Rabbi Ari Greenspan and Professor Ari Zivotovsky have been to India, exploring the communities of Jews and potential converts to Judaism who have made their home on the subcontinent for centuries, even millennia. Now Ari and Ari will take an Orthodox Union leadership mission to India from Israel, from February 3-16, 2016.
The Orthodox Union Israel Center is based at the Seymour J. Abrams Jerusalem World Center, located in Central Jerusalem.
Ari and Ari have been taking what they term these “halachic adventures” around the world for years. An halachic adventure includes not only halacha (Jewish law), but science, history and archeology; meanwhile Ari and Ari are seeking out species to determine their kosher status, calling on the expertise of OU Kosher for the decision. They visit Jewish communities wherever they go. The leadership mission, targeted to 40 hardy souls, will enable Ari and Ari to bring the halachic adventure to life for all those participating. “This is not your usual tour of India,” they say. “The trip is not for someone who is looking to sit under a palm tree. We are going to be on the move,” they said. “The focus will be on the adventure – the halachic adventure.”
“If you like Jewish history, interesting and exotic locales, high level scholarship and interesting lectures, this is the trip for you.” said Dr. Greenspan. “We will sing, daven, and spend Shabbat with these communities, some of which have never had a group of Jewish visitors. This may be the last opportunity to experience these communities before they disappear forever.”A Dynamic Duo: Professor Ari Zivotovksy, left,
with Rabbi Ari Greenspan will lead the upcoming tour.
Rivka Segal, program director of the OU Israel Center declared, “We are always looking for new ideas for Torah education. A few times a year, Ari and Ari do a program at the Israel Center about their next expedition. They said, “We want to go to India. That’s how it happened. This is the first time that a group like this is going with them.
“The communities in India we will visit are so excited for us to come, even more excited than we are to visit them,” she said. “This is a tremendous opportunity to connect to Jews who desire deeper ties with their people. It is our responsibility to help them grow. If you are an adventurer, this trip was made for you!”
Mrs. Segal elaborated on the trip. “We are going on a leadership mission to see what was Jewish India by going to villages and even the jungle, to explore the old synagogues most of which haven’t been used for many years, but are still designated as a synagogue. We will be visiting with some of the few remaining Jews in India. At the same time, we will be traveling to the community of Bnei Menashe, perhaps descendants of the Ten Tribes of Israel, who are returning to the tradition of their ancestors, the tribe of Menashe. We will also visit a community of 1,500 Christians in Erode who are in the process of converting to Judaism. Currently, they have transformed their Zionist Church community to Torah-observing congregants. So we will be exploring the past, present and future of Jews and Judaism in India.”
Participants will cook authentic Indian cuisine with the locals; ride elephants, visit the exotic spice gardens of the East, and enjoy backwater boating in the marshes of Cochin.Exterior of the Magen David Synagogue in Mumbai.
On Shabbat, February 6, mincha and seudat shlishit will take place at the Chabad House in Mumbai where the terrorist slaughter of our people occurred. The travelers will talk about the attack and its implications on personal security and anti-Semitism in the region.
The tour operator will be Ralphy Jirad, from Mumbai. According to Rivka Segal, “He’s dedicated his life to preserving the history of the Jewish people of India. He sees this as his mission; to remind people of what was. He has the keys to every shul, whether it’s used or not; he knows every mashgiach who has ever worked in India.”
She further explained, “Ralphy is arranging kosher food. Whenever possible we plan to be eating some of the native Indian food; we will be working with OU Rabbinic Field Representatives, including Rabbi Yossi Turnower, head of OU Kashrut in Israel, who has been to India many times.”
The benefits of the mission work both ways, Mrs. Segal explains. “We are truly going on an historic halachic adventure that will not only be extremely memorable to all of us but will be a first-time opportunity for these communities to see a group of Jewish people they can relate to. It will be life-changing for them, and hopefully for us as well.
“We encourage people who are leaders and interested in a more profound and broad understanding of world Jewry to join us on this mission and to register very soon!”
As Ari Greenspan said, “This will be a one of a kind experience, sometimes entertaining, other times heartwarming, always fascinating, educational and inspiring. It requires an inquisitive mind, willingness to be challenged, to forget the clock and routine and the understanding that the road less traveled offers difficulties but opportunities to see and encounter the unusual and the unexpected.”
Information on the mission can be found at ouisrael.org/india; by calling 718-506-9410; or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is $5,799 per person, including flights to and from Tel Aviv as well as within India.