Meeting Mumbai’s Jewry

AUJS LDP participants with members of the Mumbai Jewish community.

VISITING Mumbai earlier this month, AUJS leaders met and engaged with the local Jewish community.

The group was in India’s capital as part of the AUJS Leadership Development Program (LDP), a five-week trip that has also seen the group visit the United States and Israel.

A highlight of their time in Mumbai was a day at the Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Centre (EPJCC), which included helping at the Gan Katan class for 5 to 12-year-old Indian Jewish students.

AUJS leaders assisted during a Hebrew lesson and also taught the students about the Jewish communities in Australia and New Zealand.

Commenting on the experience, AUJS NSW president Elias Visontay told The AJN, “To see how similar their practices were and how relatable it was to our own childhoods was very special.”

The Gan Katan class is coordinated by the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), an international Jewish organisation that provides humanitarian assistance to millions around the world.

JDC’s work includes revitalising Jewish life in small Jewish communities, such as India – where Hinduism is the majority religion – which is ­lacking in welfare resources and opportunities for cultural expression.

Describing the visit to the community centre as “a really insightful and rewarding day”, AUJS LDP madrichah Nikki Jankelowitz said, “The JDC is doing such unbelievable work in strengthening and enriching the Jewish community in India. I feel confident that the wellbeing of the community is in amazing hands,” she said.

AUJS LDP participants also met with several of Mumbai’s Jewish leaders, including JDC’s Indian executive director Elijah Jacob, JDC program coordinator for youth and young adults Maayan Shapurkar, and EPJCC senior manager Ariela Wallace.

“I couldn’t get over how warm, kind, and passionate the community is! It was a real treat to meet and get to know them,” Jankelowitz enthused,

While in India, the AUJS LDP group also visited Kochin, which is the location of the Paradesi Synagogue, a shul constructed in the 16th century that is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations.

Reflecting on the trip, AUJS national chairperson Micky Fisher told The AJN, “We learned how the community has deeply integrated itself into Indian society. The community in many ways has absorbed and adopted Indian culture and adapted its Jewish traditions accordingly.

“We saw this in Kochin where there was a fantastic mix of colourful, vibrant Indian culture, and Sephardi Jewish tradition.”

ELENORE LEVI