I like to categorise most of the features I write under the ‘arts and lifestyle’ umbrella. Sometimes, however, an event comes along that I really don’t know how to categorise. Last month’s 30 year celebration of Indian-Jewish co-operation and friendship was one such event. Held by the Indian-Jewish Association UK it was a reception to mark the unity between the two communities in Britain (quite a novel concept to me). It wasn’t odd for two communities to be united, but I’d typically expect some sort of political history to have contributed towards this. Before my arrival I kept scanning the Internet for land-mark historical events that might have brought these two communities together - but I soon realised that you don’t need war or atrocity to find commonality between groups. You don’t, for that matter need a common enemy - simply a willingness to forge a partnership.
Held at Adelaide House, the event was hosted in partnership with Berwin Leighton Paisner - who had dedicated a special presentation suite for The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government as guest speaker. As a result, my mind rushed back and forth with various questions: how corporate or celebratory would the event be, what would I have to wear, who would be there and what would be discussed?
On arrival, I was confronted with what looked like a largely corporate group of men, most of them of a certain age, and most of them seemingly part of the finance, law or corporate services. Naturally the venue anchored the nature of the crowd a little. Though on closer inspection - I did see that this group was a little more mixed than expected. Still, it is perhaps no bad thing that the Indians were keen to show their enthusiasm. I met an array of people in business, some more elderly than others - and yes - even some young people had turned up. There were of course many women there too, though perhaps eclipsed by the amount of men. It was only when you began to speak to people that you realised they all had their very different reasons for being there. I asked people why they were involved and got answers ranging from their core beliefs in commonality - to wanting to simply attend a ‘bash’ or most common of all: to extend their professional networks.
Soon after, we were led into the presentation suite for a speech by Rt Hon Eric Pickles - who was introduced by various organisers from the Association. Amongst the organisation itself - there appeared to be a group of connected people - who presumably all knew each other through committee - though the audience was generally unknown to one another. I was worried that this would result in clique like circles of financiers - though the wine soon helped us break through those barriers. Of course, I also wanted to be less stereo-typical about the whole thing.
So what did they say? The Association alongside Rt Hon Eric Pickles presented a combined message. After a minute silence for the lives lost in the Japanese Earthquakes - they began. We learnt that the Association had been running for some time, and worked more as a support centre for both Indian and Jewish communities across many areas of life; namely mentoring and community support with business. They recognised the similarities between the two cultures and declared that we didn’t need a united chequered history to celebrate friendship. Any commonality, typically positive, should in essence be celebrated.
In detail, this touched on the idea - that as communities we are both very family orientated - it is at the heart of the way we structure our lives. We care equally about our young as we do about our elderly. In fact - it was the elderly who gave the loudest applause when our MP speaker made positive assertions about how we can use our communal qualities to move forwards. The Secretary of State also touched on the notion of ‘The Big Society’ and that we didn’t necessarily need the Prime Minister telling us how to orchestrate this - because we had, as communities (culturally and socially), already been practising this notion for some time. A joke was made here about the age of our respective religions - how by their age - we were naturally both experienced in the charitable and ethical parts of life as of course we’d been practising the Big Society ideal for centuries.
Moving forwards we looked at ways in which the our communal commonalities would continue to grow and help one another. Business seemed to be a hot topic. Naturally an allegiance of cultures would help trade and help smooth out the physical transition of communication between South Asia and the Middle East. But even in Britain alone, if we can both present a united front to the world - we can share the idea that we are in actual fact, all as talented, cultural and spiritually tolerant as one another. This led to the idea that wherever there is faith, culture and religion - there is also fundamentalism - and of course - we could collectively work together to remove this fundamentalist voice from our communities.
The party soon continued with more drinking, eating and networking afterwards. Things had become light-hearted again. This time, I found some young Jewish people, who worked in networking to share ideas with. I’d soon introduce them to their Indian counter-parts. Perhaps - we might have a new Indo-Jewish Professional social network? I then went onto mingle with random strangers - and this time our commonality came through in our shared understanding of liqueurs, wines and whiskies. Any excuse to celebrate commonality should be explored - particularly if it helps smooth out the political and tensions in the world (changing the world, one party at a time).