Expert Who Advanced Hebrew Education in China for Decades Dies at 53

A picture of Yang Yang, a renowned Hebrew language expert
A picture of Yang Yang, a renowned Hebrew language expert (photo: School of Asian and African Studies at Shanghai International Studies University)
By Peggy ShiJuly 9th, 2024

On July 2, Professor Yang Yang, a renowned Hebrew language expert, Middle East issue researcher, and vice president of the School of Asian and African Studies at Shanghai International Studies University, passed away due to a sudden illness at the age of 53.

Yang Yang, born in 1971, held a PhD and served as director of the Israel Research Center, director of the Semitic Studies Center, deputy editor-in-chief of the Journal of New Silk Roadology, director of the China Jewish Culture Research Alliance at Nanjing University, a member of the Association for Israel Studies, and a member of the European Association of Israel Studies. He had been a visiting scholar at the School of Political Science at Tel Aviv University in Israel, McMaster University in Canada, the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University in the United States, the Institute for Israel Studies at the University of Maryland, and Middlebury College in the United States. His main research areas included international relations in the Middle East, Jewish studies, and Israel studies. He participated in research projects of the Ministry of Education, including Research on Israel-US Relations, Research on Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime in the Middle East, and the Middle East Development Report.

Yang Yang authored two monographs, Research on Israel-American Jewish Relations and A Study on Think Tanks in Non-Arab Middle Eastern Countries in the Middle East. He translated three books into Chinese, Jewish Refugees in Shanghai, The Age of Miracles, and The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History. He also compiled a reference book, the Hebrew English Chinese Illustrated Dictionary, by Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press. In addition, he published dozens of papers and consulting reports.

Professor Yang translated and published several classic works by Israeli authors. In 2009, he translated The Age of Miracles by Israeli novelist and Holocaust survivor Aharon Appelfeld, presenting the history of World War II to Chinese readers. It exposed a child's fear, prompting deep reflections on death, humanity, and suffering.

In 2016, Yang Yang co-translated Jewish Refugees in Shanghai with Pu Zukang, forming a companion piece to the 2015 Chinese edition of the Jewish Refugees and Shanghai series. The book comprises 25 short stories that narrate the history of Jewish refugees in Shanghai during World War II in Hebrew, embodying the themes of peace, friendliness, and tolerance.

In April 2021, as a member of the expert group for the Sino-Israeli government cooperation program on translating classic works, Professor Yang led a professional team to complete the translation of The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History, 70-1492, which explores Jewish history from the destruction of the Second Temple and the beginning of the global diaspora to the expulsion from Spain over 1,400 years later. It established a persuasive hypothesis about the relationship between the spread of Jewish education and career choices.

In addition, in 2019, Yang Yang participated in translating the short story collection A Book That Was Lost by Israeli Nobel Prize-winning writer S.Y. Agnon. In August of the same year, while visiting Middlebury College, he was interviewed by a columnist from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, where he introduced the development of Hebrew education in China, Sino-Israeli cultural exchanges, and the translation of Israeli literary works in China.

On July 3, the official Twitter account of the Consulate General of Israel in Shanghai posted, "Professor Yang Yang not only enjoyed high academic prestige but also served as a bridge and link for Sino-Israeli cultural exchanges. We extend our deepest condolences to Professor Yang Yang's family and hope that his academic spirit and pursuit of peace will forever inspire us."

- Translated by Abigail Wu

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