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JKP Barsana Dham attends the first Hindu-Jewish Solidarity Day

Posted Jan 17 2011 6:32am

Today's Cover Story of the Indo-American News reports on the Recent
Hindu-Jewish Solidarity Day, which was held in Houston.
For full article and pictures, please visit the following link:

When leaders of the Hindu and Jewish communities came together this
past weekend at the India House, it turned out to be more than just an
afternoon of revelry in celebration of two world cultures. Rather,
through the educational nature of the event with both communities
taking the emotional journey back in time to revisit history. It was
revealed to the astonishment of many in the audience,  that both
cultures are old friends who shared at close bond from over two
thousand years ago when the first group of Jews migrated to India and
made that country their home.

Hosted jointly by the Hindus of Greater Houston (HGH) and Bridge
Houston (BH) the 1st Annual Hindu-Jewish Solidarity Day held on
January 9 2011, with a limited guest list of only 100 vetted invitees
brought together prolific leaders, rabbis, monks and activists from
several influential synagogues, temples and organizations in this
city. The blustery weather failed to deter gatherees in ochre robes,
kippahs, sarees and in deference to Texas, cowboy boots, who met at
the reception preceding the event and mingled convivially over
samosas, delectable Jewish desserts and hot tea.

“When two communities get together in friendship, it is a good thing.
I hope it sustains itself and hat we can continue to build on what we
have in common," said Lee Wunsch, President and CEO of the Jewish
Federation of Greater Houston.

The program began with invocations in Sanskrit and Hebrew by Swami
Nikhilanand of Barsana Dham in Austin, and Rabbi Steven Morgen of the
Congregation Beth Yeshurun: both prayers expressed similar sentiments
of cultivating friendships and of kindness to others. Ira Bleiweiss,
founder of B.H. lauded HGH’s Ravi Raghavan for being "the driving
force” in facilitating the occasion.

“l’m so glad Ravi motivated me to do this. We have no interfaith
connection with the Hindu community yet we have common histories and
challenges that we face because of our faith. We’re also non-
proselytizing,” said Bleiweiss. “For over 2000 years Jewish people
have lived in lndia and have never been persecuted by the Hindus. This
forum will give us a better understanding of Hinduism and hopefully
will be the start of something bigger and better and set an example
for the rest of the nation. He added that BH and HGH are planning a
joint public event later in the year in celebration of Hannukah, the
Jewish Festival of Lights, and Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.

Jewish guests were privy to a brief program of Indian classical dances
by artistes from the Nrityasri School of Dance. Thereafter, the Hindus
were invited by their Jewish counterparts to join in sprightly
interactive impromptu Jewish dances; all participated with gusto.

For more than 3000 years, Judaism has prevailed because of its strict
adherence to laws or commandments that connect believers to god, said
Rabbi Robert Haas.

Associate Clergy at the Congregation Emanu El. Articulate and with
tinges of humor, the Rabbi opened a wider window into Judaism and its
basic principles and correlated several to Hinduism.
“We must be good human beings just because...and without expectation,”
said Rabbi Haas. He told of the miracle of Hannukah, which is observed
for eight days and nights and commemorates the rededication of the
Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt, 2nd
century BCE.
“Like Diwali, Hannukah is celebrated with lights, the eternal light
that signifies that god exists at all times,” added Rabbi Haas.

Speaking on Hinduism, Swami Nikhilanand told gatherees that the
religion is “amazingly vast yet monotheistic”.
"God is absolute, He is one Supreme Being, formless, yet can have a
form. He is omnipresent,” said the swami. He elaborated on the
significance of Diwali, which is the triumph of light over darkness
and knowledge over ignorance.

In a well-researched presentation, Ravi Raghavan told of the migration
of the Cochin Jews to India 2500 years ago where they found safe haven
and assimilated into the local communities seamlessly. Quoting from
Professor Nathan Katz’s book The Jewish Diaspora in Hindu India,
Raghavan described a quiet community that built synagogues and lived
and worked and worshipped peacefully amidst the majority Hindu
populace. Later other groups of Jews settled in various other parts of

“Hindus and Jews are natural allies, given our 2500 year old history
of harmonious co-existence in Hindu-majority India. We share prolific
proclivities, strategic concerns and common challenges in the current
global scenario. Today, the feedback from both the Hindu and Jewish
communities has been very positive. Hindus of Greater Houston and
Bridge Houston will continue to work together to improve the synergy
and goodwill between our communities,” said Raghavan, who worked with
the HGH team Girish Naik, Dharminder Dargan, and Wjay Pallod to put
together the event.

Girish Naik was optimistic about the future successes of similar
programs. “We have never had a gathering like this before to form a
bridge between our cultures. We have so much in common," said Naik.
"This was a phenomenal afternoon,” enthused journalist Micheal Duke
with the Jewish Herald Voice, an authoritative publication that was
started by Duke‘s grandmother 103 years ago in this city.

"We have so much to celebrate together, particularly 2000 years of
solidarity. Our children must be taught to keep this relationship
alive for another 2000 years," added Duke.

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