Dr. Steven Windmueller, the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Professor Emeritus of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, writes:
Since the 1980s as the Jewish studies scene in China would begin to take form, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) would play a supportive and significant role in helping to grow these programs. Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, the sixth president of the College-Institute, would be personally involved in seeking to advance Jewish learning in China. Beyond making three trips to China, Gottschalk would promote the Jewish studies programs at Nanjing and elsewhere by assisting Chinese campus officials to receive financial support from American donors.
Rabbi Gottschalk would invite Nanjing University Professor Xu Xin to come to HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati campus during the academic year 1995-96. Beyond arranging for the professor to be exposed to HUC-JIR’s faculty, students, and library, Gottschalk would assist Professor Xu Xin in meeting with prominent Jewish funders and in speaking at congregations across the country and in having the opportunity to visit the Jerusalem campus.
When Dr. Gottschalk was unable to visit China in 1996, he asked Richard J. Scheuer and his wife Joan to represent him. Scheuer, who was Chairman Emeritus of HUC-JIR’s Board of Governors, would be so impressed by the work of the Center for Jewish Studies at Nanjing that he would offer is own financial support to advance its work and arranged to donate a portion of his personal library to the University’s Jewish collection.
In 1996, the American Jewish Archives would provide the Center with an exhibit on American Jewry that would be shared with thousands of campus and community visitors.
President Gottschalk would make his last visit to China in 2006 at which time he was invited to lecture at Nanjing University; during this trip his host, Xu Xin would arrange to introduce the former HUC-JIR President to key officials during their tour of the country.
Dr. Gottschalk would stipulate in his estate that his personal library consisting of several thousand books be donated to the Center for Jewish and Israel Studies at Nanjing University. Today, that collection is an important part of the Center’s significant Judaica holdings. According to its Director, HUC-JIR has continued over the years to provide materials to the Center and its library.
As I complete a twelve-day visit to the People's Republic involving five public lectures at three of this nation’s premier universities, including Nanjing, I have been reminded of the special relationship that has been developed by HUC-JIR with these growing and important centers of Jewish learning. I was asked to speak about American Jewry, the Israel-Diaspora Relationship, and my recent book, The Quest for Power. During my stay we had occasion to meet with more than one hundred graduate students, share meals with key faculty members at each of the host campuses, and tour major historic and cultural sites important to the Chinese.
As China expands its presence in the world, connections with this society will be of increasing importance for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. HUC-JIR can hopefully continue to play an important role as a bridge in strengthening China’s Judaic resources and its understanding of the Jewish past and present.