Monday, 9 January 2012

Work and Loved Ones

So much has happened at the JCC over the past couple months! Before I highlight a few of the larger events I’ll briefly outline my weekly schedule:
A work day is 8 hours (10:15-6:15). If I teach an evening class I go into the office late and leave late, maintaining the 8 hours. On Mondays and Wednesdays I leave the JCC in the middle of the day to teach the after school Hebrew class at the Jacob Sassoon school. After the class on Wednesdays I take the bus with the kids and am dropped off at a nearby synagogue where I lead a women’s discussion. On Tuesdays I teach an evening Tanach class at the JCC and I will soon be starting a class for the youth titled, “Israel through Music” which will be held on Sunday afternoons. Aside from these classes and programs I write articles for Kesher and Kol India, the Indian Jewish community newsletters.
Kid’s Day Camp
Over Diwali vacation the JCC was filled with little kids cheering, dancing, praying, shouting and of course, learning! Heather and I worked relentlessly with the group who attended the Szarvas camp in the summer to plan a fun and educational 5 day long day camp for around thirty 4-12 year olds.
The four Indian Jews who attended the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation AJJDC International Jewish Summer Camp in Szarvas, Hungary last summer are responsible for putting together two day camps for the 4-12 year olds and one youth camp for the JYP, which we are currently assisting with planning.
The theme of the camp was mitzvot and by the end of the week the JCC’s walls were covered in lists, drawings and posters about honoring one’s parents, forgiveness,   protecting the environment and so much more! By the end of each day our throats were dry and our bodies were weary from the children’s never-ending energy. Whether we were chasing after them on an outdoor mitzvah- scavenger hunt, rounding them up for prayers or making sure everyone got enough chutney at lunch, we always had something keeping us on our feet. While it was exhausting, it was fun and most importantly, rewarding when we saw the smiles on the children’s faces when they received their Mitzvah Kid certificates with pride on the last day.    
Since there were lots of kids and a field I clealy had to teach them one of my favorite pastimes,  the screaming race
Global Day of Jewish Learning
On November 13th, the anniversary of Rabbi Steinhaltz’s completion of his commentary on the Talmud, Jewish communities all over the world unite through studying the same Jewish topic. This year the Shema was chosen as the focus. In Mumbai about 70 people attended the learning sessions at the EPJCC led by a well-respected man from the community, the Chabad rabbi and myself. The Shema holds special significance here according to the oral tradition of the Bene Israel. The story goes that after the exile of the 10 northern tribes of Israel, ships were boarded and one was wrecked by the Konkan coast, not far from Mumbai. Seven couples survived this shipwreck and though separated from their religious texts they held onto what they remembered: Shabbat, Kashrut, circumcision and the first line of the Shema.

During the first session we were offered an in depth reading of the Shema and were provided with some “ah-ha moment” insights. Then the Chabad rabbi spoke about what makes the Jewish people unique as “witnesses to Hashem” and then I led a discussion titled, “The Shema: Intangibility v. Tangibility; Polytheism v. Monotheism.” I enjoyed listening to these two bright and thoughtful men and also valued the opportunity to think critically about a topic that has been popping in and out of my mind since my first week here. Being Jewish in idol filled surroundings shaped by a religion with a monistic backbone has got my mind working and it was great to be able to sit and focus on the benefits of Judaism’s idol-less and monotheistic way of life. My thoughts on Judaism and religion are demanding a lot of thought this year and I am curious to see how this year ultimately affects me.

 Khai Fest

This annual fundraiser talent show organized by the JYP demanded tremendous work and attention at the JCC for two months straight and after watching dozens of community members from across the age spectrum perform fantastic dances and songs as well as a poetry reading and play it felt good to see that all the hard work paid off and that the group raised money for its education fund. I directed and acted in a play about giant Chanukah symbols interrupting a children’s game of dreidle to teach them the meaning of the festival. With the six other actors we adapted this play from its original form into a romantic comedy with some Hindi music.  (video coming shortly)


On another note, my friend Sandy came to visit me!!!!! It was great showing my daily life to someone else and to spend some time travelling and treating myself to luxury (we stayed at quite the hotel). We took a trip to Nashik, a nearby hill station with great importance to Hinduism. We visited the Sula winery, numerous temples (one of which we had to slither underground to see) and others lining the Godavari river, one of the seven most sacred rivers in India. We also toured the 24 ancient pandavleni (leni=caves). These caves, some of which reach back to the year 1 BC, served as monasteries or shrines for Buddhist monks. As I stood in the darkness of the caves and then turned to see the amazing view of the valley below, I could understand how such a place can act as a gateway to spirituality. But then I looked at Sandy and felt that with best friends I had all that I needed! My week with Sandy was so so so much fun and ended on a bittersweet note because immediately after her visit  I was off on another trip to see more loved ones… my family!  

There goes Sandy!

At the end of December I went to London to meet my family who flew over from New Jersey to meet me! It was amazing to be with them and some of my British friends I rarely get the chance to see. We saw tons of great sights- from the Prime Meridian and the Globe Theatre to the British Museum and Parliament. I didn’t eat Indian food once, I followed proper pedestrian etiquette while crossing the street, I drank from the tap, I showered with my mouth open, I didn’t carry toilet paper in my bag, I didn’t hesitate to eat peel-less produce, I wasn’t stared at and most importantly I got to be with my family! It felt great to sleep next to my siblings and get lots of hugs and kisses from my parents. Basically, it was amazing and though it was so hard to get myself on that plane back to Mumbai I did and am slowly getting back into the groove of India.

So fun to be together!! (except it would have been even better if Jonah had been able to come!)

In both W and E hemispheres!