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Hindus, Jews celebrate Diwali, Hanukkah together

About 250 members of the Hindu and Jewish communities came together Nov. 30, under one roof at the Bharatiya Temple in Troy, Michigan to celebrate Diwali and Hanukkah. The event was organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee and the Hindu American Foundation, according to a Detroit Free Press report.

Both Diwali, which fell on Oct. 19 this year, and Hanukkah which started two weeks after, celebrate with the lighting of lamps symbolizing the victory of good over evil, a commonality dwelt upon by speakers at the event.

Inside the temple, Hindu priests recited a prayer with “Om shanti, shanti, shanti” and then a rabbi recited Hebrew prayers for Hanukkah as another Jewish leader lit a menorah candle, and tables of menorahs, Ganesh statues and diyas, with a big “Om” were featured on the stage behind where the panelists sat, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Community members enjoyed potato latkes and jelly donuts for Hanukkah along with samosas and sweets for Diwali. A panel discussion took place, about the meaning of the holidays for the two minority communities.

“There’s a need for dialogue across various barriers. We thought this is a great idea to come together, celebrating the lighting of the lamps.” Nasy Sankagiri, a temple member of Bloomfield Hills, is quoted saying in the Detroit Free Press.

“Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of the light in the temple lasting eight days. Diwali is also a celebration of light, so both holidays are that celebration of light. Light is a wonderful metaphor for what we can bring into the world,” said Alicia Chandler, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee.

Padma Kuppa, a board member with the national advocacy organization, Hindu American Foundation, and the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, recalled she used to celebrate Diwali and Hanukkah together in a Jewish home, years ago.

“It’s really a great opportunity for us to share our traditions and draw the communities closer together based on our common pursuit of social justice. We have a lot in common in being very education oriented and being committed to the idea of pluralism,” Kuppa is quoted saying in the news report.

“This brings our communities closer and is an opportunity for learning and sharing each other’s faith traditions,” said David Kurzmann, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of metro Detroit/American Jewish Committee. Kurtzmann noted that in October, the Jewish Council held an interfaith event with the Muslim community to build bridges.