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United Press International – August 19, 2008
BEIJING, Aug 19, 2008 (UPI via COMTEX) — For Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, the road to the Beijing Olympics was an obstacle course to provide Kosher food and spiritual comfort to Jewish athletes.
Although Beijing has at least one Kosher restaurant, where Freundlich certifies the food, Judaism is not one of the five religions that have official recognition in China. Freundlich told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that Chinese officials did not “really know how to operate,” although they knew that Olympic bylaws required a synagogue, rabbi and Kosher food.
“Only after I made it clear to them that I understood my appointment was not an official government appointment did the Chinese agree to meet with me,” he said.
The Chabad organization, which Freundlich represents, had to get special permission to bring religious groups to Beijing. It took complaints from Jewish athletes to get Kosher food instead of airplane-style vegetarian meals prepared according to Muslim dietary law.
Freundlich got special permission to bring challah bread into the Olympic Village for the Sabbath — with Chinese Olympic officials keeping an eagle eye on its preparation.
Some of his colleagues from other faiths at the Olympics complained before the Games that no one was coming to services.
“Have patience,” he told them. “When the Games begin, they will come looking for God.”
Copyright 2008 by United Press International

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