Monday, May 26, 2014

Mumbai Diaries: 9 weeks with GPM volunteer Adina Lichtman

Adina Lichtman, a proud member of the 8th Cohort of JDC Entwine-GPM service program in India, chronicled her experiences in a series of evocative letters to her friends and family.  Adina, a student of Social Work and Art at NYU and is Hillel Community Service chair on campus, captured some powerful and touching moments during her time on the program, caring for vulnerable children living in the slums, connecting with the Jewish community with the JDC and experiencing the wonders of India. GPM will be publishing excerpts from her diaries in a series of blog posts and photo essays.

Mumbai diaries Week 1: My first encounters with Jewish India
Namaste :) It’s been almost a week that I am here so far, and it is absolutely incredible!  I can’t stop smiling all the time here in this country!

India is the biggest culture shock I have ever experienced and I think most people who travel could say the same. Everything from the smells, to the number of people, to the transportation system and beyond, everything is completely different. The train we went on today was packed to the max and people hang outside the doors while it’s in motion the whole way!

This week we went to the synagogue here for Friday night services. We went to the Shaar Hashamayim Shul. It was the most beautiful prayer service I have ever been to. After one of the men read from the  Torah, every single man in the shul came over to shake his hand and kiss it. This experience was so eye-opening; no one in the community gets overlooked and every person is so included in every aspect of the community. After every prayer service, everyone goes around shaking each other’s hands and then kissing their hands. Every single person who steps into the Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue gets a warm Shabbat greeting from every single person in shul. To me - this is the epitome of what it means to be a Jew. And what it means when we say all Jews are family.
Everyone in shul this weekend kept coming over to us and introducing themselves and inviting us to their houses. I felt so strongly that I was a part of this community after just one weekend of being there. I walk around smiling here all the time because I feel so connected to these people I only just met. They all invited us on Shabbat to a wedding this Sunday.

I just got back from this wedding, it was beautiful! Their traditions are so beautiful. Under the Chuppah, both the groom and bride have to finish the whole cup of wine because at the bottom of the glass of wine is where the rings are! They also then use that same cup to break after the chuppah. After the chuppah, the bride and groom walk to the aron kodesh and kiss the torah. And then everyone leaves from the shul to go to the reception. Tonight’s wedding had around 800 people! The whole Jewish community of Thane and Mumbai come to the wedding. It was so beautiful and all the ladies wear gorgeous Saris with all different colors and glittery sparkles!

Tomorrow is going to be my first day working in the Slums as a teacher. I am really excited to meet my students!

(Read Week 2 of Adina's blog 'My first time in the slums' HERE)

Adina ready for the wedding

Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue Thane

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