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China Judaic Studies Association 
Promoting Judaic Studies in China

Xu Xin's Trip Report


Tuesday, November 19, 2002: The Senate of Bar-Ilan University voted to bestow an Honorary Doctorate on Xu Xin in recognition of his contribution to Jewish Studies in China. Xu attended the late May ceremony, and hopes to return to Israel next October to spend at least six months in additional research. See an excellent article on Xu Xin by Daniel Tremain printed in The Forward, 2/28/03 and Happy Jew Fish, by William F. Miles in the August Issue of Moment Magazine.

Xu Xin's Response at the
Honorary Doctorate Award Ceremony
at Bar-Ilan University

Dear Mr. Chancellor, Mr. President, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen:

What 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.

I 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!

But 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.

Through 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

Mr. 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.

Toda Raba.