The January 1992 establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel stimulated mutual interest in each other's history and culture.
To meet the growing demand for Judaic studies in China and to promote the study of Jewish subjects among Chinese college students, the Center for Judaic Studies at Nanjing University was established in May 1992. Every year over 200 students take courses there under the direction of Professor Xu Xin.
Currently, the center is housed in an office of about 120 square feet . Lack of space is critical! The Center lacks sufficient space to house even its most prized possession: the largest, most complete library of Judaica in China -- which now contains over 3,000 volumes (with a most welcome gift of another 3,000 books expected this year).
In addition to a new library, the Center needs classrooms, offices, conference rooms and exhibit space.
To provide this, we will join Nanjing University and Johns Hopkins University to create a new, larger, more modern facility. The James Friend Center for Judaic Studies (named for the first Jew Xu Xin met when Friend came to teach in China in 1985 and as a tribute to their extraordinary friendship) will be part of a larger Nanjing University-Johns Hopkins University Institute for International Research.
Professor Xu Xin has been working diligently to spread the news and reach people and foundations to meet the estimated cost of $100,000. During his most recent U.S. stay, he discussed plans with many scholars and foundation heads, including Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, President of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, and Rabbi Richard Marker, Executive President of Samuel Bronfman Foundation. All have been supportive of his Jewish projects in China and expressed continued interest. So far, more than half of the needed funds have been raised.
The Association now requests your help. Donors will be honored in the building: major donors with the naming of rooms, others with plaques naming them as sponsors ($100), benefactors ($500) and patrons ($1,000), but any amount is most welcome.
Tax-deductible donations may be made out to The Sino-Judaic Institute and mailed to 232 Lexington Drive, Menlo Park, CA 94025. Write Friend-Nanjing Center in the memo part of the check. For further information or for information regarding stock transfers, query Al Dien at the Sino-Judaic Institute.
Who was James Friend? Why is The Center named for him?
When Jim Friend (1932-1987) arrived at Nanjing to teach English in 1985, the first colleague he met was a Chinese professor teaching a course in Jewish American authors. Xu Xin was teaching about Jewish writers, but he had never met a Jew!
Meeting Jim was a turning point in Xu's life. The two developed a fast friendship, and Xu was finally able to explore the Judaism which had so interested and intrigued him. In 1986, Xu traveled to the U.S. to teach at Jims school, Chicago State University, for two years. During his first year in the U.S. Xu lived in Jim's home, his interest and knowledge of Judaism growing deeper as he celebrated Jewish holidays with Jim's family.
Today, after returning to the U.S. for Harvard Symposiums, attending classes at Hebrew Union College, and furthering his education in Israel, Xu has become the leading scholar of Judaica in China, and founder of the China Judaic Studies Association. Through his work at Nanjing and through his translation of the Encyclopedia Judaica into Chinese, Chinese students are learning about Judaism for the first time. While Jim did not live to see Xu's accomplishments, he would be awed to know that the flame which sparked Xu's intense desire to study Judaism was ignited by their friendship.
Xu has truly made a difference, both in the U.S. and in China, where interest in Judaic Studies continues to grow. And Jim, who passed away more than 13 years ago, lives on in his work and in his deeds. We are still benefiting from the inspired friendship between these two men. The Center is a tribute to them both!