Metro Detroit Jews, Hindus celebrate ‘Common Ground’

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

At first glance, observers might not think a pair of Jewish and Hindu holidays have anything in common.

But similar themes exist: Hanukkah, which starts Dec. 12, and Diwali both are known as a Festival of Light and typically fall late in the year.

For Hanukkah, Metro Detroit Jews traditionally light a menorah, or candelabrum, each night.

The overlap provides the background for a unique event this week.

On Thursday, Jews and Hindus from across the region are set to gather at the Bharatiya Temple in Troy for “Finding Common Ground through the Festivals of Light: A Hanukkah & Diwali Celebration.”

Participants are eager to mark the occasion as a chance to connect the two faiths while spotlighting the distinct traditions in each.

“When we have the chance to get to know people who are different from us face to face, that’s when we really have the opportunities to see we have so much alike,” said Rabbi Aura Ahuvia of Congregation Shir Tikvah in Troy. “This is an opportunity to break down barriers of ignorance and discover friendship. That’s a true blessing.”

The service is the natural outgrowth of ties some Hindus had already formed with Jews in the area in recent years.

Alicia Chandler, board president of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC, and Padma Kuppa, who is active with the Hindu American Foundation and Bharatiya Temple, had long been friends, and together celebrated a mini Hanukkah/Diwali function at a home several years ago.

An Indian woman Nikitha places earthen lamps or 'diyas' at the entrance of her home on the eve of Diwali Festival in Hyderabad on Oct. 18, 2017. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, marks the triumph of good over evil, and commemorates the return of Hindu deity Rama to his birthplace Ayodhya after victory against the demon king Ravana.

Finding commonalities in Judaism and Hinduism is not difficult, Kuppa notes. “We share common ground with the idea of social justice.”

The event features the menorah, the Hanukkah centerpiece recalling how a single day’s supply of lamp oil miraculously burned eight days, and diyas, the traditional oil lamp used during Diwali. Hindus in Metro Detroit and across the globe officially celebrated the holiday last month as required by the lunar calendar, but Bharatiya members also are marking it through “Finding Common Ground” this week as Hanukkah approaches.

“It’s the celebration of light for both — to think about what that means for us in the community,” Chandler said.

Finding Common Ground

When: 7 p.m. Thursday at the Bharatiya Temple, 6850 N. Adams, Troy

For more information, email To RSVP, go to