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Little did anyone think, 20 years ago, that the travels of 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.

Lincolnwood resident Jim Friend was the first Jew Professor Xu Xin had ever met -- but he was far from the last. Following that meeting, Xu went on to live life with a reform Jewish family, the Friends, while teaching in the U.S, returned to China via Israel, initiated a Center for Judaic studies, worked on a one-volume Chinese edition of the Encyclopedia Judaica studied at an Ulpan in Israel and Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, went on to write original works in English and Chinese as well as translating works of Jewish American and Israel authors, ran international symposiums and created special seminars for Chinese professors of history and western civilization in order to provide them with information on Judaism to take back to their own university courses. 

Now, his dream has come true with the establishment of the Glazer center, fulfilled by the donations from the Glazer family and the contributions of many other charitable trusts and individuals (many from the Chicago area.)

As members of the Friend family, Tracy, Lynn and I were thrilled to be there on a most spiritually gratifying 10-day pilgrimage that was bracketed by two contrasting but equally uplifting Shabbat services (Reform in Beijing and Chabad in Shanghai), and highlighted by the Dedication of the Institute.

The celebration opened late Monday afternoon, Nov. 20 with a formal discussion between Nanjing University Vice President Zhou Xian and Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk, honorary Chancellor of Hebrew Union College as well as Chair of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Academic Committee, who was scheduled as the keynote speaker for the next day. They exchanged pleasantries and discussed the unique role this department will play at the university before heading for a banquet hosted by the school.

The Dedication itself opened Tuesday morning with speeches delivered in a tiered lecture hall before an audience of about 80 which included University President Zhang Rong;  Kenneth Jarrett, U.S. Consul General in Shanghai; Amir Lati, Israeli Deputy Consul General in Shanghai; professors and scholars from Nanjing and other Chinese Universities; benefactor William Fern; Episcopal Priest John Blessing; Arthur Rosen, Chairman of the Board of the Sino Judaic Institute; Mattan Lurie, on behalf of the Glazers, Jerry Gotel of the London Jewish Cultural Centre; representatives from Jewish communities and corporations in China, and members of the Friend family. 

Tracy Friend, who is both the President of B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in Glenview, IL, and a composer of liturgical melodies, presented Xu with 54 musical CD's donated by a broad band of American  Jewish artists. She and Rabbi Gottschalk's granddaughter Atara performed four musical selections as part of the ceremony (Oseh Shalom, Shalom Rav, When All is Said and Done, and Ani V'Atah) 

 Xu prepared and distributed a glossy blue and white booklet with the speeches printed in both English and Chinese  in order to avoid the need for  lengthy translations. After Xu's welcome and description of what has been accomplished and the goals still to be met, Beverly Friend gave a brief history of the origins of the China Judaic Studies Association.

 The highlight of the three-hour ceremony  was  Rabbi Gottshalk's  formal address where he cogently stated: "Somehow, somewhere, those concerned with the future of he human community must take the first steps to clear away the debris that bars people from each other.  The basic values which make relationships possible deal with the power of the spirit, not the spirit of power. You who are here at this Center and at the University have opportunity to make a creative difference."

 Following the speeches, awards and fellowships were granted to graduate students before the group proceeded to the unveiling of the five rooms on the 8th floor of the brand new 12-story Center for International Studies.  Outside the door of each, a handsome silver plaque with the China Judaic Association Logo announced the individuals being honored. 

In a corridor between the rooms,  a list of donors: foundations, organizations, patrons, sponsors and donors hangs in imposing testimony to all who made this Institute possible. 

All of this   - the speeches, unveiling and tour -- was covered by a host of enthusiastic Chinese reporters and TV cameras and scheduled for that evening's news broadcast. 

The Institute has come a long way since its founding 1992 when China established a full diplomatic relationship with Israel, and meets a growing demand for Judaic studies in China. Currently it serves 200-300 undergraduate and a dozen graduate students with a faculty of two full-time and four associate-faculty members. A search is now underway to add additional three qualified instructors. 

None of this could have been achieved without its guiding light -- Professor Xu Xin -- who received an honorary doctorate from Bar-Ilan University in 2003 “for establishing the academic framework for the teaching of Jewish history and culture in China and for encouraging the development of Sino-Israel ties.” 

 He noted that the dedication of the new site, however, doesn't mark the end of the road -- it marks a new beginning of further projects. Directly following the dedication, Xu set off for Israel to conduct research at both the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Racism and Anti-Semitism at Tel Aviv Univ. and the Vidal Sassoon International for the study of Anti-Semitism at the Hebrew University in preparation for his latest state-level project for which he received a grant from the Chinese Ministry of State Education. This will result in three books: one on anti-Semitism, one on Holocaust Studies, and a third on the Documents of anti-Semitism. 

 After completing his studies in Israel, Xu heads for Nottingham University where he will deliver a speech at the Limmud Conference, 2006: "The Jewel in our Community's Crown." (see www.limmud.org/conference/ for more information on this.)

 Next year - possibly in September -- he hopes to return  to the US to continue his research, and he plans to complete his book on Anti-Semitism in 2008. 

For further information contact Beverly Friend at friend@oakton.edu

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