THE leading lights of Hinduism and Judaism came together at a seminar on the points of commonality between both the religions. Their efforts were more than rewarded when speaker after speaker spoke with clarity and precision on the subject that enabled the organisers, Vishwa Adhyayan Kendra (VAK), to conclude that such seminars and interactive sessions of both the communities will be organised more often and at various places.
The seminar ‘Similarities between Jewish and Hindu religions and need for their coming together for International peace and harmony” was held on September 23, at Shaar Hashamaim Gate of Heaven Synagogue in Thane.
In his opening speech, Shri Sanjay Kelapure, general secretary of the VAK, stated that in the USA and UK, Hindu-Jewish forums are doing very meaningful work to bring both the communities together. He informed that at present, around 4000 people of the Jewish community are living in Bharat and around 75000 Jews of the Bharatiya origin are residing in Israel, most of whom are Marathi speaking. He said the benefits of the growing Indo-Israeli trade links should be made to reach the local Jews also. He informed that many of the properties of the Jewish people, have been encroached upon and he exhorted the members of the forum to take initiatives to get them free from the illegal occupation. In this regard, he said, a legal cell under the leadership of Advocate Rajesh Mudolkar will be formed, which will facilitate retrieval of the properties from the squatters.
Next to address approx 200 strong gathering was Dr Asavari Bapat, Professor at Mumbai University and an authority on the subject. She spoke about the Jewish history in the middle-east and the glaring similarities between some of the traditions followed in Hinduism and Judaism. She said both the religions are not believers of proselytisation and do not convert followers of other religions into their own. She lamented that both the religions have been persecuted for centuries but because of the inherent strength, they have managed to preserve their identities. She analysed that the ethos of both the religions are based upon Gyan Yoga (knowledges) and therefore the people belonging to them are progressive and have been adorning some of the top positions in the world. She said, the Bharatiya Jews have imbibed the Kirtan Parampara (singing of the devotional songs in the praise of the Lord) of the Hindus and the dates of the Hindu festival of Ganpati coincide always with those of the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur. She added that the contribution of Jews in the development of the city of Mumbai has been noteworthy and creation of Sassoon Dock and Haffekins Institure can be counted among the philanthropic works done by the community.
Dr Sudhir Ranade,Vishwa Hindu Parishad secretary for Thane district, said the great spiritual leaders like Swami Vivekananda and Maharshi Aurbindo had declared the 21st century as the century of dharma (righteousness). He emphasised that since both the religions have their values based on the righteousness, the adherents of them are going to dominate the world stage in the days to come. Besides, he asserted, the Hindu principle of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam (the whole world is but one family) is respected by the Jews world over and one can find the followers of both the religions co-existing peacefully with the followers of other religions in various countries.
Shri Ezriel aka Viju Penkar, a well known figure of the Jewish society in Bharat, proudly stated that for centuries, Jews have been living in Bharat peacefully and he expressed his gratefulness towards the Hindus for giving great respect and honour to the successive generations of the Jews. He said he won the body building championship in Bharat in the year 1972 and gave the credit to his Hindu friends and supporters for the accomplishment of the said feat. He reiterated his willingness to do whatever he could for further strengthening of the ties between the two communities.
The 133 years old Shaar Hashamaim Gate of Heaven Synagogue has a versatile personality in Shri Ezra Moses as its honourary secretary and managing trustee. Shri Ezra Moses covered a host of subjects while addressing the audience, which comprised of very well informed people from both the communities. He was effervescent while describing the long history of the Jews in Bharat and said that during the more than 2000 years of their stay in this country they have never faced any kind of discrimination and never experienced any anti-Semitic sentiments prevailing in this land.
The programme concluded with the speech of Shri Abraham Markar, an eminent businessman of the Jewish community. He assured his support for the noble cause of consolidating the energies of both the religions and maintained that the Marathi speaking Jews are proud of their heritage and treat Israel as their fatherland and Bharat as their motherland.