With only 4,500 Jews left in India—living among the nation’s much larger population of 1 billion Hindus and Muslims—the youth often complain about the lack of eligible marriage partners. In an effort to continue a Jewish community that was founded more than two millennia ago when a ship carrying seven Jewish families from Judea sank off the shore of India just south of Mumbai, many turn to hired matchmakers or well-connected members of the community to find them a suitable partner for an arranged marriage. But in the case of Lovena, 26, and Nissim, 29, JDC youth programming at the Evelyn Peters Jewish Community Center in Mumbai not only enabled their meeting and friendship, but also their marriage.
“I met Nissim through the youth group at JDC, the Jewish Youth Pioneers,” Lovena explains. “Over the past 10 years, we attended several leadership programs and camps together, where we realized that we really think alike and have common goals in life.”
Since 1964, JDC has been working with India’s Jewish community to strengthen its religious identity and ensure the well-being of its members. In caring for the neediest, JDC provides critical care for indigent Jewish elderly through the Bayiti Home for the Aged in Thane, stipends to offset the costs of basic needs and Jewish holiday materials for the community’s most vulnerable families, and monthly medical camps in the Konkan villages for JDC welfare clients who would otherwise be without adequate health care.
At the same time, JDC-supported efforts abound to engage especially the youngest generation in local Jewish life, including a Youth Leadership Training Program and scholarships to attend the Ronald S. Lauder/JDC International Summer Camp at Szarvas, Hungary. The Jewish Youth Pioneers (JYP) program is a flagship program among the many activities that provide a social and educational outlet for Mumbai’s youth ages 13-30, affording them treasured opportunities to interact with large groups of Jewish peers. More than a handful of Indian couples—including Johnny and Edna, who wed just the week before Lovena and Nissim—owe their meeting to JYP events.
Lovena gratefully acknowledges the role JDC has played as the “matchmaker” in her life. “JDC has been a place where Indian Jews could socialize and learn more about our religion and has helped me find my soul mate. If we continue having such community centers, it will be great for our future.”
Now the newlyweds, who will celebrate their first anniversary in March, welcome their own future as a Jewish family with the birth of their son, Aviv, just one week before Valentine’s Day.