This article was originally published on ReformJudaism.org on September 8.
Most rabbis spend the summer months preparing for the High Holy days. This summer, my High Holiday preparation included traveling to Lucknow, India, with 16 rabbis representing Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Renewal Jewish communities across America. Together we became the fourth rabbinic delegation of the American Jewish World Service(AJWS) to immerse in a “service learning” approach to increasing global justice. We traveled to the largest democracy in the world, a country that became an independent state in 1947, just one year before Israel. We were also fortunate to be joined on our trip by URJ Faculty member Ruth Messinger, the president of AJWS.
We readied for our trip for six months by studying texts on development, international human rights, and responsible traveling. In chevruta, study pairs, we explored the Indian caste system (which was outlawed in 1950 but, like pernicious American racism, persists), the growing middle class, and gender inequality and discrimination across the spectrum of caste and class. We also reviewed necessary preparations for the trip: securing a visa, visiting medical specialists, packing modest, light clothes. In late July, we gathered in a hotel near Newark airport to finally meet one another. Everyone’s luggage contained work shoes, hats, scarves, sunscreen, DEET insect repellent, and water bottles.