The 2017 National Young Leadership Cabinet Study Mission to India was the largest in Cabinet’s 50 year history. It was a jam-packed adventure, with stops in Mumbai, Jaipur, New Delhi and Agra. Federation dollars, through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), are helping those whose culture and world are so different from our own. Not only does their support provide social and educational services for this small community of 5,000 Jews but also for those living in poverty regardless of their religious or ethnic background. Each year, Cabinet members visit a different global city (or cities) to see the impact of their philanthropy.
Reflections on the experience by Jack Maizel, 6th year Cabinet Member.
We traveled by bus, boat, and tuc tuc to get to Alibag and Mandwa beach. History tells of a boat of Benei Israel Jews that shipwrecked in that site 2000 years ago. We visited the oldest Jewish Cemetery in India where those who perished during the shipwreck were laid to rest. Together, we recited Kaddish for them. Seven individuals survived this rough landing in India. Their books, scriptures and other religious material were lost to the sea. They relied on what they knew to maintain and preserve their Jewish identity and practice. Remarkably, for about 1600 years, the Bnei Israel Jews relied on four pillars which defined and encapsulated their Jewish Identity-- 1) the Shema (it's all they knew) 2) Circumcision 3) Kashrut and 4) Shabbat.
It is truly amazing that without knowing the how or why, these four tenets preserved their Jewish identity. They knew of the concepts, but not the intricacies. The six words of the Shema, the act of circumcision, the precept of Shabbat and a very basic understanding of Kashrut were all they had.
But was it all they had? It is apparent that NO! This was not all they had for, they also had faith. Such was their faith that for over 15 centuries they survived and thrived as strangers in a strange land. Yet, so strong was the glue that bound them to their faith that they became justice-pursuing, freedom-advocating, contributing members to their new homeland. They accomplished so much, with so little. Truly remarkable. Truly inspiring.
Today we enjoy the benefit of the depth and breadth of our tradition and heritage. If they did so much with so little, can we make a lot with a lot? It all depends on our faith and conviction. On whether we decide we want to opt-in or opt-out. Today we learned that faith may truly be all we need. A faith that leads us to action and participation. The rest are just details that give taste and color to our rich history and tradition. The Bnei Israel Jews teach us that identity is an absolute-- what we do with it and where we allow it to take us is up to us.
Need I say it, #thisiscabinet
National Young Leadership Cabinet is the premier leadership and philanthropic program of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). The program is designed for dedicated men and women, ages 30 to 45, from across the U.S. and Canada who are deeply committed to building a strong, vibrant future for the Jewish people. Intersted in learning more? Visit www.NextGenSanDiego.org/Cabinet or email CarlyE@jewishfederationsandiego.org