Trauma and Transcendence: The Shadow of the Holocaust on an Israeli Sinologist


Song Lihong (Department of Religious Studies and the Glazer Institute of Jewish and Israel Studies, Nanjing University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2020-21)

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Abstract: The late Irene Eber (1929-2019), professor of East Asian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a long-time affiliate of the Fairbank Center of Harvard, is arguably the scholar on the intercultural and transnational encounters between Jews and modern China. She is also a Holocaust survivor who wrote an inimitable memoir, The Choice: Poland, 1939-1945. It offered an unparalleled chance to unravel how China is construed by a Jewish Sinologist haunted by an all-pervasive mood of subdued obsession and inner wrestling with her memories of the Holocaust. This essay, sitting on the intersection of China studies, Jewish studies, and Holocaust studies, examines the nexus between her Jewish identity and her academic vocation, and discusses how this tormented scholar made a variety of personal and academic choices and managed to repair the self in this world of imponderables.

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