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Judaism “We are all Sikhs:” A Perspective on Sikhs From a Jewish Rabbi

Discussion in 'Interfaith Dialogues' started by aristotle, Aug 14, 2013.

  1. aristotle

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    SPNer Contributor

    May 11, 2010
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    Exactly one year ago, a white supremacist attacked the
    Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Six people were
    killed. And from that tragedy went forth a chant that
    even made it onto a T-shirt: “We are all Sikhs.”
    A few days later, I attended an interfaith Ramadan
    break fast in Morristown, New Jersey. There, I met
    Gurparkash Singh, a practicing Sikh from Basking
    Ridge, New Jersey.

    Yes – rabbi meets Sikh at a Muslim event. That’s so
    New Jersey. Or, it’s so America.

    To quote the last line of “Casablanca:” “This could be
    the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” And it was.
    Gurparkash and I convened a small group of Jewish
    and Sikh leaders – to talk, to share stories, to dream
    together. And, of course, to eat — an elegant Indian
    dinner at his gracious home; we Jews took the Sikhs
    out for deli.

    There is a reason why the Torah tells us, 36 times, to
    love the stranger. Because the stranger is our mirror.
    We Jews encountered a culture, born in the Punjab
    region of India in the fifteenth century: a deeply
    spiritual, anti-ritualistic, meditative and egalitarian
    faith – the sixth largest religion in the world. They are
    brave warriors (hence, the miniature sword that they
    carry upon their person), and a fiercely proud,
    independent people. But they have been largely
    invisible to us, even though we all showed up in
    America around the same time, a century ago. There
    are 750,000 Sikhs in the United States; 200,000 are in
    California alone. It’s not only “love the stranger;” it’s,
    literally, “love your neighbor.”

    Yes – observant Sikh men all wear turbans and
    beards. One of them joked with me: “Don’t ever be
    embarrassed about not being able to tell us apart; we
    all tend to look alike.” (Yeah, right – have you been to
    Borough Park lately?) And to add to the potential
    confusion, all of the men and women use Singh and
    Kaur, respectively, either as a middle name or as a
    surname – symbolizing their rejection of a historically
    prevalent caste system.

    And like many cultural minorities in the United States,
    Sikhs have paid the full price. When Sikh men show up
    at airport security, they are randomly searched — one
    hundred percent of the time — because of their turbans.
    Seventy per cent of Sikh boys have been bullied in
    schools because of their turbans.

    Maybe they should consider modifying the turban
    requirement, and just make it optional? How American
    of me to think that. Sikh men simply know that they
    have to be at the airport that much earlier. That’s the
    price they choose to pay for walking a religious road
    with one foot, and keeping the other foot grounded in
    Western society.

    Thank you, my Sikh friends, for teaching me the lesson
    of religious integrity.

    American Sikhs have some very “Jewish” mishigas.
    They want to be Americans; they want to maintain their
    culture. They believe that all people have the spark of
    God within them; they want their children to marry
    other Sikhs.

    They have “Jewish” nightmares. “For us, history has
    been one long Kristallnacht,” one said. The “lesser
    Holocaust” of 1746, where an estimated 7000 people
    died within a few months. “The greater Holocaust” of
    1762, in which half of the Sikh population was killed in
    one day. The attack on the Golden Temple – the Sikh
    “Temple Mount,” as it were — in June, 1984, during
    one of the High Holidays, ordered by Prime Minister
    Indira Gandhi. The number of deaths on that day is
    estimated to be as high as 10,000 people.

    And they have “Jewish” dreams. They want to educate
    their children about their language and heritage. They
    have experimented with something like day schools
    and “Sunday schools.” You know how our kids go to
    Jewish summer camp and learn Hebrew songs and live
    Jewishly? There are Sikh summer camps where Sikh
    children go to enjoy the great outdoors – and to learn
    the art of turban-tying. (There are twelve Sikh summer
    camps in the Northeast alone).

    OK, three weeks to Rosh Ha Shanah – Yom ha-
    Zicharon, the day of remembering.

    “You Jews have had so many tragedies, just like us
    Sikhs,” a Sikh leader said to us. “But you are good at
    remembering them; we are not. Can you teach us how
    to remember?”

    Or: “We Sikhs admired how successful American Jews
    have been in teaching your children how to maintain
    their culture. Can you teach us how to do that with our
    own children? Can you teach us how to interpret our
    story to Americans in general?”

    The Sikhs not only look to us for help; they look to us
    for inspiration. “Like the Jews, we Sikhs carry a
    message of hope and optimism in the face of tragedy,”
    said Gurparkash. ”We call it Chardi kala – the state of
    ever optimism. This, I believe, is the reason why Jews
    have triumphed over their adversaries. We hope that
    God graces us with the spirit of Chardi kala. And we
    shall also overcome our challenges and challengers.”
    The Sikhs call it Chardi kala. And we Jews call it Ha-
    We are all Sikhs.

    Originally Posted on www.jewishjournal.com By Rabbi
    Jeffrey K. Salkin
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  3. LittlePrem

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    May 1, 2013
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    Of course, you know I LOVE this article - surprise, surprise. I have that "we are all Sikhs" shirt too, from doing the recent Seva day in rememberance of the Oak Creek tragedy.
    By the way, everyone, here's a few translations from the article: the word Yiddish word "mishigas" means crazyness (in lighthearted way). Also "Hatikvah" means "the hope" in Hebrew. It's the Israeli national anthem.

    Also, when he says "One of them joked with me: “Don’t ever be
    embarrassed about not being able to tell us apart; we
    all tend to look alike.” (Yeah, right – have you been to
    Borough Park lately?)" - He means that if you ever went to Borough Park you wouldn't be able to tell the Orthodox Jews apart either. I've been there, and it's true lol.

    All I can think throughout this article is.. c'mon Rabbi, please use your connections and get some Jewish leadership to volunteer some of our best Lawyers and thinkers and activists to Sikh rights. They have plenty of thier own, but the more, the better. Offer it, Rabbi! :cheerleaders:
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  4. harmanpreet singh

    harmanpreet singh India
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    Nov 14, 2008
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    my Sat sri Akaal to RAABI JI !!
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