Jewish and Indian: The Sounds and Stories of the B'Nei Israel

In December 2018, fourteen young Jewish adults from the Boston area got to experience the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds of Mumbai on our Project Inspire trip. We visited centuries-old synagogues, sang Hebrew songs (translated into the local language) with school children, witnessed the impact of NGOs supported by the Jewish community, and even attended a Indian Jewish wedding, where we danced the Bollywood routine our Mumbai peers had taught us. When I tell people back home about the wedding, most ask “Who was Jewish and who was Indian?” But our new friends in Mumbai showed us what it means to be both: living out Indian and Jewish values, adapting traditions, practicing tikkum olam, and wrestling with their connection to the land of Israel. These are, after all, universal Jewish experiences.

I brought back the sounds and stories of Mumbai, so you can hear it for yourself.

This above audio piece contains the voices of Elijah Jacob, executive director of the Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Centre in Mumbai; Joshua and Maayan Shapurkar (our lovely tour guides, who are uncle-and-niece); and Daniel Rahamim Shapurkar, member of the community. It also includes the voices of Project Inspire participants Chad Brodsky, Emily Kates, Clara Scheinmann, Jamie Fleishman, Alaina Pleatman, Lauren Pyes, Yuval Derry, and Allie Levy.

Our first stop - the Magen David synagogue, over 150 years old

The Project Inspire crew inside Magen David

Our excellent guide, Joshua Shapurkar, reading Hebrew transliterated into marathi (the local language)

The executive director of the Mumbai, Elijah Jacobs, explains each dish at our first lunch in India

Clara Schienmann, Laura Handler, and Jamie Fleischman play with students at the Kherwadi School

Maayan Shapurkar, our other knowledgeable and friendly guide

A glimpse of the crowds in Mumbai

A lesson in Bollywood dance from our Indian Jewish peers

The Ban Ganga tank - the site of Hindu holy waters

The familiar and new of an Indian Jewish wedding

Daniel Shapurkar, a member of the Indian Jewish community in Mumbai, stands with a few Project Inspire members

Our group helped out in a lesson at the Gabriel Project Mumbai

A street in the area known as the Kalwa slum - a term we debated

Women making soap from recycled hotel soap - to be given out to local children in the Kalwa slum

Our group at the beach in Naugar where Jews were shipwrecked over 2,000 years ago - giving rise to Mumbai's B'nei Israel community