ACCESS: AJC's new generation

...engaging today’s critical domestic and international issues.

Working at the nexus between the Jewish community and the world, ACCESS reaches out to diplomats, policy makers and young leaders of diverse religious and ethnic communities.


Dinner with Sadanand Dhunne
Saturday, March 6

It was fascinating to have dinner with Sadanand Dhunne, an Indian-American free- lancer journalist who among other things, wrote a book entitled "My Friend the Fanatic" where he explores the theme of radical Islam in Indonesia.
What particularly drew my attention was the fact that India does not have a "First Amendment" in spite of hundreds of newspapers circulating such vast country. The lack of this amendment may give carte blanche to filing frivolous litigations alleging defamation. Sadanand also told us that, within the legal arena, it is not unheard of lawsuits to take as long as 20 years to be decided.
In sum, our encounter with Sadanand gave me the possibility to compare the legal systems between India and the US concerning media laws, which as a lawyer, I found very interesting.

Gabriela Wainschtok
RED FORT (Delhi)
Sunday, March 7

One of the most memorable moments during my trip to India was the visit to the Red Fort which serves as an example of the unique Mughal art. The Red Fort was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1638. The construction took approximately 10 years. The fort served as the royal residence within the Emperor's new capital in the old city of Delhi or what it is known today as simply Delhi.
The fort has two principal gates and encompasses several palaces such as the Palace of Distinctions. The palace ceilings with their tiny pieces of encrusted mirrors hinted at the splendor it once had.

The fort also includes various buildings such as the Diwan I Khas or the House of Private Audience which was used by the Emperor for giving private audiences to the courtiers and state guests. The structure contains impressive marble piers with inlay work and painted designs.
Equally distinctive is the Khas Mahal or Private Palace which served as the Emperor's actual residence. This palace basically contains three parts: 1) the chamber of telling beads; 2) the wardrobe; and 3) the sleeping chamber. The Private Palace, with its beautiful carved marble is another example of the Mughal style.

Gabriela Wainschtok


Delhi sightseeing adventure
Saturday, March 6

We had been in India already a week, and we had already seen the Taj Mahal. I didn’t think much could top the amazing sites and experiences we had seen so far. But Delhi definitely delivered some incredible attractions of its own! We had our first full day to enjoy the sites of Delhi and first off was Qutub Minar. At 72.5 meters, this tower is the world’s tallest brick minaret. It stands among ruins of ancient Hindu and Jain temples, whose stones were used to build the minaret and surrounding complex. With the combination of styles across the centuries and with various rulers’ and architects’ influences, one can see from the Qutub Minar’s Indo-Islamic architecture why this Indian version of the Tower of Pisa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Delhi.

Next stop was a Bahai Temple aptly named the Lotus Temple. Amidst the bustling city of Delhi was a clear open space crowned by one of the most delicate and serene compositions that seemed to blossom out of nowhere. There was a meditative quiet that hung in the air as people took the pilgrimage-like walk across the grounds up to the temple. We were greeted by a handful of volunteers who blessed us as we approached and told us of the Bahai credo of oneness of all religions and mankind. Not knowing much about the Bahai faith, I was struck by the peaceful tranquility that the Lotus Temple and its surroundings exuded. No cameras were allowed inside so as to protect the silence and inner sanctity of the space—something I appreciated as I sat in wonder staring at the ceiling and enjoying how the simple lotus structure seemed to envelop me as I sat alone with my thoughts in the pews. It made me want to learn more about the Bahai fath—after all, what’s not to appreciate about a religion that believes in the equality and oneness of all people? 
As the sun began to set, we ended up at Humayun’s Tomb—a complex of buildings built as the Mughal Emperor Humayun’s Tomb in 1562 CE. A beautiful mausoleum that was apparently the model for the Taj Mahal, Humayun’s Tomb is one of the first structures to use red sandstone at such a scale. The giant red building houses the tombs of Humayun and his wife as well as several other subsequent Mughals. I could definitely see where the Taj Mahal got its inspiration, and while this complex was not quite as spectacular, it definitely held its own.

