THE Chinese people are impressed with the achievements and contributions of Jews to the world, the nation’s foremost scholar on Judaism says. Professor Xu Xin, founder and director of the Institute of Jewish Studies at Nanjing University, is set to address audiences in both Melbourne and Sydney on the topic “Why the Chinese are interested in the Jews”.
Speaking to The AJN prior to his arrival, he said there is much the Chinese people can learn from Jews. “It’s part of the Jewish tradition to respect life, to make life holy and to respect other people and become charitable, be kind, all these kind of things,” he said. “It’s not what we were taught when I was young.”
China was in the early stages of modernisation when Xu spent an exchange semester living with a Jewish academic and his wife in Chicago in 1986, joining them for yom tovs and meeting their friends.
“What struck me at that time was attitudes towards life, towards people,” he said. “I started to think perhaps when I returned I’d like to teach this to our students.”
He has since established Jewish Studies departments at 13 universities in China and has created MA and PhD programs on Jewish history and culture, with all PhD students spending time in Israel.
Xu first visited the Jewish State in 1988, 10 years before the two countries had official ties. “Before I went, what we knew was very abstract about Israel – we only learned they fight with the Arabs all the time and [there was] no freedom for Arabs. Nobody mentioned how economically it developed and what the society looks like. So I couldn’t imagine how the country looked like.”
Now, he said, with China–Israel relations much improved, many Chinese have taken an interest in Israel and particularly its start-up culture.
“Admiration and respect are the basic reasons for Chinese young people to seek knowledge of Jewish history, Judaism and Jewish people.”
Hear Xu Xin speak at Hamakom, 66 Dover Rd, Rose Bay on Thursday, December 11 at 8pm. More information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0412 545 754.
Hear Xu Xin speak at the Jewish Museum of Australia on Sunday, December 7 at 8pm. More information/bookings: www.jewishmuseum.com.au or (03) 8534 3600.
Professor Xu Xin.