual than from adherence to divine law.