Sarah Silverman


Meeting with Sadanand Dhunne, Journalist
Saturday, March 6

It was fascinating to meet with Sadanand Dhunne for dinner. I had heard about his book "My Friend the Fanatic", which details his relationship over time with a fundamental Islamist in Indonesia, home to the largest Muslim population in the world. Moreover, I was very eager to hear his thoughts on the Muslim population in India and whether he believed that Islamic fundamentalism was or was becoming a problem in the country.
Historically, India prides itself as having "no anti-Semitism" within its borders, and I was curious whether this was still true and whether India was somehow immune to the radicalism growing in neighboring countries, such as Pakistan. Sadly, Mr. Dhumme worried that India was not immune, and that radicalism had started to invade its borders.

Mr. Dhunne was very engaging, smart, and eloquent, answered all of our questions, and raised a lot of new questions for me. I hope to bring him to speak at AJC in the future. I will certainly read his book and very much look forward to the publication of his next book, which is on Islamic fundamentalism in India.

Naomi Reinharz


Chabad House
Monday, March 1

The wall immediately across the way should have prepared me for what I would see inside. The bullet-ridden facade with its stark condemnation of the attacks that took place there on November 26th, 2008, was a mirror image to the flimsy white piece of paper that barely hung on the wall across from it in front of the Chabad house informing visitors that Chabad Mumbai was temporarily operating at another location.

Four guards watched us carefully as we were met by a member of the Indian Jewish community outside the entrance to the building and given a brief overview of how the Jewish community responded to the terrible events that happened there. Shortly thereafter we were met by some Chabad representatives newly off the airplane from Canada just a few days earlier.

With no permanent Chabad rabbis in place in Mumbai since the attacks, a rotating cycle of willing volunteers come to hold down the fort for a couple of weeks or months at a time before a new Rabbi comes to make Mumbai home.
As the new recruits led us up the stairs to give us the play-by-play of events that took place on 26-11 (the widely-used and all-encompassing title of the Mumbai attacks, much like our 9-11), it was clear that, although these volunteers were not physically there to witness the events they were speaking about, they were schooled very quickly upon their arrival on every detail of the tragedy in order to pass on every memory to each visitor that comes through.

They walked us floor to floor recalling who was hiding where and when, pointing out who was shot where, and recounting how this person managed to escape. They painted a picture for us of who was sleeping where, who was eating in one room, and who was praying in another. At some point the descriptions were too graphic and I peeled away from the group to let my eyes tell me as much as I needed to know.

I felt guilty taking pictures of what seemed to be such hallowed ground. And yet, it seemed from our hosts that they urged us to take in every detail so as not to forget and to pass on to the world what they consider the martyrdom to have occurred there. So I walked from room to room taking note - mostly of how the bullets holes seemed to be everywhere - the floor, the walls, the ceilings. Inescapable.

The cheery, bright blue of baby Moishe’s room mocked the viewer who knew all too well what atrocities took place just feet away.

Next door, my heart skipped a beat as I saw the collection of shoes of Moishe’s parents, the revered Rabbi and his wife, still lined up in a messy arrangement on their shoe tree in the corner of their room. Untouched and now collecting dust. I couldn’t bring myself to snap the shot. As we made our way to the top floor and on to the roof, it was hard to imagine the police snipers exchanging fire with the attackers in what seemed like such a normal, residential neighborhood.

It was remarkable that the Chabad house, up until 26-11, existed so easily and peacefully among its Indian neighbors, much like, as we had been learning, how the larger Jewish Indian community exists throughout India.

As our Chabad volunteers kept reminding us about the sacrifice of Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, in addition to the 4 others who perished in the House, I had to remind myself that this was a tragedy for all of India and not just the Jews.

Over 164 were killed throughout Mumbai overall. And yet, as we stood back on the bottom floor being shown pictures of the Chabad victims and lighting candles in their memory, it was hard not to feel the weight and palpable sadness that the attack symbolized for us as Jews.

Our tour guides had dutifully done their job of leaving us with an imprint of the horror that took place there — the image of an empty baby swing, sitting innocently in its place amongst the rubble, had been seared into my memory.

Sarah Silverman


I was eager to visit the Chabad House in Mumbai. Before my trip, many of my friends asked me if we were going to India in order to commemorate the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists, and I told them that that was only part of it. Of course, being in India one year after the attacks, it was important to visit the places that were affected and where innocent people were killed, and to show that terrorism did not deter Americans from coming to India.

We therefore went to the Taj Hotel, the Gateway of India, and the Chabad House. Seeing the Chabad House was truly moving -- those who run it have not changed a thing since 26/11. The family's belongings, the hangings on the wall, the toys -- nothing has moved. There are bullet holes everywhere and an eeriness on every floor.

