Yesterday, I had the honor of speaking at the Boulder Jewish Community Center. Months ago, I had met with Kathryn Bernheimer, Program Director at the Boulder JCC. As I started to talk about being a Jewish author and my Indian adventure, I could tell that she was intrigued. I talked and talked. She asked several questions and I answered. Before leaving, Kathryn asked me if I would be interested in speaking at the JCC. I immediately replied, “Yes.” I was thrilled to be a Jewish author connecting with the Boulder Jewish Community Center.
Since that time, I have focused on reading, researching, and writing. In many respects, I have become a hermit. It was wonderful to stand in front of a live audience instead of sitting at my desk. Being able to interact with others is something that I’ve missed since I took a hiatus from teaching. There’s nothing like engaging a room filled with people. It’s hard to remove the passion for teaching from a teacher.
My presentation started off similar to my talk at the University of Colorado-Boulder. I provided an overview of the major threads to my story and then started to give examples. Once again, I used pictures and videos to enhance my story. Periodically, my audience asked me to clarify a point or asked a question. Within no time my talk veered onto its own course that emphasized the Jewish threads to my story. After all, I was speaking before a Jewish crowd.
One of the emotional aspects of my talk was when I shared a video clip from our eldest son’s Sephardic Indian wedding at the Judah Hyam Synagogue in New Delhi. The ceremony was unlike anything that I had ever witnessed before. Josh, and his wife, Rachael, followed traditions that are unique to Northern India and specifically the Bene Israel community. Never did I imagine that Josh would sing a 16th century piyyut as his bride entered the sanctuary.
My talk also recounted my ability to share my Jewish heritage with my students and the rest of the primary school. Even though India is one of the few countries in the world where Jews were not subjected to centuries of anti-Semitism, most Indians know very little about Jews or their history. I created a script and prepared my students for the assembly. With my assistance, they taught the school about the Jewish people. They sang a couple of songs in Hebrew and Debbie Friedman’s (z”l) Aleph Bet Song. The girls danced to Chassidic music. All of my students had speaking parts. A Thai girl played the piano. In retrospect, I wish that I had the foresight to have taped the entire assembly. I only have a few random clips.
Today, less than 5000 Jews reside in the India. Even though the number of Jews is minuscule, Chabad has a presence in the country. I was fortunate to meet with the Bangalore Chabad rabbi and his wife on many occasions. Their kindness was immeasurable. I will always remember lighting Chanukah candles with the rabbi and his family. With two young children in tow, they traveled two hours so that I would not be alone. I spotlighted that occasion in a blog, Lending a Helping Hand With Kindness. During my final weeks in Bangalore, they arranged for the delivery of freshly baked challot to my dorm.
After yesterday’s talk, I am eager to arrange future presentations or book club chats. Please feel free to contact me if you’re interested in having me visit your group.
My memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, and the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards.