As we are all too well aware, there is a public health catastrophe raging on in India.
Just as we did when our Sister Synagogue community in Uganda was in peril, we have the opportunity before us to help the Indian Jewish community.
I recently met Siona Benjamin, a local artist from Montclair, through David Freeman, the drummer for Sha’ar – Ahavas Sholom’s new “house band.”
Siona, who grew up in the Jewish community in India, is asking us to reach out in some small way to help ease the heavy burden her community is forced to bare during these perilous times.
Siona explained to me, “There are three distinct Jewish communities in India – The Bene-Israel, the Cochini Jews, and the Baghdadi Jews (but now mostly all have immigrated to Israel and the US – there are over a 100,000 Indian Jews in Israel today). Mostly one will find Jews in the coastal parts of India – Bombay, Cochin and Calcutta. There are a total of 4500 or so Jews left in India. Due to the pandemic many of my community have been affected and from recent news I found out that about 15 members of my community have died due to the pandemic.”
“I am a Bene Israel Jew from India; my family has gradually dispersed, mostly to Israel and America, but my parents remained in India.”
“I wish to try to help my community in India. I will be able to connect the donations (given to the people directly in need) in the Jewish community in India, so you can see how it has helped people there.”
If you are so moved, please make a donation by sending a check (with “Indian Jewish community” written in the memo line) to Ahavas Sholom, 145 Broadway, Newark, NJ 07104, or click here.
All donations will be directed by Siona to her contacts “on the ground” in India, who are in position to bring some small sense of relief to this battered community.
Turning to being an Indian Jewish artist living in Montclair, Siona said, “I am now also an American, living and working in Montclair, New Jersey. With such a background, the desire to “find home”, spiritually and literally, has always preoccupied me — a concern that I feel many Americans can relate to. The feeling I have of never being able to set deep roots no matter where I am is unnerving, but on the other hand, there is something seductive about the spiritual borderland in which I seem to find myself. In my paintings I combine the imagery of my past with the role I play in America today, making a mosaic inspired by both Indian/Persian miniature paintings, Midrashic study and Transcultural icons.”
Siona’s unique perspective has inspired her to create art that represents her transcultural and multicultural narrative. It has been shown in galleries, museums & sacred spaces around the world. She was awarded two prestigious Fulbright Fellowships to explore the theme of multicultural art in Israel and India.
Some of Siona’s art work was to have been part of Reinventing Eve, last Spring’s exhibit at the Jewish Museum of New Jersey, which was postponed due to Covid-19.
Again, if you are so moved, please make a donation by sending a check (with “Indian Jewish community” written in the memo line) to Ahavas Sholom, 145 Broadway, Newark, NJ 07104, or click here.