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Exploring the power of ‘Hineinei’ within Hindu-Jewish relations

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By Dr. Richard Benkin

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credits: Shahjar.com

When I was asked to speak at Hindu Jewish Dialogue: Ancient Cultures, Common Concerns, I knew exactly what I wanted to say.  

I have worked closely with Hindu communities throughout the United States and South Asia for years.  Hindus always have treated me as one of their own, and I always consider myself a part of that community.  The event was held on Sunday, August 23 at the Manav Seva Mandir in suburban Chicago; and all 300 Hindu and Jewish Americans who were there expected that it will be the first of many such events.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Subramanian Swamy, who played a crucial role in opening formal Israel-India relations in the early 1990s—and who is one of the most incisive minds I know.

His description of how that happened provided a clear refutation to those who suggest that the India-Israel relationship is based solely on military sales and security cooperation.  In fact, he contended, the period when India and Israel had no relationship was the anomaly; that the people of India have a deep admiration for Israel and the Jews; and that the twin demons of Soviet influence and a strong Indian left forced that situation on the people of India.  Perhaps that is why it is no coincidence that Israel opened its embassy in India shortly after the USSR fell.

The program moderator was Peggy Shapiro, Midwest Director of StandWithUs, a non-profit organization dedicated to informing the public about Israel and to combating extremism and anti-Semitism. Other speakers included Dr. Bharat Barai, a widely honored oncologist and President of the Indian American Community Foundation; Robert Schwartz, Senior Policy Advisor at the Consulate General of Israel; and Prasad Yalamanchi, Chairman of the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation, which along with StandWithUs sponsored the event.  

All of the speakers spoke about their personal and professional experiences that brought them to this event.  And then there was me—a Jew known for devoting his life to the cause of Hindus in Bangladesh.  I explained how being Jewish was the essential element that led me to fight for Hindus.

In 2007, I returned home from a human rights trip to Bangladesh to meet a man whose life I saved.  He was a journalist who wrote articles positive about Israel (in fact, urging the Bangladeshi government to recognize the Jewish state) and negative about radical Islam (its growing strength in Bangladesh and how it spreads its poison through the madrassas, or Muslim schools.  For that, the Bangladeshi government threw him in prison, tortured him, threatened him with death, and charged him with blasphemy.  The government was determined to silence him, eradicate his ideas, and appease their Islamist masters.  Because I made it do something else—specifically, release him and let him continue publishing as he wished—there was a fax waiting for me when I returned home.

It was from a man named Bikash who said he was a Hindu living near Kolkata.  “My parents brought me to India from Bangladesh when I was eleven years old,” he wrote.  “My people are dying.  Please save us.”  Simply as a human being, how do you turn your back on that?  Moreover, when I was in Bangladesh I heard rumblings about minority persecution.  I even met with several; although they couldn’t speak freely unless we found some out of the way place where we would be safe from government agents, Islamists, and people looking to pick up money as paid informants.

Although it was Bikash’s fax that led me to delve deeply into the matter deeply, none of it would have happened without my Jewish values.24_12_44_19_hindu-jewish-israel_249_350

First there is history.  The world now knows what the Nazis did to my people during World War II, but condemning Hitler does not require much insight; and it’s easier to recognize new Hitlers today, such as the genocide-threatening mullahs in Iran and the genocidal actors known as ISIS.  All of the Nazis together would not have been able to implement their Holocaust, however, were it not for the passive complicity of “good” Europeans and others.  All of my training and upbringing told me that those who sat by while their neighbors were dragged away to death camps and killing fields were equally responsible as those who did the actual killing.  

Over 99 percent of Danish Jews, for instance, survived the Holocaust because their non-Jewish neighbors actively opposed their deportation.  Opposition by non-Jews in the Belgian cities of Brussels and Liege allowed many Jews to find hiding and escape the Nazi deportations.  Our Talmud says, “Who can protest an injustice but does not is an accomplice to the act.”  I learned even as a child that I could never sit by and let others be persecuted.

Additionally, we have a word in Hebrew that is a moral guide; a template that sets our feet on the right course.  The word is Hineinei, which literally means “here I am.”  Its real meaning, however, is “here I am for you.”  It’s our answer to a call that appears at critical moments throughout our Torah.  

It’s the answer that Abraham, the father of Judaism, gave when God told him not to kill his son in a religious sacrifice, thus forever marking off our faith as one with a special reverence for life.  It’s the answer given by Moses, our greatest prophet, when God called to him from the burning bush to save His people who were enslaved in Egypt, even though it meant going up against what was then the most formidable military power in his world.

When we say Hineinei we do so unconditionally.  Abraham and Moses said it before they know would  be asked.  Because the value is not in the action itself, although that’s pretty important.  The essential value lies in being there, ready to stand with another, ready to do what is right.  So, when I saw that fax, as a Jew, there was only one possible response:  Hineinei.  And my moral obligation was to do so even before I knew what would be involved with that commitment.