Chabad has now built a temporary home in a new, safer location. But witnessing the aftermath of this tragedy was not the only reason we traveled halfway around the world. We wanted to learn about and support the Jewish community. We wanted to promote the U.S.-India-Israel relationship. We wanted to meet with people in the media, technology, political, non-profit, think tank, and education fields. We wanted to see the country's many beautiful, historic sites. It is important to mourn the victims of the attacks, to live by the phrase "Never Again", and to continue to support Indian democracy by visiting this beautiful country.

Naomi Reinharz
US Embassy in New Delhi
Friday, March 5

After a whirlwind week of high level meetings, unbelievable sightseeing and daredevil bus adventures, we traveled to the US Embassy compound. We were all struck by the similarity of the embassy to the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. It turns out that the same architect designed both buildings. After a brief tour of the beautiful grounds, we were invited to sit down with Uzra Zeya, the Minister Counselor for Political Affairs for the US Embassy in New Delhi, Sharon Gilkey, a Political Officer and another aid. Mrs. Zeya tells us about the five main points of U.S.-India Relations which include Strategic Cooperation; Energy and Climate Change; Education and Development; Economics, Trade and Agriculture; and Science, Technology, Health and Innovation. After she made general comments, we asked a variety of questions and were treated to an open and frank discussion about US-India relationship. After more than an hour of our back and forth, we had to cut the meeting short to head to our next meeting with the Jewish community of Delhi.

Jessica Gronich
Sunday in Mumbai

Elephanta Caves, Bollywood, Fashion Street and dinner with Jewish community members
Sunday, February 28

This morning we’re off to sea! An hour’s boat ride takes us to the Elephanta Caves, a large group of Hindu caves containing rock cut stone sculptures dedicated to the god Shiva. But before we can get to the caves, we are met with two exciting firsts. One is wild goats, cows and monkeys galore. The second are 200 stone steps to the caves lined with our first real exposure to shopping and bartering; and the prospect of being carried up said 200 steps by four willing and eager Indians on a throne-like contraption. No takers from our group today, fun as it seemed!! At the top, we are in awe. Carved-out columns in the side of the island invite us into the cave where gods have been intricately whittled into the stone some ten to fifteen hundred years earlier. We only make the round of one cave in an hour before we have to get back to the boat, but not before we do a little damage on the way back down the steps.

Far across town, we take a turn off the highway, down an alley and through the tall gate into a Bollywood studio. We are greeted by Ambika Hinduja, a powerhouse of the industry who along with her mother and sister make up the only all-women studio in the Mumbai Film Industry, the preferred moniker of Bollywood insiders. One of their head architects ushers us around the building to six different sets - three empty, three working and filming while we move through – all glorious.
After our tour we meet the Hinduja women for a very candid Q&A and if you close your eyes you swear you’re hearing your own mothers, aunts and grandmothers bickering, only with a lot more authority and knowledge of film.

We learn that a) comedy and drama sell, b) political movies rarely get past production, and c) you don’t mess with these women. They are funny and charming, and if Bollywood is anything like Hollywood you know there’s more to what they’re saying, but you don’t care, it’s too much fun.

We only have a few minutes before dinner, but we need white clothes for Holi so we stop at a Fashion Street (street market) to buy Indian clothes, probably some type of pajama pants and a tunic. Some of us have a flare for bartering, I definitely do not, so I stick with the group and hope we can cut some kind of mass deal. Most of us ladies find the same genie-type pant and feel we’ve found a fair price then go off on our own to find a top. The men unfortunately have slimmer pickin’s but everybody finds what they need.

We make our purchases just in time for dinner with members of Jewish community at South Indian vegetarian thali restaurant. We are joined by Mr. Sharon Galsurkar who is the director of the Jewish Education Resource Center at ORT India and Gabriel Ashtamkar, Welfare Executive, JDC-India (India office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee). Waiters bring each of us so many tasty treats each one spicier than the next, and just when we think dinner is over, it just begins. Each of us receives our own huge silver platter with every type of conceivable flavor, shape and color. Delicious! Once again we pose our Indian dinner companions with the same question “How is it possible that Indians remain so fit when they eat like this at every meal”!? We never get a satisfying answer, but the satisfying meals more than make up for it.

