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Jewish communities in China are focus of upcoming talk

Xu Xin

Dr. Xu Xin, professor of history of Jewish culture and director of the Center for Jewish Studies of Nanjing University in China, will provide an overview of the history of Jews in China when he speaks at Lehigh University in early February.

His talk, “The Jewish Diaspora in China,” will be at 4:15 p.m. Monday, Feb. 7 in Room 200 of Linderman Library. The program is sponsored by Lehigh’s Philip and Muriel Berman Center for Jewish Studies, Asian Studies Program, and E. F. Robbins Fund in Jewish Studies. The talk and a reception immediately preceding the talk in Linderman Room 200 are free and open to the public.

Xu’s talk will focus on the Jewish community of Kaifeng, which dates back to the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), and will look at Jewish life and culture in China after 1840, with an emphasis on the Jewish communities in Shanghai and Harbin. He will also discuss the Jewish refugees from Central Europe who fled to China during and prior to World War II. It is estimated that 10,000 Jews arrived in Shanghai between 1937 and 1940.

A former member of the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution, Xu gleaned most of his initial knowledge about Jews and Judaism through American Jewish literature, which he discovered after novelist Saul Bellow won the Nobel Prize. His scholarly investigation led to an intense interest in Judaism, which he has studied ever since.

Today Xu Xin is president of the China Judaic Studies Association and editor-in-chief and major contributor to the Chinese edition of Encyclopedia Judaica . He is the author of Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng ; The Jews of Kaifeng, China: History, Culture, and Religion ; and Anti-Semitism: How and Why .

He has also written many articles on Judaic topics—from studies of modern Hebrew literature to surveys of Jewish communities in Shanghai, Tianjin, Harbin, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. In 2002, Bar-Ilan University awarded him an honorary doctorate in recognition of the research he has done on the Jewish people of China.

He has organized many exhibits in China on topics related to Jewish issues, including the First International Conference on Jewish Studies in China in 1996, which was cosponsored by Tel Aviv University. His activities in promoting the study of Jewish subjects among the Chinese have been supported by such foundations as the Rothschild Family Foundation, the Skirball Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, and the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation.

Xu has served as a fellow at Hebrew Union College’s Jewish Institute of Religion and as a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Center for Jewish Studies, Chicago State University, Florida Community College in Jacksonville, and Montclair State University in New Jersey. Since 1995, he has given more than 300 lectures in the United States, Israel, Canada, and Hong Kong.

For more information about the lecture, please contact the Berman Center for Jewish Studies at (610) 758-3352.

Posted on Tuesday, January 18, 2005

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