Thursday, February 10, 2011
11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
“Not to understand Jewish culture is not to understand the world” --Xu Xin, China’s leading Judaic scholar, quoted in the Jerusalem Post.
Xu Xin, Director of the Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies at Nanjing University, recipient of an honorary doctorate from Bar Ilan University in Israel, and the only Professor of Jewish Studies in China, will soon be visiting to the U.S. on an extended speaking tour. .
Professor Xu first became interested in Judaism when Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize for Literature. As a professor of English at Nanjing University, Xu began to investigate the success of Jewish authors (surely a minority) in America, and initiated a university course in the subject -- all before he, himself, had ever actually met a Jew. But in the years that followed, after meeting his first Jew (Jim Friend who was teaching in China in 1985), he came to Chicago, lived with the Friend family in Lincolnwood and experienced Jewish life here. After returning to China via Israel, in 1988, Xu’s studies changed focus: from Jewish literature to the whole world of Jews and the Jewish experience. Colleagues questioned his choice, fearing that he was forsaking a recognized academic study for the unknown.
This is a tale of academic adventure -- traveling from China to Israel and the U.S.-- the most extensive trip occurring in 1995-96, when he returned for over a year to study the Talmud at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati; Yiddish at YIVO in New York, and to undertake additional research at the Center for Jewish Studies, Harvard. In 2010, he will be making his tenth trip, once again lecturing extensively throughout the U.S. and Canada. He also regularly leads tours to Jewish sites in China, including the ancient city of Kaifeng and modern Shanghai--where so many Jews found refuge during World War II.
This one-man dynamo created China’s first exhibit on the Holocaust (in conjunction with the Simon Wiesenthal Center), produced a 900-page Chinese edition of the "Encyclopedia Judaica," many scholarly critical articles, and has translated the works of numerous Jewish-American and Israeli authors into Chinese. His translation of Agnon’s novelette "In the Heart of the Seas" was the first time since 1949 that any Hebrew author had been translated into Chinese.
In Chinese, he has written a college text on the history of the Jews and his book "Anti-Semitism: How and Why" is distributed to university libraries throughout China. His first work in English (in association with Professor Beverly Friend of Oakton Community College) "Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng" was soon followed by "The Jews of Kaifeng, China: History, Culture and Religion." Most recently, he translated Eric Friedman's "Seven Chinese Questions, Seven Jewish Answers" into Chinese for a dual-language edition. This book was inspired by the questions Xu Xin's students asked about Jews and Judaism.
His considerable accomplishments include the implementation of undergraduate and graduate courses in Jewish studies at Nanjing University, and the creation and maintaining of a Judaic library there, development of three summers of seminars taught by guest American and Israeli scholars and attended by Chinese professors of history and western civilization in order for them to learn about Judaism and include units in their current university courses, the initiation of an International Conference for Jewish Scholars in China jointly sponsored by Tel Aviv University, Hebrew Union College, and -- most recently, establishment of the Glazer Institute.
For further information, see the China Judaic Studies Association website. Or email Beverly Friend