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Judaism “We Are All Sikhs:” A Perspective On Sikhs From A Jewish Rabbi


May 11, 2010
Ancient Greece
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


May 1, 2013
New York, N.Y
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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