On November 17, Texans for Israel (TFI), the Israel organization under Texas Hillel, the Indian Culture Association and the Hindu Students Association organized the 2nd annual Hanukkah Diwali Dinner at Texas Hillel. The event is a great opportunity for the different cultures to come together to learn about Israel, India, each other and celebrate each religion’s Festival of Lights. During the dinner, students enjoyed traditional foods from each culture, shared stories and played dreidel games. Students also heard from Raz Tidhar, an Indian Israeli Jewish Agency for Israel fellow at Hillel Montreal, who spoke about her experiences and journey. Like last year, the Hanukkah Diwali Dinner was a great success with 250 students attending.
For two months, the Hanukkah Diwali Committee, comprised of representatives from each group, met weekly for dialogues about Israel, India and their respective faiths, customs and cultures. During the weekly meetings, students learned about the similarities in the different religions, such as dietary laws and specific foods for holidays, and realized how much they share in common. As Rachel Sasiene says in A Festival of Two Faith, a student-made documentary about the Hanukkah Diwali Dinner, “It’s always great to bring two cultures together that maybe don’t have a lot in common at the surface, but once you dig underneath, we both celebrate the festival of lights and so much more.”
Recognizing the importance of bringing cultures together, TFI and Texas Hillel’s Outreach Committee hold events throughout the year that bring different campus organizations together to build relationships. For TFI, hosting the Hanukkah Diwali Dinner is a natural fit. TFI’s goal is to build partnerships with other organizations on campus, educate the UT community about Israel and build a pro-Israel community on campus. This education and outreach was very evident at the Hanukkah Diwali Dinner, where students ate traditional Jewish and Hindu foods, wore saris, played dreidel games and easily mingled with one another.
Amanda Booth, a Junior from Sugar Land, Texas and a Journalism and Radio-Television-Film major, together with fellow students Sung Jai Lee and Jack Keyes, made A Festival of Two Faiths for a documentary class. As Amanda Booth wrote about the documentary, “We saw it as an opportunity to explore themes like faith and coexistence that many people are familiar with in the context of an event most have never heard of.” We look forward to more cross-cultural events and next year’s Hanukkah Diwali Dinner at Texas Hillel. To watch A Festival of Two Faiths, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNnKVdOAGQE.