Bagels and Samosa's Virtual Lunchtime Meetings

With Lord Daniel Finkelstein – 22 October 2020

The British Indian Jewish Association held its latest Bagels and Samosas webinar on Thursday 22nd October with guest speaker Lord (Daniel) Finkelstein. He was interviewed by Reena Ranger about his life and career, and his new book “Everything in Moderation.”

Lord Finkelstein, a commentator at The Times and Jewish Chronicle, spoke about his range of experiences in politics and the media. He spoke about his early career advising Conservative leaders John Major and William Hague. He then made the transition to journalism, and has been a star commentator at The Times for many years. When his friend David Cameron became Prime Minister, he started clandestine monthly meetings with him in Downing Street to interview him about what was happening, with a view to producing a more accurate version of his memoirs. He became a Peer in 2013 and spoke about one of the issues he is most passionate about, which is legislating for assisted dying.

The webinar was attended by over 70 people.

Lord Finkelstein spoke about when he first appreciated the friendship between the Indian and Jewish communities:

“Whilst I was a candidate in Harrow West [in 2001], Lord Ranger took me to a Sikh celebration and I was watching it happen. The most respected people in the community go up to the front and give each other certificates and make speeches about each other and then somebody came round with a load of canapes. Everyone was eating whilst this was going on, both simultaneously impressed by and laughing at the people making speeches about themselves. And I thought my goodness – this is a Bar Mitzvah with turbans!

He went on to explain why the Indian-Jewish relationship is so strong:

“I now live in Pinner. Many of my neighbours are either Jewish or of Indian origin. It’s so magnificent. We are incredibly compatible. I think there are lots of things that are involved in that. The combination of feeling very proud to be part of this country, wanting to assimilate to it, understanding its Britishness, but also being very proud of our origins, really enjoying the social, religious and cultural parts of that and feeling that those two things can absolutely coexist; that we can adapt to the modern world and get all of its benefits whilst keeping our culture rooms and our traditions and celebrating both the deep and profound parts of those traditions and the entertaining culturally interesting parts of those traditions. And the feeling that we know we’re in this country and we are accepted. We are grateful to the general population but we do also appreciate we’re refugees or immigrants to this country as well and that’s not always an unqualified positive experience, there are negatives that go with that. Those things together give us a similarity of interest and background that makes us very compatible communities and it’s so strong, we all feel it, that's much stronger than any explanation I can give you.”

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BIJA hosts screening of Shalom Bombay - 27 Feb 2020

On the evening of Thursday 27th February, a crowd of 100 people gathered for an Indian Jewish Association event at a hotel in the, Radisson Edwardian Penthouse - Leicester Square, to watch a film about the Mumbai Jewish community and hear a talk by its Director, Alex Hayim.

Alex made the film, “Shalom Bombay”, in 1997 when he spent time in India. The audience, which included many people with Bombay Jewish roots were captivated by what they heard. Guests included Lord James Sassoon from the famous family and Atul Kochhar, the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star.

The evening also featured a short address by Minister at the Indian High Commission, Manmeet Singh Narang, who mentioned celebrated Indian Jews Lieutenant General Jack Jacob and Sir Anish Kapoor.

During his short address, Manmeet Singh Narang said:

“Indian Jews have been small in number but they have contributed immensely to the cultural and administrative landscape of India. I remember when I was young in service to hear about Jack Jacob. That was the first time I realised we had Jews in India. The Jewish community flourished when it was in India. In Britain, both communities have been extremely successful and contribute significantly.”

Alex Hayim said:

"I am very grateful to the IJA for hosting and giving me the platform to dust-off my film and reintroduce the history of this colourful and rich community to a new audience. 'Shalom Bombay' is still incredibly relevant and focuses on the identity of a small but dynamic community that were able to flourish in an open and tolerant society."

IJA Co-Chair Zaki Cooper said:

“It was an evening of reminiscing about old times but also making new friends. As Indians and Jews we have so much in common, and our friendship is such a natural one. We are finding a lot of energy and enthusiasm for our charity as we expand our work.”

