Chinese-Jewish Conversation Hosts Mid-Autumn Festival at YU

Katz students joined by Elisha Cohen ’24 YUHS

On Wednesday, September 7, a celebration marking the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival was held on YU’s Beren Campus, with 70 students, faculty, and their guests enjoying Chinese culture through food, music and games. An important and ancient holiday, the festival is a thanksgiving for the harvest celebrated on the full moon of the eighth Chinese lunar month, usually coinciding with the Jewish harvest festival, Sukkot (this year a month later because of the Jewish leap year).

The event was organized by the Chinese-Jewish Conversation (CJC) and co-sponsored by the Katz School of Science and Health, which has a vibrant Chinese student population. CJC aims to build a cultural bridge between the Chinese and Jewish communities, which share core values, such as education and veneration of elders. Earlier CJC events comparatively addressed topics such as archaeology, philosophy and environmental protection.

(l-r): Stern students Naomi Fried and Ariel Melnitsky with Katz student Panxinyue Zhang

Last year, Dr. Mordechai Cohen, associate dean of The Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies and founding director of CJC, hosted Shabbat and Hanukkah programs for YU’s Chinese students who, in turn, taught his children Chinese songs.  This year, three Cohen children attended the Mid-Autumn celebration, and his son Elisha ’24YUHS enthusiastically joined the singing. Henry (Yuxiao) Shen  ’23K remarked: “We enjoyed sharing the Mid-Autumn Festival and learning its customs through playing ‘Kahoot!’ The cutest moment was when Dr. Cohen’s adorable son sang the Chinese song ‘Airen Couguo’ with us.”

Ariel Melnitsky ’24S, noted that this unique and inspiring experience “gave me the chance to meet some of YU’s Chinese students and learn about their traditions.”

Dr. Paul Russo, vice provost and dean of the Katz School, was pleased by the opportunity for friends, family, students and alumni “to come together with new and old friends from across the University and with colleagues from Chinese organizations at other New York schools to create lasting friendships. 中秋节快乐!”

Paul Russo, vice provost and dean of the Katz School, and Rona Steinerman, program director at Revel Graduate School, speaking with students

The celebration brought a special couple to YU for the first time: Chaya (Feilu) Fang and her husband, Joseph Ephraim (Roger) Wu. Both  converted to Judaism and are avid students of Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald  ’73R. Chaya now works with Dean Cohen on the CJC Chinese-language blog, which presents various aspects of Jewish culture, such as festivals, history, beliefs and customs. “This Mid-Autumn celebration was a treat for those of us homesick for China,” she remarked. “It was great fun to see Rabbi Cohen and his son sing the traditional Chinese song ‘The Moon Represents My Heart’!”

Dr. Yuxiang Liu, director of institutional research & assessment, enjoying the celebration

Dr. Yuxiang Liu, director of YU’s  Institutional Research & Assessment, gave an inspiring keynote address. “I’ve worked at several universities, and YU stands out in terms of student satisfaction with faculty, and faculty concern for students,” he noted. This isn’t surprising, given the Jewish tradition of teachers investing themselves in the academic and personal growth of their students—an attitude that reverberates in Chinese tradition.”

Attesting to the event’s success, Ariel Melnitsky ’24S remarked, “From this celebration I came to understand the importance of the Chinese-Jewish Conversation and would love to attend more CJC events in the future!”