IN FEBRUARY OF this year Adam Miller visited India on a Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA) National Young Leadership Cabinet (NYLC) study mission to connect with the Bene Israel, one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities. NYLC is the premier leadership and philanthropic program of JFNA. The program is designed for dedicated men and women, ages 30 to 45, from across the U.S. and Canada who are deeply committed to building a strong, vibrant future for the Jewish people.
Adam Miller, an active participant at the Jewish Federation and Family Services in Orange County, where he serves on the NextGen Board, is currently serving a six-year term on the NYLC representing Orange County. While in India he was able to connect with one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, understand how Israel strengthens Jewish life across the diaspora, see our global partner agencies providing critical support and humanitarian aid, and deepen his commitment to Jewish core values: chesed (compassion), tikkun olam (making a difference in the world), and tzedakah (justice).
I recently asked him about his experience in India and what he gained from such an incredible and unique opportunity. “While in India, I got to see first-hand how Jewish Federations of North America performs Tikkun Olam around the world. Through the Joint Distribution Committee, JFNA funds programs, such as the Gabriel Project, through which the Jewish community in India makes a difference in the lives of families living in the slums. Not only does their support provide social and educational services for this small community of 5,000 Jews but also for those living in poverty regardless of their religious or ethnic background. There truly is no greater Tikkun Olam then providing the funding to allow Jews in foreign countries to make a difference in their own communities.”
The sights, sounds and smells of India were like nothing we can imagine, and it was remarkable for him to spend Shabbat, with fellow Jews who have adapted to the local customs and traditions of their Hindu homeland. The Jews of India observe core Jewish rituals including observing Shabbat keeping kosher, and circumcising their sons. They sustained a Jewish way of life throughout antiquity, though cut off from the rest of the Jewish world.
While India has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, they also have extreme poverty. Seven million children live in slums across India, often without access to education. Miller and his group visited a slum in Mumbai where they volunteered with participants in the Gabriel Project Mumbai (GPM), an NGO that aims to care for vulnerable children living in slums and poor rural areas of India, through supporting their educational, health, and nutritional needs.
“Engaging with those most in need through the work of our partners deepened my belief that we are capable of the greatest good when taking action on our Jewish values together. Together National Young Leadership Cabinet members will raise funds for two of the programs we visited: Gabriel Project Mumbai and JDC’s Youth Pioneers Program. To date we’ve raised over $37,000.” For more information please visit www.jewishfederations.org/young-leadership-cabinet.
Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and currently works as the Coordinator of Outreach and Engagement for the NextGen Department at Jewish Federation