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Interfaith Mitzvah Day - 14 November

Our keen volunteers from the Indian Jewish Association and co-chairs Peter Chadha and Zaki Cooper helped with some inter-community volunteering for interfaith week. We celebrated the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak's Birth (the founder of Sikhism) and the Jewish Mitzvah Day (good-deed) day by joining the volunteers of Nishkam SWAT (Sikh Welfare and Awareness a wonderful grass roots Sikh charity) by serving hot food to the homeless in the Charing Cross area of London.  About 25 volunteers served hundreds of people of all walks of life. It was humbling for our team. One unexpected observation we learnt was that many of the homeless people couldn’t take the apples we served because their teeth was simply not up to the job. (Luckily we offered bananas as an alternative). How we take small things like this for for granted. #indianjewish hashtag#interfaith hashtag#Sikhs hashtag#volunteering hashtag#mitzvah (Green T-shirts are from Mitzvah day) Special thanks to Anu Panesar for organising with the teams at SWAT.

Charity Partners for Asian Jewish Buiness Network

The Indian Jewish Association was proud to help facilitate the first Asian Jewish business network event held at Lord's Cricket ground on 4 November 2019. We were instrumental in helping get some fantastic speakers in place.

The Jewish and Asian communities both punch above their weight in terms of business prowess and share an entrepreneurial spirit, and quite often both work with one another. We were happy to see that the Asian-Jewish Business Network provided a forum for figures from a wide range of businesses to come together, network, share best practise and, encourage more trade and cooperation. Our team was on hand to talk about the work we do and the shared common values between the two communities.

Coverage in Asian Press

And the Jewish Press

Our Common Values - 16 November 2018

At Western Marble Arch Synagogue, over 120 leaders from the Indian and Jewish communities gathered communities to celebrate “Our Common Values.” This was the Indian Jewish Association's event for Inter-Faith Week 2018.

The Chief Rabbi and Lord Gadhia gave short speeches.

In his speech Lord Gadhia of Northwood said:

"This is a timely gathering falling in Inter-Faith Week and between the festivals of Diwali last week and Hannukah coming up in December. It's an opportunity to celebrate the strong ties between our two communities: 1.5 million British Indians and 300,000 British Jews. I speak as someone who grew up in north London side-by-side and in harmony with the Jewish community. That experience has strengthened my admiration for your achievements and confirmed that Jews and Indians share many of the same intrinsic values anchored around family, faith and community, with a strong emphasis on education and entrepreneurship.........It pains us to see the anguish felt by your community at the ugly rise of anti-Semitism in Britain and around the world. I would like to reiterate that British Indians resolutely stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Jewish community until anti-Semitism is eradicated in all its forms."

In his speech, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said:

"The term thanksgiving is very relevant to tonight's occasion. How do you say India in Hebrew? Hodu. Hodu means thanksgiving. Therefore we give thanks to God who has blessed the Jewish people, and blessed the Indian people, in a wonderful spirit of harmony and amity. We have so much in common. There are four key areas where we bond together: tradition, family, community and food. The Association, in its work bringing together Jews and Indians is just remarkable, it's something so precious.

The Chief Rabbi talked about his Ben Azzai Programme, which is an annual initiative taking university students on an immersive international trip to India or Ghana:

"In 2015, Valerie and I visited 19 Jewish communities in 5 cities over 11 days. We also made a point of visiting the slums of Kolkata and Mumbai. We came back to Britain determined to do something practical to help people. So we established the Ben Azzai Programme, empowering us as a Jewish community to reach out to the people of India and others around the world who require help and assistance. Next month, we are sending 16 Jewish students to Kolkata who will return to the UK as our social responsibility ambassadors.

If you want an example of unity, look at Jews and Indians. If only the whole world took a leaf out of our book, this would be a very different planet. As Indians and Jews together, we are playing different instruments but are together in the same orchestra, and our aim is to continue with that harmonious tone.

In his vote of thanks, Zaki Cooper, IJA Trustee, said:

"Our small charity, the Indian Jewish Association, was founded in 1996. We do not have a paid staff and we rely on the goodwill of our volunteers. We exist to strengthen relations between Britain's Indian and Jewish communities. The goal of inter-faith is not to agree on everything. It is to understand our differences, and work on our commonalities."