Jessica Gronich
Mumbai Tour
Saturday, February 27

We are working on limited sleep, the adrenaline of being half way across the world from home, and the food-induced coma of our first authentic Indian lunch provided by our amazing hosts at congregation Keneseth Eliyahoo. We pile into our charter bus, our second home in Mumbai, and we take off for the first of many sightseeing tours through the crowded streets!

Our first stop is a beautiful, small Jain temple. Before entering, we are told that the Jains are among the oldest religious minorities in India (where 85% of the population is Hindu) and are currently often compared to the stereotype of American Jews because they tend to be among the wealthiest and most philanthropic in India. We are greeted by swathed fabrics of every color and detailed sculptures of elephants, guards and other figures all fancily outfitted and bejeweled. Moving in further we enter a small sanctuary that contains gilded doors and columns, a domed ceiling depicting the planets and other astrological scenes, and congregants scattered about with random accoutrement including dry rice and step stools acting as miniature tables. Most obvious to all of us are the (inverted) swastikas…everywhere. This is the first time that most of us learn about the symbol’s long history for the Jains, and most of Asia’s religions. In this temple, the swastika is a sign of peace and well-being, and we watch a few women kneeling on the floor slowly crafting swastikas out of the rice on their step stools. Though the symbol has always meant something very different to us as Jews, I slowly start to feel what these congregants are feeling, serenity. The temple is nothing if not a peaceful retreat on a typical chaotic Mumbai road, and that is a real coup in a city like this.

The next stop is the Hanging Gardens, another surprisingly tranquil spot. I am surprised to see such a large patch of green in a city that I’ve decided is anything but (justified or not). Topiaries are playfully shaped into life-size horses and elephants while archways invite people onto every inch of lawn for respite, a common theme I’m beginning to see in India. The gardens ‘hang’ over a main reservoir and serve as one of the highest points in the city, making it an ideal spot for catching the sunset and views of the distant western shore.

We cross the street to enter Kamala Nehru Park which offers equally amazing views of notable high rises along a different shoreline. We are impressed but immediately make a beeline for some shade to watch children playing on the tri-level “Old Woman’s Shoe” from the fairy tale.

Mani Bhavan is our next stop. This mansion was the residence for the great Mahatma Gandhi in Mumbai between 1917 and 1934 and now serves as a memorial, museum and library. We are treated to four stories of books, statues, photos and a 30-piece miniature figurine depiction of Gandhi’s life story. Starting from the fateful day he was traveling as a lawyer in South Africa and booted from the first class car to which he held a ticket, to his famous non-violent movement that inspired MLK Jr. and America’s own Civil Rights Movement, to his death in 1948. Out on the sidewalk, I am already thinking of a display inside with a letter from Albert Einstein to Gandhi praising him for his great work and I’m wishing I’d been born a century earlier to have witnessed it all firsthand.

Last stop of the day and all we can swing is a drive by for a photo op, but nobody wants to miss the legendary Dhobi Ghat, the largest outdoor laundry service, where clothes come from all over Mumbai in the morning, get sorted, flogged clean by stone in individual pens, dried, resorted and returned to the correct address by nightfall. In a city of over 20 million people, this system continues to work flawlessly and has been studied by Harvard students for its ability to run so efficiently. There are only 12 of us to keep track of and after a day of sightseeing, I feel as beat as that laundry!

Jessica Gronich


Dinner Reception
India International Center
Thursday, March 4

After almost two full days of travel via airplane and bus, our group was certainly in the mood for a comfortable sit-down dinner and fresh air. Fortunately, our dinner reception at the India International Center on the evening of Thursday, March 4th, our first night in Dehli, provided just that. We arrived at the center a little bit past six and were delighted to see a host of beautiful gardens, walkways and pictures of various icons of 20th century Indian history on the way in. The building was multifaceted and provided the feeling of being a combination of a ecumenical religious and cultural center. The reception itself was held on the third floor balcony, which provided a beautiful glimpse of the well-developed neighborhood and a sense of openness which would set the tone for the interchanges to follow. Our hosts were a series of local journalists, managing editors, teachers, diplomatic officers, religious and business leaders.

 Three such notables were alumni of previous project Interchange trips. The most familiar face to us was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli embassy, Eli Belotsercorsky, whom we had just spoken to along with the Israeli Ambassador Mark Sofer at our hotel. A delicious buffet style dinner was served and rather than trying to combine all of the expertise and perspectives at one table, we broke up into at least eight tables of six or so guests.

