Monday, December 27th, 2010
After arriving at Shalom Hotel we took a drive to the Indian Ocean. Stretching our legs and playing in the ocean was just what we needed! Seeing the countryside during the ride was beautiful.
After many preconceived notions about what Shabbat would be in India we came to find many similarities and some cool new traditions we are excited to bring home. The service was led by the Indian and American community switching off prayers and tunes. After services we moved into a delicious dinner that was ran by some traditions led by the Indian community such as a prayer said before the hamotzi, it’s the prayer that we say in our Shabbat service but they say it as they bless the bread. Although Kiddush was very similar the taste of the wine was special, they have a 2000 year old tradition of making their wine from raisins, making it much sweeter than our wine. Many Indian Jewish families still make this wine in their homes. They squeeze the raisins with their hands…not their feet, that would be disrespectful to the food. We hope to have some event at home trying to replicate this non-manischevitz experience. On Saturday we had many learning break out sessions, from learning Hindi or Parsha to improve. Together we had a Love and Marriage session realizing a lot of similarities and differences. It brought up how teenagers are teenagers no matter where they are and Jews all over have similar pressures from their Jewish parents, some more strict than others.
Ending Shabbat with the Havdalah service was beautiful. Indians and Americans stood arm in arm and sang together ending the night on he rooftop with more conversations that sparked earlier.
Sunday we headed to Alibag where we had lunch and saw the Arabian Sea. Next we visited the gravesite where the seven original Jewish families are buried. They were merchants that were shipwrecked and landed here in Alibag where they started the Jewish community that still exists today. Seeing graves with both Hebrew and Hindi writing was interesting. We spent the evening at a synagogues 100th anniversary. Walking to the ceremony we passed small village homes with mezuzot from past communities. It was so neat to see Jews from Israel, America and all over the world to celebrate this momentous occasion. Malida was given to us, a traditional celebratory dessert, with each food representing a different blessing. Malida is used for many celebrations. We ended up leaving early since the celebration started at 4 and was probably going to continue until midnight, where dinner was to be served after. After eating we headed to Shalom Hotel #2 which is serene and lovely.
Today we are visiting a synagogue where it is thought that any wish you make there comes true. We will be visiting an old age home where we will eat dinner with them after spending some time with them. Old age homes are very rare in India, most elderly live with their families. The Jewish community recognized there were some elders without family and care and decided this was a worthwhile investment.
Sunday, December 26th, 2010
Today we got off to an early start so we could make the 5 hour (ish) trek to Camp in Chiplun. We got to check out some great views along the way as we left the busy city and drove through villages and smaller towns. Whether it was the crazy organized (debatable) chaos of Indian traffic, the random fruit vendors and people, or the large assortment of monkeys, cows, chickens, and dogs on the side of the road, there was never a dull moment when looking out the window! After the 5 (give or take 3 hours) bus ride we pulled up to Camp to be pleasantly surprised that this year Camp is being held at a hotel called Hotel Shalom! We are here for a 4 day semi annual retreat with some of the Jewish youth from India. There are about 50 of us in all and we are already having a great time getting to know each other.
As we got off the bus we felt like celebrities because this small village rarely hosts Western visitors and pictures with us were in high demand…we obviously loved the attention! We went to a museum and park, and returned for dinner, reflection, and a brief trivia game testing our combined knowledge of India, America, and Israel. Aside from our extreme jet lag we are feeling great and excited about the next few days at “Camp”. Tomorrow we head to a beach and into our Shabbat celebration. Got to get to bed so we can tap into all that pent up Maryland energy….goodnight mom and dad! Love, your little Terps
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
After much anticipation and a fourteen hour plane ride, our group has successfully made it to India where we are now spending our first night in a kosher hotel in Mumbai with mezzuzot on every door. Who would have thought?
After arriving in Mumbai, our group did not waste a moment and we headed straight to the JCC in Mumbai to meet Jewish Indian youth in the area. On our way there it was impossible to overlook all of the families cooking on the side of road and people curled up to sleep in any open space that they could find.
At the JCC we were warmly greeted by the international and Indian JDC staff. At first the encounter was a little awkward and felt a little like an eighth grade dance but this time with Americans on one side and Indians on the other. It took a few minutes but pretty soon we all jumped right into introductions and we were pleasantly surprised with how friendly and outgoing they all were. Instead of hearing common Indian names as we had expected to hear, almost all of the Indians we met had Israeli names. In fact a boy named Roni told me that 99 percent of Jewish Indians have Israeli names. A bunch of the Indians also expressed interest in one day making aliyah and joining the Iraeli army.
After dinner and chatting, we shifted the mood slightly by cranking up some bollywood music and learning some bollywood moves. And don’t worry we of course taught them some moves also. I’m pretty sure they all know how to fist pump and do the “stanky leg” now.
Overall, I think we have certainly started out the trip on a positive note and can’t wait to meet up with all of them again!
More pictures from our trip so far are in the slideshow below., and there are many more to come!
December 22, 2010
Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
The group has arrived safely in India!
After a 16 hour flight, the Maryland group has arrived safely in India to a beautiful clear evening!
Everyone survived the plane ride but can’t wait to be in a real bed tonight!
Check out these photos of the group in the Newark and Mumbai airports.
Check back soon to hear more stories as their journey really begins when they meet the Jewish community of Mumbai!
Monday, December 20th, 2010
Our group is currently in line at Air India getting their journey started!
After they check-in, they will be on a VERY long direct flight to Mumbai, India!
Once there, they will hit the ground running learning about the Jewish community and history of Mumbai!
Check back soon for more updates!
Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
Welcome to the official blog for the University of Maryland Hillel and JDC’s Alternative Break Trip to Mumbai, India. We are beyond excited for when we finally depart for India. We have assembled a group, we’ve booked tickets, we’ve begun learning about India and its Jewish communities, and are gearing up for what looks to be an incredible experience.
But who are “we”!? ”We” are Sarah Kraut and Micah Chervin, your Maryland Hillel Alternative Break Fellows. Sarah is a second-year Journalism student from Baltimore, Maryland. Though Sarah is known for talking at incredible speeds, learning Hindi will hopefully slow her down. She loves cooking and hopes to attend culinary arts school. Micah comes from Atlanta, Georgia. When he isn’t studying Philosophy and Jewish Studies at UMD, he spends his time playing banjo and enjoying the outdoors.
The group traveling to India consists of 20 University of Maryland students, as well as Marissa Neuman and Gila Ward, our Hillel and JDC leaders, respectively. We come from an array of home-towns and Jewish backgrounds, and range from first to fourth-year university students. As we pass blogging duties to other participants, we look forward to letting you, all of you, know more about who WE are. We hope those of you in India share some of yourselves with us too!
Let us introduce you to the Travel Blog. This will be our online journal where we will post stories, thoughts, and hopefully plenty of pictures. All members of our fantastic group will contribute in some way to the blog. We hope that this serves as a resource to the people we meet in Mumbai (can’t wait!), parents at home, and all others interested in what looks to be a deep and meaningful cross-cultural experience.
With that, we’ll sign off. Check back for updates.
Sarah and Micah