Non-violence, the importance of relationship-building, and religious harmony, were key themes of the Federation of Jain Associations in North America’s (JAINA) Legislative Conference held from October 6-7 in Washington, D.C. The themes of the two-day conference were Peace, Harmony and Non-Violence. The conference was supported by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI). JAINA is an umbrella organization that represents over 150,000 Jains and 70 Jain organizations throughout North America.
The conference events were spread over two days, with sessions on Capitol Hill, at the AJC’s Washington, D.C. office, and at the Washington D.C. Jain Center. Attendees included nearly 70 JAINA executives, members from North America, and India. The conference was coordinated by Dr. Sushil Jain, First Vice President of JAINA; Dino Teppara, Director of Legislative Affairs for AAPI; and Nissim B. Reuben, Program Director for Indian-Jewish American relations at the AJC. Dr. Jain is a retired U.S. Naval officer and Teppara served as a staff member to U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-02) for seven years, including two years as his Chief of Staff and Counsel.
On October 6, theAJC welcomed JAINA executive members, who met with Mr. Michael Owen from the State Department, whose portfolio covers India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan. Adrienne C. Bory, India Desk Officer with the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, discussed the facilitation of visitors’ visas to Jain monks, nuns, and artisans and the extension of the R visa. In the evening at the Washington Jain Center, Director Gerald Krell presented clips of his documentary, Three Faiths, One God, and provided a preview of his upcoming documentary on Asian religions. Yogendra Jain, Northeast Regional Vice President for JAINA, and author of The Jain Way of Life, shared the importance of a simple yet effective way to introduce Jainism in 30 seconds.
On October 7, JAINA commenced its Capitol Hill legislative conference with an opening prayer and speech by the Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives Reverend Daniel P. Coughlin, who spoke fondly of his visit to India many years ago. A Jain prayer was offered by Dr. Manoj Dharamsi, Past President of JAINA; a Jewish prayer was offered by Mr. Reuben; and welcoming remarks were given by Ms. Lata Champsee, current JAINA President, who traveled from Toronto, Canada for the conference. Other JAINA Executive Committee members who attended this historical event included Udai Jain from Houston, Dr. Manish Mehta from Detroit.
U.S. Congressman John Lewis (GA-05), made welcoming remarks including a moving speech about his early involvement in the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Congressman Lewis, who attended the March on Washington when Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, stated that in many ways, the march felt like Gandhi’s March to the Sea, having the audacity to passively resist hostile opposition to persevere toward a goal. He also spoke of his visit to India earlier this year and noted that without Mahatma Gandhi, there would not have been a Dr. King or President Obama. After his visit, Congressman Lewis introduced and ensured passage of a congressional resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s historic visit to India with his wife Coretta Scott King and the positive influence the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi had on Dr. King. He also introduced an important bill, which would authorize the Gandhi-King Scholarly Exchange Initiative, allowing Indian and American exchange students to focus on peace and nonviolence in global conflict resolution.
Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society, focused on the human mistreatment of animals and the necessity for increased regulation of farming and domestication practices, during his presentation entitled “Non-Violence Advocacy.” He noted that society was becoming increasingly attentive to the mistreatment and misuse of animals for food and research purposes, but emphasized the need for further action.
Mr. Prem Jain, JAINA Director and a Senior Vice President for Cisco, accepted an award for business leadership on behalf of the Jain International Trade Organization (JITO), presented by U.S. Congressman Ed Royce (CA-40), current co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. Congressman Royce spoke of his visits to India and of his growing concerns of Middle East petro-dollars financing Islamist activities against India.
A focal point of the afternoon was a discussion in support of a congressional resolution commemorating Diwali introduced by U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott (WA-07), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans. Congressman McDermott spoke about his close affinity to India, having visited the country 22 times, along with the increasing importance of U.S.-India relations given the global economic impact of India as well as the volatility of the South Asian region. Other speakers included Ann Schaeffer, Director of the Belfer Center for American Pluralism at the AJC; Richard Foltin, Director for National & Legislative Affairs at the AJC; Paul Monteiro, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement; and Jasmeet Ahuja, Professional Staff Member and Policy Advisor on South Asia to House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman.
