Students Host 3rd Annual Hanukkah Diwali Dinner at Texas Hillel
Texans For Israel, Hindu Student Association, and Indian Cultural Association hosted the annual Hanukkah Diwali, a student-favorite celebration of both the Diwali and Hanukkah festivals of lights and the strong relationship between the Indian and the Jewish community. The event fosters a welcoming, festive environment so the different cultures can come together to learn about each other, Israel, India, and the different religions. As event founder Tamar Solomon, a senior from New York majoring in Architectural Engineering, says, “Israel and India have an underrated allyship. I wanted to bring attention to it and show that Hindus and Jews have a lot of commonalities. We can learn more about our cultures when we come together.”
The evening began with students visiting different cultural booths to experience various Indian and Israeli traditions and customs. The booths included beeswax candle making, henna tattoos and dreidel games. Rachel Mitchell, a sophomore from Dallas, TX majoring in International Relations and Plan II, said of running the dreidel booth, “I was able to explain Jewish customs and traditions and learn more about Hindu and Indian customs in a fun and interactive way. In the beginning, mostly Jewish students came to the booth. After a while, more non-Jews and Hindus came and wanted to learn more.” After the cultural booths, the students moved to the dining hall where 2 buffets of student-cooked traditional Israeli and Indian foods had been arranged. The dinner included curry latkes, rice and curry, Israeli salad and mango lassis (a type of smoothie). As Graeme Campbell, a senior from Houston majoring in Jewish Studies and History, said of the food, “In the preceding week, Indians and Jews purchased and cooked all of the food and prepared the decorations together. Then everyone came together afterwards to clean up and wash dishes. It was a real team effort.”
After dinner, the only current professional Indian Jewish comic, Samson Koletkar, performed. Using the stage name Mahatma Moses, he joked and told stories of his Indian and Jewish upbringing and his experience as a 1st generation immigrant. The students laughed through the entirety of the set and found Mahatma Moses’ standup relatable and relevant. The evening wrapped up with students enjoying festive sparklers and donuts with dipping sauces on the patio.
Rachel Sasiene, a Houston native and senior majoring in History and Jewish Studies, who organized Hanukkah Diwali with event-founder Tamar Solomon, said the “night was wonderful. We had about 180 students in attendance who ate student-cooked food - latkes, curry, rice and donuts. Our goal is to bridge communities through a cross cultural event so that students from different walks of life have a space to interact. We are so happy about this year's turn out and our wonderful volunteers and planning because for the first time have left over food. Activities were set out on the patio so that students could make their own candles, learn how to play dreidel, and played a trivia game on Hanukkah and Diwali as well as India and Israel.” Students from both communities walked away with new friends, new insights of a different culture and the recognition of the importance of bringing cultures together to build relationships.