An Interfaith Festival of Lights celebration in Michigan
December 9th, 2021, marked a very special day for the Hindu and Jewish communities of Southeast Michigan. In the midst of a global pandemic, and fears of new variants limiting interactions during the holidays, these two communities met to celebrate together their shared reverence for the sacred light at the Sri Sri Radha Gopijana Vallabha, an ISKON temple in Farmington Hills.
Swami Yugal Kishore Das, Chairman of the Iskcon Temple, invited the masked and vaccinated audience of more than thirty members of Hindu and Jewish faiths, including the special guests, Michigan State Representatives Padma Kuppa (MI-41) and Samanta Steckloff (MI-37). Several more joined the event remotely through zoom.
The event, titled An Interfaith Festival of Light, was sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC/AJC) and the newly formed grassroots advocacy organization, the Hindu Community Relations Council (HCRC), along with the ISKON Temple. Executive board members of the JCRC and the HCRC, Ariana Mentzel and Harita Vadari did the honors by lighting the menorah and the deepas together. The festival of Diwali or Deepavali fell on November 4th and Hannukah was observed from the 28th of November to the 6th of December this year.
WJBK-TV’s Roop Raj moderated the evening’s fireside chat featuring Michigan State Representatives Padma Kuppa (MI-41) and Samanta Steckloff (MI-37). They shared their perspectives on how their religion and experiences have shaped their identity as Hindu and Jewish legislators at a time when religious freedom is being limited and attacks on religion are in the news daily. Rep. Kuppa is the first and only Hindu in the House, and Rep. Steckloff is the only Jewish Democrat in the House.
Following a lively discussion and Q and A which explored the importance of representation in politics, the public life and the media by minority religious groups, those gathered in person enjoyed a delicious meal of traditional foods including samosas, dhokla, latkes and sweets. The event was streamed on YouTube and the video transcript may be viewed at HCRC website https://mihindu.org/hd
Many thanks are extended to those who came in person to meet and mingle together to forge bonds of shared community and friendship and to those who attended via zoom, to Michael Kuper, Rabbi Lopatin, Suril Patel, Nasy Sankagiri for all their hard work putting this even together and our host, Swami Yugal Kishore Das of the ISKCON Farmington Hills - Sri Sri Radha Gopijana Vallabha Temple.