Xu Xin, Ph.D., the Diane and Guilford Glazer Professor of Jewish and Israel Studies at Nanjing University in China - Remarkable

As I sat listening to a lecture in Swift Hall at the University of Chicago about the Jewish Diaspora in China, presented by Xu Xin, Ph.D., the Diane and Guilford Glazer Professor of Jewish and Israel Studies at Nanjing University in China, I reflected on the unlikely events that brought me here. On a trip to Shanghai where my husband was lecturing, I satisfied my curiosity about the Shanghai Jewish Ghetto there that I had heard about for years when I joined a guided tour of the area.  Returning from the trip, I had a heightened interest in this topic.  When I met Ester Benjamin Shifren who grew up in the Shanghai ghetto, I was intrigued to learn that her story was told in her book, “Hiding in a Cave of Trunks: A Prominent Jewish Family's Century in Shanghai and Internment in a WWIIPOW campEster Benjamin Shifren.  Ester even knew my tour guide, Dvir Bar-Gal.


Ester told my about a remarkable man in China, Xu Xin who is not only the Founder and Director, but also a chair professor at the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish and Israel Studies at Nanjing University.  She told me he speaks all over the world and she would tell me when he came to Chicago.  Then, she told me about Beverly Friend, who lives in Chicagoland. Beverly, with her husband, had a profound influence on Xu Xin. The three of these individuals have unusual, remarkable stories to tell. I loved reading "Judaic Scholar in China" by Karen Primack

From the China Judaic Studies Association:

“Little did anyone think, in 1986, that the travels of James Friend, one professor from Chicago State University heading to teach English at Nanjing University, would result in the recent opening of the Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute of Judaic Studies at Nanjing University in November, 2006…… (this) meets a growing demand for Judaic studies in China by promoting the study of Jewish subjects, offering regular courses in Jewish history, examining the contributions of Jews to the western world, and covering Holocaust material. Over 200 students enroll in these courses annually.”  


Dr. Xu’s talk was sponsored by: University of Chicago Center for Jewish Studies Center for East Asian Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Committee on Chinese Studies. Discussing the Jewish Diaspora in China, Professor Xu speaks of the years before and after 1840.  He also distinguished between those individuals who are Jews in China and those who are Chinese Jews.  Interestingly, the Jewish population mentioned in the lecture was also referred to in an article By Becky Davis on April 07, 2015 New York Times, “The millennium-old Jewish population of Kaifeng has witnessed a surprising revival in recent years, a phenomenon all the more notable for the tolerant eye that the Chinese government, which does not count Judaism among state-sanctioned religions, seems to have turned toward it.”  This referred to a Seder that was just held there.



Professor Xu Xin has spent 42 years at Nanjing University as an undergrad, a grad student, and currently as director of the Glazer Institute of Jewish Studies. He teaches new generations of Chinese students about Jewish history, culture, and the lessons of the Holocaust.  The curriculum includes spending a year in Israel. There are currently communities where Jews can worship in many cities in China.


Professor Xu will also speak on Friday night, April 10, at the Jewish Reconstructionist  Congregation, 3003 Dodge, Evanston.


Read about Beverly Friend’s visit.      



The lecture hall was very near the Oriental Institute,  so I had the chance to visit the current exhibition.


Photos: B. Keer


Wikipedia states:

He is editor of the Chinese edition of Encyclopaedia Judaica (Shanghai: The Shanghai People's Publishing House, 1993), Legends of the Chinese Jews of Kaifeng (with Beverly Friend, KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1995), Anti-Semitism: How and Why (Shanghai Shanlian Books, 1996), A History of Western Culture (Peking University Press, 2002), and The Jews of Kaifeng, China: History, Culture, and Religion (KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 2003), A History of Jewish Culture (Peking University Press, 2006) and On Jewish Culture (2013, World Publication Company Guangdong Branch). He has also written numerous articles on Judaic topics.

He was the first Chinese scholar to introduce modern Hebrew literature to Chinese readers and has introduced over 50 Israeli poets and writers to the Chinese public in the 1990s. He is also a translator of many books that were published in English.



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