The China Connection

Meet Xu Xin, Judaic Scholar in China


Prof. Xu Xin is unusual in many respects. A non-Jew from the Peoples Republic of China, he has devoted his professional life to Jewish studies. Xu completed a semester studying Talmud at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati last spring, is spending six weeks at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York (for intensive study in Yiddish language, culture and history), and will return to Hebrew Union College for another semester this fall. He will also conduct research at Harvard's Center for Jewish Studies, and has lectured at several synagogues and Jewish community centers in the Midwest.

Xu finds it ironic that groups find him "useful" to inspire high school students to be involved in Jewish life and studies. "I have repeatedly been requested to talk to Jewish teenagers and told that my personal experiences would be useful and inspiring for young Jewish adults...The message the organizer wanted to get across to those young adults was that they should do all their best to learn about their own culture. If I, a non-Jew, am so interested in Jewish culture and search restlessly about means of Jewish tradition and heritage, they can also learn," he has written.

Xu started a program of Judaic studies in China in 1988. His vost recent Chinese publication, Anti-Semitism: How and Why, is being distributed to university libraries throughout China, courtesy of grants from the Simon Weisenthal Center and the Canton (Ohio) Jewish Community. He has also written a 300-page Encyclopedia Judaica in Chinese, and has received a grant from the Rothschild Foundation in Israel for his translation into Chinese of The Atlas of Jewish History by Martin Gilbert.

Xu's fall speaking engagements include Gratz College in Melrose Park, Pa. Sept. 16-19; the English Speaking Union in Pinehurst, NC on Oct. 7; Emanuel Congregation in Chicago on Nov. 10; Keturah Hadassah in Skokie on Nov. 14; Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, DC on Nov. 18-20; and the Bureau of Jewish Education in Cincinnati on Nov. 30.

Persons interested in contributing to support distribution of the book on anti-Semitism in China, or to join the China Judaic Studies Association ($20), which includes a subscription to its newsletter, should write to Beverly Friend, Ph.D., Oakton Community College, 1600 Golf Rd., Des Plaines, IL 60016.