Three prominent government affairs representatives provided recommendations to JAINA members on how to successfully lobby Congress to respond to the needs and goals of the community. The four panelists included Mr. Hilary Shelton, Director of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP and Executive Vice President for Advocacy; Priya Dayananda, Director of Federal Government Affairs for KPMG and one the top 25 corporate lobbyists on Capitol Hill as named by the Hill newspaper, which exclusively covers the U.S. Congress; Paul Patel, Washington District Director for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA); and Ishani Chowdhury, Director of Public Policy for the Hindu American Foundation. The panelists spoke of their work on behalf of their respective organizations and provided key advice to JAINA members on the inner workings of Congress and the lobbying world. Dr. Dipak Jain, the former Dean of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, discussed the branding of JAINA’s identity and the importance of networking with various social, religious, and political groups.
Following the conclusion of the conference, attendees met with Members of Congress and their foreign affairs staff members including: US. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), and U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
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****** The following was the agenda *******
JAINA Goes to Washington DC
Jains making US history and networking with government officials
Conference: Celebrating Non-Violence Location: Capitol Hill in Washington D.C.
Agenda for Tuesday 6th Oct 2009
American Jewish Committee – Mr. Nissim Reben (202-785-5484)
1156 15th Street, NW; Washington, DC 20005
1:00 p.m. - Meeting at AJC center - welcome coffee and snacks meeting & greetings
1:45 p.m. Proceed to meeting with Commerce Dept - Undersecretary of Minority Affairs (by Taxi
2:30 p.m. – State Dept – Mr. Michael Owen – India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan Dept
4:00 pm - return home
5:00pm - Depart for Jain Center
Jain Center Metro Washington
1021 Briggs Chaney Rd; Silver Springs, MD
6:00 pm - arrive Jain Center welcome meet & Greet
6:30 pm Dinner
7:15 pm Aarti & Mangal Divo (Short Prayer)
7:30 pm Starting Prayer by Pramodaben Chitrabhanu
7:30 p.m.Welcome remarks by Ashok Shah - Pres - JSMW
7:35 pm Welcome remarks by Lata Champsee - Pres - JAINA
7:40 p.m. Remarks and logistics announcement Manoj Dharamsi - Chairman, Public Affairs Council
7:50 p.m. Presentation by Mr. Gerrald Krell - Documentry on Eastern Religion ( Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism) Q & A
8:15 p.m. Ann Schaeffer & Nissim Reubin - AJC - Importance of Getting involved
8:30 p.m. Sandip "Dino" Tappara - Legislative procedures and protocol, Q & A
10:00 p.m. depart Jain Center
Wed 7th Oct 2009 - Conference Agenda
B-340 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
8:00 a.m. – Check-in & Registration
8:45 a.m. – Guest Chaplain Caughlin - Chaplin of U.S. Congress, Jain Prayer & Jewish Prayer
9:00 a.m. – Welcoming remarks by U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), sponsor of congressional resolution H. Res. 134, which recognizes the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to India and the positive influence the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi had on Dr. King during the Civil Rights Movement
9:15 a.m. – Welcoming remarks by U.S. Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans
9:30 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. – “Non-Violence advocacy” by Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States
10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. - Break
10:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. – Presentation by Hilary O. Shelton, Executive Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Panel discussion: “How to advocate on issues important to your community,” featuring Ishani Chowdhury, Director of Public Policy for the Hindu American Foundation; Priya Dayananda, Director of Federal Government Affairs for KPMG; Paul Patel, Washington District Director for the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA); Nick Rathod, Assistant Director at The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
12:00 p.m. – Congressman Frank Pallone
12:10 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. – Working lunch with Richard Foltin, Chairman AJC and Ann Schaeffer
“ Jewish Organizations success and Challenges – The inside look”
1:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. – Paul Montero – White House Community Outreach Programs
1:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. – Daniell Borin – Jewish Laison to White House
2:00 p.m. – Group photo at Capitol steps
2:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Call on your legislatures
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. – Congressional Reception and Award ceremony - Hosted by AJC, AAPI, and NAACP.
Dr. Sushil Jain, JAINA Public Affairs Council JAINA – First VP