October 16, 2018

Open Door Policy to China

By early next year, the first of some 100 Chinese researchers will arrive in Israel to spend up to two years at Bar-Ilan University, studying subjects ranging from the works of Sholem Aleichem to cutting-edge computer science.

The Chinese academics will be among the cream of their country’s young post-doctoral fellows — all holding doctorates — and will be selected under an agreement negotiated earlier this year by Bar-Ilan University President Moshe Kaveh and 10 of China’s top universities.

At first sight, the matchup between the two countries, lying at opposite ends of the Asian continent, seems somewhat incongruous.

“Israel has 5 million inhabitants and China has 1.2 billion,” Kaveh said during a visit to Los Angeles last week. “However, we are both ancient civilizations, which have survived much suffering and mighty empires.”

Although Israel and China have vastly different political systems and worldviews, Chinese authorities have been supportive of the agreement, Kaveh said.

The program is formally known as the Barbara and Fred Kort Sino-Israel Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program, in honor of the Beverly Hills couple that is underwriting the international project. The Korts are financing $15,000 scholarships for each of the 100 Chinese students, who will arrive at Bar-Ilan over a four-year period.

Most of the Chinese, selected from among thousands of applicants, will conduct advanced research in the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, but a number have scholarly interests in Jewish history and philosophy.

One applicant told Kaveh that he wanted to study the writings of Aleichem, and another’s discipline is the Talmud, which has been translated into Chinese.

Kort said that he and his wife are supporting the program because “Bar-Ilan University, much like the Chinese, seeks to blend tradition with modern science.”

One of a handful of Jews to survive the Treblinka concentration camp, Kort is chairman of Imperial Toy Corporation, which employs 1,000 workers in Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Kaveh noted that one concern of his Chinese counterparts was their country’s large-scale brain drain, with most of the brightest Chinese exchange students remaining in the United States or European countries after getting their degrees there.

Under the agreement with Bar-Ilan, all Chinese scholarship recipients must sign a commitment to