Xu Xin's Response
Honorary Doctorate Award Ceremony
at Bar-Ilan University
Mr. Chancellor, Mr. President, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:
an extraordinary moment. What an extraordinary journey this as been. Who could
ever have predicted that learning English via the Voice of America, moving from
a study of English and American literature to a study of Jewish American Authors,
and most important, transferring from a study of Jewish literature to
exploration of Jewish civilization, would lead to such a moment.
can hardly believe that I am standing here -- not only in Israel -- but at this
celebrated university, an institution where the wisdom and legacy of the Jewish
people are explored and taught in addition to the academic studies of science and
humanities. As I receive the highest honor of my life -- far beyond what I ever
could have expected or predicted -- I must most gratefully thank the
University's Board of Trustees and Senate. What a privilege!
I would be an ingrate, indeed, if I did not today give special tribute to the
person, and the family, who started me on this road, while I am taking this
opportunity to express my sincerest thanks to all individuals and organizations
that have provided me with all kinds of much needed and timely assistance and
support for my various programs of Jewish studies in the last decade. Seventeen
years ago, Prof. James Friend was the first Jew I ever met -- even though I was
at the time teaching a course in Jewish American Authors at Nanjing University.
Following his teaching stint in China, Jim invited me to Chicago to assume a
teaching position at his school: Chicago State University, and I was even more fortunate
that he invited me to live with him and his family, sharing their day-to-day
secular and religious lives.
them, I had an opportunity to become immersed in Jewish life and culture, and I
came to see the many contributions of Jews to the world civilization in general
and to Western civilization in particular. These opened my eyes to the many
possible lessons for Chinese. It is not an exaggeration to say that for me
Jim's family exemplified the wisdom of the Jewish people and the beauty of
their legacy, which eventually led me to travel so extensively down the road of
Jewish studies. I can attest to the fact that one man can make a difference.
The late Jim Friend and his family have made a world difference of me. Whatever
I may have achieved in the field of Judaica originated with them.
While I happily accept this honor, I must not accept it
alone, but on behalf of all Chinese scholars who have been involved in Judaic
studies in China during the last 15 years. Due to their untiring efforts, the
study of Israel and Jewish subjects in China, which revived in the 1980's,
accelerated in the 1990's, and is racing full steam ahead into the new
century. Contributions by these
scholars not only bring our two peoples and two countries closer but also help
more and more Chinese realize how important an understanding of Jewish culture
is as an essential step in preparation for the challenge faced by Chinese as
they move towards a more active world role. The whole world has been stirred by
Jewish thought. Virtually no civilization has been untouched, no history of
western civilization can be recounted without considering the Jewish component:
what Jews have thought, felt, written and achieved
Chancellor and Mr. President, this honor you have just kindly bestowed upon me
is an enormous encouragement for Chinese scholars to further promote the study
of Jewish subjects in China. Although much has been achieved in the field, we
still have long way to go, and much still needs to be done. Chinese scholars
need to deepen their study of, and research in, Jewish culture. How to improve
their scholarship in general, and how to make unique contributions to the scholarly
study of Jewish subjects in particular, are the challenges we currently
face. As my colleagues and I attempt to
courageously meet these challenges, we also hope to produce fruitful results of
value to our colleagues in Judaic studies worldwide.
While one might say that an honorary degree
is the culmination of one's work, for me it is a milestone of encouragement --
marking a renewed beginning.