Similarly to our experience at the American Consulate General’s house in Mumbai, we made a concerted effort to speak with as many of our hosts and local guests as possible, gleaning invaluable information about Indian newspapers, the business community, trilateral relations with the US and Israel, and the religious affairs of the day. Dinner and dessert lasted a good three hours and everyone involved shared in a memorable night of delicious food, dialogue, cross cultural learning and friendly exchanges.

Mark Elman
Visit to the Times of India
Tuesday, March 2

Unlike most of the rest of the world, India is enjoying a boon in the popularity and power of its print media. This trend was on relatively full display to our group as on Tuesday, March 2, we were treated to a mini tour of and information gathering session at the Times of India, coordinated by Victor Sassoon, a General Manager and International Media Representation Editor of the paper, with Iraqi-Jewish roots.

As testament to the esteem in which daily newspapers are held, the building we entered looked more like a Parliament house than a media outlet. Aside from the security check, we were led through a labyrinth-like passage around different sectors of the newspaper, culminating in a stop in a small conference room. Here we were treated to coffee and tea and were given the chance to conduct a substantive, free-form Q @ A with two journalists who write for the equivalent of Mumbai’s metro section, focusing on local stories, issues and events.

The main speaker, Nauzer Bharuch was the Assistant Metro Editor and an extremely forthright journalist, chock full of heartfelt comments about the nature of Indian affairs, its local populous and the state of India’s major institutions. It became evident from his remarks that both the local and national governments seem to be failing the country in terms of national security. His position is that the terrorist attacks of November 26, 2008 have been dealt with in a lackluster manner, leaving India, at least Mumbai vulnerable to future threats. Both were adamant that the government must go beyond their present approach of mere lip service to addressing vital security issues.

However, in typical journalist’s fashion, the spotlight was immediately transferred to our group and what ensued was a spirited and unexpected dialogue on both the origins and current perceptions of the Holocaust. Without getting into too many specifics, our speakers were curious as to how we feel about the event now that we are several generations removed from its occurrence as well as how we were taught about that deplorable period in Jewish history. Their comments and questions seemed to be based on their perception that the Holocaust is not really taught as a subject in Indian schools, either historically or philosophically, and was curious how the Shoah is treated in a country where Jews constitute a much greater percentage of the population and the educational world.

All in all, this tour of the Times of India, though brief, proved to be a fascinating give and take opportunity and hopefully enlightened both parties on issues pertaining to Indian daily affairs, Jewish history and the power of the print media.
Mark Elman
Shabbat at Judah Hayeem
Friday, March 5
The elfin man greeted us with a huge grin from cheek to cheek. Ezekiel Malakar was the man of the night, and the pride he had for his community was palpable from our first steps onto the grounds of Judah Hayeem, Delhi’s only active synagogue. With an exterior of bright baby blue, the synagogue matched the cheery disposition and charm of our host who we learned plays the part of unofficial Rabbi, Cantor, synagogue leader, shochet, and moyel all in one.

We first visited the Jewish cemetery attached to the synagogue, where a Hindu family lives on the grounds to care for the site. Then we were treated to a traditional Sephardic kabbalat Shabbat, but not before several speeches and words of welcome were delivered from various members of the community.
Our visit was clearly the highlight of the week. Ezekiel gushed at how excited he was to have us visit and several members of the community stood up to say the same. The tiny room quickly filled with locals, as well as foreigners—passers-by, those in government posts, and us. At the end of the service as we shared in a local song, one could undeniably feel how connected and proud this small community feels.

And then shabbat dinner! The whole community stayed for the meal—highlights included being treated to homemade challah from a representative from the Swiss Embassy, and a musical drum interlude from Ezekiel’s son. And my dinner experience also included a conversation with a retired, highly decorated general of the Indian army—a remarkable posting for an Indian Jew! Altogether, it was a Shabbat I will not easily forget—just like Ezekiel’s contagious smile.

Sarah Silverman


Coffee with General V.P. Malik, President
Institute of Security Studies of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF)

The Taj Hotel, Delhi
Friday, March 5

I had the opportunity to introduce our group to General V.P. Malik, the President of the Institute of Security Studies at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). After reading his biography I was unsure how he would take to the group or us to him. To my surprise, this meeting was far and away one of the best we had throughout the week. It is also worth noting that on the final day of the trip, Monday March 8th, our group visited the ORF headquarters in New Delhi where we heard from Ambassador M. Rasgotra and other notable leaders at one of India’s premier think tanks.

