Talking Turkey, Thanksgiving and India
What do India and Thanksgiving have in common?
They share the word, "Hodu," which is both the word we use to give thanks to God as well as the Hebrew name for India!
That double meaning was clear on our extraordinary November 2019 tour. Our group spanned the spectrum from nonreligious to Orthodox, ages 50-83, yet we bonded as a family and created delightful and poignant memories together. We sang our hearts out in the synagogues we visited. Hodu LÁdonai Ki Tov: Let us give thanks to God, for God is good. In Hebrew and Hindi we sang Kol Ha-Olam Kulo, Gesher Tzar Meód: The whole world is a narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid at all. At the Maghen David Synagogue in Calcutta, we marveled at the 18 arches, each decorated with a biblical verse encouraging us to thank God, praise God, and sing to God.
Everywhere, we interacted with India's friendly, open and lively people, who wanted to take selfies with us as much as we wanted to photograph them. And we expressed our own gratitude for India's welcoming society in which Jews were not afraid. India accepted Jews who took refuge from all over the world throughout the centuries: those escaping Hellenist persecution at the time of the Maccabees, fleeing the Inquisition and upheaval in Baghdad. Even Holocaust refugees found sanctuary in India.
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As a vegetarian, I don't usually share the third meaning for the word hodu: it's also the Hebrew word for turkey. But on this Thanksgiving, I can't resist: Let us give you the T0UR-KEY to Jewish India!
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Rahel Musleah was born in Calcutta, India, the seventh generation of a Calcutta Jewish family that traces its roots to 17th-century Baghdad.