Jews of China in spotlight at exhibition

Bar-Ilan University and Chinese Embassy mark 25 years of Israeli-Sino ties

December 11, 2016 19:16
3 minute read.
Elly Kadoorie

Sir Elly Kadoorie (1867-1944), one of the influential leaders of the Sephardi Jewish community in Shanghai and president of the Shanghai Zionist Association,1915-1928. He is shown with his two sons Lawrence and Horace. . (photo credit: PROF. PAN GUANG COLLECTION)

Bar-Ilan University and the Chinese Embassy are set to open an exhibition about the Jews of China on Tuesday, in celebration of 25 years of Israel-Sino relations.

Photographs and documentary films portraying the Jewish communities in China, particularly in Shanghai, over the past 100 years will be on display for the next three months at the Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Nanotechnology Triplex on the Bar-Ilan University campus in Ramat Gan.

The exhibition, curated by Wang Yue, will focus on the Sephardic and Ashkenazi communities, as well as the refugees that escaped Nazi Germany. The Dangoor family, from the Baghdad Jewish community that lived in Shanghai at the beginning of the 20th century, is sponsoring the exhibition.

The exhibition is the latest in a series of efforts made by Bar-Ilan University over the past few years to promote Israel-China relations, and the first in a series of events marking 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

“It’s true that diplomatic relations between Israel and China were officially signed and sealed a quarter century ago. But an exhibition of this magnitude could not have occurred before today,” said Professor Arie Zaban, vice president of research. He stressed that academic collaboration between the two countries received a major boost from a visit to China by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in May 2013, followed by then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman in 2014.

“We feel China’s interest in Israeli society now more than ever,” he said. “Bar-Ilan University, like all research universities in Israel, is tirelessly promoting initiatives that address the huge Chinese interest in advanced Israeli technological research, and their desire to be part of what makes Israel the ‘Start-up Nation.’”

Prof. Pan Guang, director of the Shanghai Center of Jewish Studies, is set to deliver the keynote speech at Tuesday’s event. In a statement released ahead of the event, he emphasized the good relations between China and its Jewish communities, and highlighted those who fled to the country during World War II. Some 20,000 Jewish refugees found a safe haven in Shanghai during the Holocaust.

The exhibition is the brainchild of Dr. Danielle Gurevitch, director of the Asia Desk in the Office of the Vice President for Research at Bar-Ilan University, and the Chinese International Cultural Exchange Center.

“It is interesting that the Chinese see themselves as similar in many ways to the Jews, and continuously make mention of the fact that the two are the oldest nations to survive and to preserve their language and their loyalty to their heritage, while pointing out the importance that Jews and Chinese people attach to family values ​​and education. Naturally, the Chinese are very interested in the Jewish communities that lived in China,” said Gurevitch.

Another flagship initiative led by Gurevitch is a series on contemporary Israel studies, which she created with her colleague, Dr. Alon Levkowitz, under the auspices of the Sir Dr. Naim Dangoor Program for Universal Monotheism in the Faculty of Humanities.

This program is designed for Chinese researchers, lecturers and students specializing in Middle Eastern studies, and particularly Israel studies, with the aim of introducing them to a variety of aspects of Israeli culture. Gurevitch and Levkowitz hope that those who complete the course will become “ambassadors” for Israel in China, who will impart their knowledge about the country to their students.

“Today there are eight Chinese universities offering Israel studies, and the demand for additional study programs at other universities is growing every year,” said Gurevitch. “The Chinese view the Jewish people as being a very smart people and admire Israel’s ability to produce courageous and creative managers and innovative leaders for the modern world.”

Related Content

September 22, 2019
Reporter's Notebook: Shabbat on the 'wrong side' of Budapest