In Mumbai, Investing in Young Leaders

January 13, 2015


India’s 5,000-member Jewish community may be small—a mere 0.0004 percent of the country’s 1.2 billion+ population—but it’s robust and vibrant, as an intrepid group of Australian Jewish philanthropists learned on a recent visit to the country.

Traveling to Mumbai from Sydney and Melbourne, the group, spent time with the elderly residents of the Bayiti old age home; dined with young community activists; visited welfare clients in their homes; and even learned how to dance Bollywood-style with Jewish youth and children from the city’s slums at the JDC-supported Evelyn Peters JCC.

A major highlight of the trip came when the group received the chance to attend an Indian Jewish wedding. To the delegation’s delight and surprise, the bride and groom were very happy to invite them to share in their festivities.

As a wedding gift, the Australians donated funds to JDC’s Jewish Youth Pioneers program, a multi-faceted initiative for young Indian Jews. The contribution made it possible for five young leaders, ranging in age from 18 to 22, to take part in the JYP winter camp, held in late December.

In total, 33 college-age students participated in the 2014 camp, engaging in activities like text study, leadership development, river rafting, and more.

The winter camp is just one of JYP’s offerings, all of which are designed to engage Jews of all ages in enjoyable, educational, and innovative community activities.

Nikita, a camp participant, spoke with enthusiasm as she described the success of the recent Khai Fest, an event JYP organizes each year for Chanukah.

“My involvement in JYP provides me with a sense of belonging,” she said, “and an unparalleled opportunity to use my creative talents for the benefit of the larger Jewish community.”

But the winter camp is an especially meaningful and important experience for the college students who participate, explained Salome Abraham, JDC’s program manager in India.

Even though India is largely free of anti-Semitism and fiercely proud of its multiethnic heritage, the camp represented the first time many of the participants were able to spend a weekend outside the city bonding with Jews their own age.

“It provides a space for them to relax and have fun with their Jewish peers, form personal connections, and make new friends. It gives them a chance to nurture and develop their Jewish identities,” Abraham said. “And most importantly, they gain confidence in their leadership skills, which benefits the entire Jewish community.”

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