Scholars Call for Cementing Ties Between China and the Jewish People

Chinese, Jewish scholars discuss ways of promoting friendship between Jews and the 'Chinese Giant' at presidential conference in Jerusalem.

The best way for two peoples to understand each other is to read each other's literature, translator and literature researcher Zhong Zhiqing said Wednesday at the opening of a panel entitled "How can the Jewish people strengthen its friendship with the Chinese giant" at the presidential conference in Jerusalem.

The professor at the Institute of Foreign Literature of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing was joined on the panel by scholar Zhang Ping, who teaches Chinese at Tel Aviv University, U.S. rabbi Marvin Tokayer, senior fellow at Jewish People Policy Planning Institute Shalom Solomon Wald, and Shandong University professor of philosophy and Jewish studies Fu Youde.

Youde spoke about the way he was raised, like many children in China, without any awareness of the Jewish people. He described his efforts to develop a relationship between the Chinese people and the Jewish people by way of enrichment programs and Jewish studies coursed at the academy he heads. He remarked that every year, 5-6 Chinese students graduate from the academy with a degree in Jewish studies.

Youde, who has been active in promoting an international foundation to fund Jewish education in China, said that he believed that the now is a critical time for forging a strong relationship between Israel and China and for demonstrating the existing ties between the two countries.

Tokayer, formerly the chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Japan, said that in his capacity as a rabbi in Japan he was responsible for the entire region, including Korea and China. He said the books he had written on Judaism in Japanese were translated into Chinese, some of them going on to become best sellers, and that he had visited China more than 30 times. He said he had brought more than 1,500 Jews to China, to see the country through Jewish eyes and to experience the Jewish communities of the past and the present that exist there.

He pointed out that two of the some of the oldest Jewish documents ever to be found were in fact discovered in China. He went on to say that 20,000 Polish refugees during World War II found a happy home in Shanghai, and were spared from the Holocaust. He described what he called a "fascinating" Jewish community in Manchuria comprising 10,000 Jews, among them rabbis, scientists and even members of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's family, whose parents spoke Chinese when they didn't want people to know what they were talking about amongst themselves.

Tokayer stressed that the Jews must study their shared heritage with the Chinese people.