Namaste and Shalom! Wishing all of our Jewish friends a very Happy and Blessed Hanukkah! It’s definitely a trying time for celebrations but we must find our joys, courage and resilience. The Hindu American Foundation has been actively involved in providing support and solidarity to our Jewish friends across the US since the October 7th brutal terrorist attacks on Israel. I had the honor of representing HAF at three events across Northern California since October 7th. HAF’s participation in these events are a part of our ongoing work in supporting and collaborating with our Jewish communities in fighting anti-semitism and Hinduphobia.
On October 10th, along with several other Hindu Americans in Greater Sacramento, HAF participated in the solidarity event organized by a local Chabad synagogue in Rocklin county. It was an unusually rainy October day as though even the heavens poured out their tears. The event was attended by local Assemblymembers Joe Patterson and Josh Hoover, who strongly condemned the Hamas attacks. The rabbi gave a huge shout-out to the Hindu American attendees and acknowledged our support and friendship. As the rabbi closed the event with calls for courage and faith, my resolve to do more for the Jewish communities became stronger. It was all of surreal, tragic and unbelievable that the biggest attack on Israel post Holocaust happened in my day and age, something I would have never imagined as a school child learning about the Holocaust. History truly repeats itself and never learns!
On Dec 6th, HAF Advisory Board member Rutvij Holay and I, represented HAF in a panel discussion at the Hindu-Jewish Solidarity event at Stanford University. The five panelists including Stanford students discussed the commonalities between Hinduism and Judaism, how we can support each other in tragedies, and the work we do via our orgs and communities. The riveting, fact-based discussions led to a lot of laughs, tears, anger, happiness and hope amongst the Hindu and Jewish attendees. I felt such deep warmth and connection to everyone there, like I’ve known them for ages. Our commonalities between our culture, faith, divinity and tragedies are so strong that we are bonded even as strangers. My heart wept hearing the stories, more so knowing that every single crime that Israel has to fight has already been fought by my Hindu ancestors. District CA-16 US Congressional candidate Rishi Kumar honored us as the chief guest and shared his views on our struggles facing Hinduphobia and the history of terror attacks back in India.
The startling antisemitic sentiments, apathy in American Ivy Leagues and many colleges in the US, as seen in the recent Congressional hearings was also discussed. Panelists shared about posters of the hostages being stolen from the Israeli tent and how rape victims’ stories were laughed at in previous discussions. Stanford University did nothing! It’s silence from day one of the Oct 7th attack is deafening and shameful.
HAF is extremely grateful to its Jewish allies for the phenomenal support we have received in fighting Hinduphobia. We strongly condemn the Hamas attacks and any form of antisemitism and call out all academic institutions who are either supporting anti-semitism or are being silent. This has to stop!
I came out of the solidarity event feeling rage both as a Hindu, a woman and also as an advocacy professional. As a woman especially, I felt the pain even more given how much Hindu women have had to suffer in the form of rape, forced conversions and indoctrination into harems, during the onslaught of invasions sponsored by the Sultanate and Caliphate from 900-1707. While talking to many Jewish moms and women, I felt an undeniable deep agony. We are and continue to be the “booty” after all, for our oppressors! My Hindu women ancestors have undergone terrible atrocities which led to practices like jauhar in the western princely kingdoms of the Rajputs. Jauhar is the practice of mass self-immolation where women mostly, queens and other royal women would choose to sacrifice themselves in the fire, rather than be in the oppressors’ haram when their kingdoms were defeated.
I cried recently when watching the video of a Jew father who was thankful for hearing about his eight year old daughter’s death in the Hamas attacks rather than being their sex slave.
In the future, I would really want to have an event for women, by women, focussing on what it is to experience war crimes and terrorist attacks as Hindu/Jewish women and how we can support each other. We need a safe space to vent and heal for sure.
The panel discussions also gave me a lot of hope. After all, the Hindu and Jewish communities have shown exemplar resilience, courage and focus on progress inspite of their tumultuous, genocide ridden histories. We have fought with fake media narratives, whitewashed histories, bullying, shaming, false accusations and lack of international support from day one. What struck me the most was the presence of many Hindu and Jew students and youth at the panel discussion.
Finally on December 12th, my colleague Ramya Ramakrishnan, HAF National Outreach Director, and I attended the Diplomats’ Hanukkah event organized by AJC at the iconic Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco.
Diplomats from 22 countries attended the beautiful, solemn and deeply moving event. Photos of the hostages were stuck behind each chair. The mood in the room was definitely heart-wrenching to begin with. We met many colleagues from StandWith Us with whom HAF has done fantastic work before in fighting anti-semitism and Hinduphobia as seen in this YouTube series: HAF + StandWithUs: Shining a Light on Antisemitism and Hinduphobia
Matan Zamir, Deputy Consul of Israel for the Northwest Pacific region spoke about growing antisemitism in the US and how it’s all become a play of narratives. He pointed to the most pressing challenge that Jews face now due to the false media narratives — that of Israel having no connection to Judaism. The effort to disengage the Jews from their motherland is the hardest to fight.
The highlight of the event was the recognition of young Jewish leaders who went out of their way to support their Jewish communities post October 7th. One of them was a high schooler who vowed to fight anti-semitism in his college campus in the future.
Finally diplomats were called on stage to introduce themselves and say “Hope” in their mother tongue and light the menorah candles one by one. At the center was a beautiful menorah with each leg designed as a statue of liberty. Prayers and the Israeli national anthem were sung in remembrance of those lost and also for the safe return of 135 hostages. As I stood there listening to the national anthem, I couldn’t help but tear up. Why do both Hindus and Jews who don’t believe in forcible conversions, have to be constantly fighting for protecting their faith and it’s land of origin? Will this ever stop? These and many more questions plagued me as I walked out of this deeply moving, inspiring and solemn celebration of everything Israel and Jewish communities.
Nevertheless, the resolve to protect our faiths from hatred only grew stronger within me. No matter what, the Hindu Americans and Jewish Americans are here to make a mark, be thriving, happy, engaged and proud communities steeped in our faith, culture and love for our land of origin and faith.
Lastly and most importantly, our Co-Founder and Executive Director Suhag Shukla was honored to join Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, US Senator Bob Casey, Pennsylvania State Rep. Martina White, the Philadelphia Jewish community, and friends of all backgrounds at the #RallyAgainstAntiSemitism on Sunday, December 10th at the beautiful, historic Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia. Here is her speech and HAF’s press release from the event.
HAF stands strongly in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters in their fight against terrorism. We know very well that the silence of our friends hurts more than the words of our enemies and we shall never commit that blunder. We shall continue to collaborate with organizations like StandWithUs, American Jewish Committee (AJC), Anti-Defamation League etc… to combat anti-semitism and Hinduphobia in corporations, academia and legislature.
Am Israel Chai! Happy Hanukkah once again!