The year 2020 is resonant for all those who envision a world where blindness of all kinds, both physical and spiritual—can be eliminated. I’d like to introduce you my cousin Miriam Hyman, whose legacy is one of healing.
I remember the day in July 2005 when I heard the news of the London bombings. I was at the North American Jewish Choral Festival, singing my heart out. I immediately sent emails to my relatives in London, where many Indian Jews had settled. Most were safe. But my cousin Miriam’s whereabouts were unknown.
A few days later, we knew. Miriam, age 32, had been killed in one of the four attacks on the London transport system that took the lives of 52 people. Like 9/11, that tragic day is known in numerical shorthand as 7/7.
Miriam was an extraordinary, kind human being with a great respect for human life. She had traveled alone to the US at the age of 8 for my sister Aliza’s wedding and left an indelible impression on us. She was a talented artist who created luminous paintings and hoped to start her own handmade greeting card business.
The events of 7/7 (July 7) were hugely painful for Miriam’s family--her parents, Mavis and John Hyman--and her sister Esther. But out of their sorrow they resolved to respond positively. There could be no better way of remembering Miriam, they thought, than to bring alive her vision, extending the gift of sight to the blind. In India, where Miriam’s maternal family is from, there are 8 million blind people, a million under age 16. But 50 percent of childhood blindness is preventable and treatable. The family found the perfect match for their dream: the L. V. Prasad Eye Institute, Bhubaneswar, Odisha (household and synagogue help in Calcutta came largely from Odisha).
That’s how the Miriam Hyman Memorial Trust (MMHT) was born. Today, the Miriam Hyman Children’s Eye Care Centre provides comprehensive cutting-edge eye-care services, impacting prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, irrespective of ability to pay. It is a place of hope, healing and rehabilitation. The Times of India ranked the Eye Institute the best eye hospital in the country for the third successive year. Miriam’s memorial is appropriately located there. www.miriam-hyman.com
Miriam’s legacy continues through “Miriam’s Vision – Working towards Non-Violence,” an educational resource for secondary schools in the UK. Its goal is to eliminate mistrust between people based on differences in race and religion and to foster an inclusive, nonviolent society. Work is in progress to develop the program for primary schools. The lesson plans are available free to download for teachers of 11- to 14-year-olds. Each module includes Miriam's story.www.miriamsvision.org
This year, especially, we need more avenues to vision and healing.
We are offering a NamaStay at Home event which will benefit the Miriam Hyman Memorial Trust, featuring Miriam's mother, Mavis, author of Indian-Jewish Cooking and Jews of the Raj.
Join us for Indian-Jewish Cooking, Sunday, Nov. 8 at noon EST. Mavis will share cooking demonstrations and food memories that will recreate a rich culinary tradition and way of life.
Lesley Stahl is one of my heroes. With her spunk, persistence and tough style of questioning, she has reached the top of broadcast journalism, earning 13 Emmys along the way. Now she herself has made the news for the interview that Trump cut short.
Stahl, 79, has been with 60 Minutes for almost 30 years, covering stories from Guantanamo Bay and Google to gospel for teens, earning 13 Emmys in the process, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. She helped break the Watergate story and spent 10 years as chief White House correspondent during the Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and part of the George H.W. Bush years, which she chronicled in her 1999 book, Reporting Live. Stahl has also moderated Face the Nation, hosted 48 Hours Investigates, cohosted America Tonight with Charles Kuralt and anchored several CBS documentaries. In 2015, she won broadcast journalism’s highest honor, the Radio Television Digital News Association’s Paul White Award for lifetime achievement.
In 2016 I interviewed Stahl in her office at 60 Minutes for a Hadassah magazine profile. She told me that the early days for women in broadcast journalism were not easy. “I had to maintain my looks and overcome my looks at the same time,” she said. “A certain, shall we say, rambunctiousness was becoming my trademark. So was my persistence,” she writes in Reporting Live. “If I wanted to be treated as one of the boys…I had to learn to ram and butt and poke and shove my way up to the front.”
Stahl has not changed her commitment to remaining as fair and balanced as possible—even when she has an opinion. (Among her concerns are climate change and the staggering cost of medication.) She weathered Trump's insults and remained as unruffled and focused as she was when she raced to a Tel Aviv café minutes after it was leveled by a suicide bomber. Still, she says, “I never think of myself as courageous, ever, ever, ever! Being in the moment in the pursuit of a story, that’s where my attention is.”
Despite all her journalistic achievements, during the 2016 interview for Hadassah Stahl was most passionate about being a grandma. She had just written a book, Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting (Blue Rider). “Throughout my career, I worked at suppressing both my opinions and my emotions,” she writes in the book. “I thought I had become the epitome of self-control. Then, wham! My first grandchild was born…. I was jolted, blindsided by a wallop of loving more intense than anything I could remember or had ever imagined.”
She urges grandparents to pass on their zikna--a biblical term for wisdom acquired with age—to the next generation. “Our grandchildren need us…. My wisdom is, find a way to help them, not just for them, but for you, too.”
Read the full story here.
Top(L-R): Knesset Eliyahu, Bombay; Paradesi Synagogue, Cochin; Synagogue in Chendamangalam. Bottom (L-R): Magen David, Bombay; Torah in Maghen David Synagogue, Calcutta; Hechal, Maghen David, Calcutta
INDIA is famous for its stunning architecture and spectacular monuments. Its synagogues are also wondrous, awe-inspiring spaces that reflect the history and culture of each of India's Jewish communities. They are the highlight of our Jewish heritage tours.
Enter any of the synagogues and you will be blown away by the sacredness of the space that is filled with old souls and resonates with whispers of prayer. Even when the sanctuary is completely empty, it is alive with emotion and spiritual intimacy.
There are 33 synagogue building throughout India; not all are still in use. Some synagogues, most notably in Bombay, still support vibrant minyanim, while others are monuments to communities that have dwindled or completely relocated.
Don't miss our virtual tour of these remarkable buildings as diverse as the communities that built them.
The Synagogues of India: November 15, 2020 at noon EST.