General Malik provided a comprehensive timeline detailing the development of the Indian-Israeli military relationship. Previously, other individuals we met with tended to dodge this subject.

But General Malik presented himself in a clear manner and answered our questions directly, rendering himself incredibly informative. It was also interesting to hear about his personal experience in Israel and his relationship with AJC. He made it clear that his decisions to engage Israel have not always been welcome but that they are mutually beneficial. Moreover, he explained that the perception of Israel for the common Indian man on the street has changed for the better due to this military partnership.

What a refreshing statement!

Rochelle-Leigh (Shelley) Rosenberg
The Taj Mahal, Agra
Wednesday, March 3

After being delayed for two hours the previous day coupled with a truly indescribable traffic jam, our group was disappointed when we finally arrived at Agra on March 3rd at 6:15 pm. The gates to the Taj Mahal closed at 6!

We resolved to wake up the next morning, (for the second day in a row), at 5 am. We were determined to be part of the first cohort of tourists to view the Taj that day. Our exhaustion and frustration was allayed within one look at the Taj Mahal. Its beauty and splendor is truly staggering.For a typically talkative bunch, we fell silent and listened as our tour guide relayed the story of Emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. The white marble mausoleum is essentially a large tomb that Shan Jahan build to commemorate the life of his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal. Arguably, the most beautiful structure in the world, words simply cannot do justice to the Taj Mahal.Therefore, when trip participants think back to their trip to India, the image is indelibly sketched into our memories.

Rochelle-Leigh (Shelley) Rosenberg


On March 3, 2010, we went to the Taj Mahal. It was truly truly amazing. It is located in Agra and built in the 1600s by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She was his 3rd wife and bore him 14 kids. She became ill after the birth of her last child and died. She requested that he build a memorial for her and thus became the Taj Mahal. It took 22 years to build and thousands of craftsmen worked on the Taj. The emperor's wife is buried in its direct center.
The emperor wanted to build a black Taj Mahal for himself but this didn't happen. Instead, he was imprisoned by his son who became the next emperor and who killed two of his own brothers in order to do so. When the emperor died, he was buried next to his wife in the Taj. His tomb is the only thing in the Taj Mahal that is not symmetrical.
It was a truly magnificent structure, the work intricate, the precision in the details and the enormity of it all were really breath taking. I felt so small standing next to it. It was quite a contrast to the slums that we had just visited where people were living in poverty on the streets, in store fronts and in makeshift structures. Then here we come to the Taj Mahal which represented such wealth, fame and power. It was really incredible. A true wonder!

Jennifer Rosner

Free Night in Mumbai
Monday, March 1

Throughout high school one of my closest friends, Rasika, was Indian but as the years passed we lost touch. When I found out I would be joining the AJC ACEESS trip to India my parents encouraged me to reach out to her. What an excellent idea! We caught up over a three-hour lunch where she not only provided me with practical tips for my visit but also gave me her cousins’, Shrinivas and Ashwinis, contact information. When our group had a free night (our only throughout the entire jam packed ten days) in Mumbai on Monday March 1st, I decided to give them a call!

Ashwini, a 25-year-old teacher and community activist, and Shrinivas a 24-year old analyst at Merryl Lynch, could not have been more accommodating. The pair of siblings came to out hotel to pick Rebecca Solomon and myself up for a night in Mumbai. While this may seem standard, a drive across town in Mumbai can easily take up to 2 hours. The four of us drove to a local Israeli restaurant, called Moshe’s. Of all places they could have chosen it was rather ironic! While Rasika knows that I am Jewish I was unsure if she passed on this information to her cousins. Regardless, Rebecca and I were delighted to eat Hummus and falafel as an alternative to traditional Indian food.

It did not matter that we had just met - our conversation flowed naturally. I was amazed at how similar our lives are. Even more, I had a newfound respect for my Indian friends in America. In a country of approximately 1.3 billion people, to study in the states one must be in the top 1% of their class! After dinner, Shrinivas and Ashwini wanted to take us to a “pub.” Again, their choice to take us to Hard Rock CafĂ© left us laughing. At the end of the night they made sure to bring us back to our hotel. The next day Rebecca and I were bubbling - we had experienced true Indian culture. While Indian culture is by no means monolithic, looking back, the experience remains special. We had the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the daily life of our Indian contemporaries.

Rochelle-Leigh (Shelley) Rosenberg