Hineinei’s power is transformative.  As Swami Vivekananda told us, perfection doesn’t come from belief alone but from selfless action.  Saying Hineinei brings us to that.   It’s transformative in the way it frees us to be the best we can be for everyone around us and for something far greater than ourselves; and we all have the power within us to say Hineinei.  As an essential Jewish value, it led me to fight for the persecuted Hindus of Bangladesh.

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Virus of Hatred and Insanity Wreaking Havoc With the Preventive Measures in India

All you need to know about the Tablighi congregation at Nizamuddin

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The Tablighi Jamaat congregation has created a havoc in India.

By SALIL GEWALI

Why is the WORLD on lockdown now? It is exclusively intended to keep away from any XYZ who might have infected with COVID-19 and thus contain the deadly pandemic as soon as possible. To combat the outbreak how much “monetary loss” each nation has been incurring each day is unprecedented and unimaginable. Here the main concern being to “save” the lives of the citizens at any rate. Yes, each nation-state considers each life of a citizen as “precious” as anything.

But look at the situation arising out of the Tablighi congregation at Nizamuddin, New Delhi,India and its immediately aftermath. It has raised many questions than answers. What is very disgusting is some of the members of the organization caught “repeatedly spitting” from the windows of the bus as reported by “Hindustan Times” and other news media. Some members directly spat on a “woman” calling her ‘coronavirus’. The members did not even heed to the requests from the elderly people and doctors. Finally, police had to forcefully close the windows of the bus.

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Well, everyone knows that COVID-19 spreads through droplets that come out from our mouths. So, to prevent the possible infection from the fluid droplets we strictly ensure that we cover our mouths with masks. The whole world is doing that. But why this godless act by “certain” members of the religious attendees of Tablighi in New Delhi thereby putting other public potentially at risk. Why such an evil motive, who all are encouraging such things?

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Well, a very learned scholar and also the Governor of Kerala,India, Arif Mohammad Khan described the non-cooperation of the certain Muslim community as a “crime against the nation and humanity.”

Was that elaborate religious congregation not mean to teach us how to be more conscious as a human being and to be compassionate towards other “fellow beings”? What is appalling at this hour of crisis is that there are many Mosques in India which are deliberately “defying” the lockdown order and observing the regular namazs and mindlessly encouraging mass gathering. Some have attacked police while in some states the medical doctors or their assistants associated with the quarantine care have been disrespected, abused and manhandled. Mindless stone-pelting upon the doctors and police have been reported from several states in the country. Why are such disgustingly inhumane behaviors arising from the community of a particular faith only? Why are certain people so uncouth and so uncooperative? Can the pandemic catastrophe be put down by such inhumane behaviors? Will it not be “irreligious” itself when the people, be it from any faiths, recklessly contribute to the suffering of others?

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Further, will GOD “saves ones” who have not taken the preventive measures? Absolutely not. God has given a human being the “brain” in order to decide judiciously what to do and what not to do. God will never descend from heaven to save if we abuse ourselves. About 10 members from the Tablighi Jamaat have already died from Coronavirus. Is it not the loss of precious lives for which we should “mourn”? Is it not a loss for the nation as a whole?

India Tablighi
Due to the religious congregation, many new COVID-19 cases have been reported in India.

Many infected persons from the Jamaat are potentially likely to infect others healthy which might multiply progressively, some of them have already dispersed to their respective states started causing problems as already been reported from the states like Bihar and Gujarat. Some are attacking police personals by violating the lockdown. Is the fundamental teaching of all religions not for the well-being and wellness of each human being on the planet? One wonders why such godless acts are being encouraged, or tolerated! Is tolerating the forces with sinister motives not sin in itself?  Well, a very learned scholar and also the Governor of Kerala Arif Mohammad Khan described the non-cooperation of the certain Muslim community as a “crime against the nation and humanity.”

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Here is another “shocker” published by Indian Today about a week back. An Infosys software engineer from Bangalore Mujeeb Mohammad appealed through his facebook by writing – “Let’s join hands, go out and sneeze with open mouth in public.

Also Read- Munish Raizada Films’ Debut Political Documentary- Transparency: Pardarshita, The Untold Series of IAC & AAP Released

Spread the virus.” How shall we describe this motive? What is in store for us in this 21st Century? Mind out, if such “insanity of hatred” is let to rear its ugly head, the sanity will certainly die a death. The virus of insanity could be more dangerous than Coronavirus. It will directly attack the very LUNGS and HEART of the Nation, and humanity at large.

An India-based writer and researcher, Salil Gewali is best known for his research-based work entitled Great minds on India which has earned worldwide appreciations. Translated into twelve languages, his book has been prefaced by a world-acclaimed NASA Chief scientist – Dr. Kamlesh Lulla of Houston, USA.

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