For the first time ever, JAINA teamed up with members of both the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and Claremont Lincoln University (CLU) this past Tuesday to discuss how the values of non-violence may be expressed with their organization members, their larger communities, and policy-makers.
The all-day event was planned to take place on Capitol Hill, but the government shut down that morning. Instead, the event was held in the offices of the AJC through the generosity of its leaders.
The day turned out to be a very meaningful despite the hurdle, however. Close to 100 people attended.
Furthermore, fears that the main part of the event, eight meetings with lawmakers and Congressmen, would not happen turned out to be unfounded. JAINA representatives were able to meet with more than four people associated with Congress to discuss Jainism and the Jain way of life.
This was the third Legislative Day organized through the collaborative efforts of AJC and JAINA and the first ever collaboration of JAINA and AJC with CLU.
The event was successfully organized locally by Dr. Sushil Jain, Nissim Reuben, Julie Fishman and Dr. Manoj Dharamashi in coordination with Prem Jain, President of JAINA from San Francisco, and Dr. Nitin Shah, Senior Advisor of Center for Jain Studies (CJS) at CLU from Los Angeles, and many others.
The event started at 11:00 am in the conference room of the AJC. The first briefings were by Forest Yang and Uzma Bashir from the US State Department. They answered many questions about the visa situation for Indian citizens, especially those requiring visas for religious reasons and Jain scholars visiting USA.
Twelve members of the group then volunteered to go with AJC’s Julie Fishman to visit with five Congressional representatives. Representatives from JAINA were from various states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C.
These visits were very successful. They spoke with legislative assistants for four representatives, but they were very fortunate to get an audience with New York Congresswoman Grace Meng. The group was in time to celebrate the Congresswoman’s birthday with her and her staff. Meng mentioned that she has visited the oldest Jain temple in Queens, NY, several times, and she immediately connected with those present from NY in the delegation.
The JAINA representatives also met with Katie Moore, Legislative Fellow for Congressman Steve Chabot from Ohio, Jessica Schwartz, Legislative Director of Congressman Steve Israel from New York, and Congresswoman Judy Chu, who represents the Claremont city of California, where CLU and the Claremont School of Theology are located. They also met with Mariana Maguire, Judy Chu’s Legislative Assistant, and Mira Kogen Resnick, senior policy advisor for California Congressman Henry A. Waxman.
JAINA President Prem Jain started the presentation to Congressional representatives with the history of JAINA. Prem Jain also spoke on the activities of the Ahimsa Center at CalPoly in Pomona, California. The Ahimsa Center has been teaching school teachers how to teach students in a nonviolent way. Dr. Salgia and Dr. Shah discussed the activities of the ISSJS (International Summer School of Jain Studies), which has trained students and teachers from the US in India on the Jain way of life for the last eight years.
Claremont School of Theology President Dr. Jeffrey Kuan and Dr. Shah presented the work done at CLU, the first interreligious university program established in the US. Many people in the JAINA group articulated services provided in their respective communities. Community members from Ohio, New York and California further discussed what has been done with the legal assistants representing their states.
The JAINA delegation appealed to all members of Congress for collaborative efforts to help the underserved population in their respective areas. Dr. Shah specifically offered to organize free community health fairs for the constituents of Congress member Judy Chu and Henry Waxman in California.
After a photo shoot in Lafayette Square with all present at the event, an Awards Ceremony was held in the AJC offices. Political Minister Pranay Verma from the Indian Embassy gave a speech before the ceremony. The Inaugural CLU International Ahimsa Award was then awarded to a very distinguished couple: Gurudev Chitrabhanuji and his widw Pramodaben Chitrabhanu.
Dr. Shah gave the history of Jain Education and CLU’s interreligious programs. He also touched on the creation of CLU International Ahimsa Award. He then introduced President of CST Dr. Jeffrey Kuan who addressed the delegates and spoke on 130 years history of the associations between Christian-Catholic School at CLU, BAYAN, an Islamic organization, and the Jewish organization AJR, for the purpose of studying all Abrahamic and Eastern religions together under one roof. Dr. Kuan presented another plaque to them on behalf of CST, BAYAN and AJR.
David Lincoln, who donated $50M and created CLU also spoke on the lives of the Ahimsa Award winners. Dilip Shah, Past President of JAINA and senior advisor of CJS at CLU introduced him.
Chairman of Ahimsa Visva Bharti, Shree Lokesh Muni addressed the delegates immediately following JAINA’s awards. Dr. Jain, JAINA's immediate Past President, spoke about Mr. Bharat Desai, CEO of Syntel and presented him with JAINA's distinguished service award. He could not be present, so Prem Jain accepted award on his behalf. Jain, the current JAINA President, spoke about exemplary services of Mr. Udai and Mrs. Sushila Jain of Houston to Jain community and others and presented them with an award.
The day ended with JAINA’s recognition and gratitude for the work of David Lincoln, the Associate Director of AJC Nissan Reuben, and Fishman of AJC for their efforts to make this event a reality.