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HAF hosted fundraising event in Chicago

HAF hosted fundraising event in Chicago
February 21
15:22 2020

Sunthar Visuvalingam & Elizabeth Chalier

CHICAGO: The Hindu American Foundation, founded in September 2003, hosted its 2020 Chicago fundraiser at the Community House, Hinsdale, a Chicago suburb, with the theme of Star Wars (SW). Over 120 members and guests attended the HAF’s third event in the Chicago area, highest attendance so far. Professor Jeffery D Long gave the keynote address on the theme block bluster movie saga.

RoshniKoul recounts her experiences as an 2018 HAF Advocacy Track intern.

RoshniKoul recounts her experiences as an 2018 HAF Advocacy Track intern.

Founder of the HAF Chicago chapter, Balu Natarajan commenced the event talk about the Hindu identity among kids. HAF board member Rajiv Pandit, a Dallas-based ENT doctor from Kashmir, and wife Priya—member of the National Leadership Council and co-founder of the Dallas chapter—served as emcees for the prolonged quiz in six categories to introduce facets of their mission: HAF101, education, community, policy, Kashmir and “Who ya gonna call?”Those who responded correctly to each question were rewarded with lightsabers. This ‘JeoParody’ put the audience in an enthusiastic, receptive frame of mind to imbibe Long’s subsequent revelations of SW philosophy.

ajiv clarified that unlike the publicity that surrounded the California case, HAF was able to work quietly, under the radar, with vested parties to obtain desired revisions to the Texas textbooks. Till now, 32000 teachers, often clueless, have taken the Hinduism 101 training course. HAF’s Dharma Ambassador certification program trains Hindu advocates to coach teachers.

HAF has released a Holi student toolkit to cater to the fast-growing popularity of this colorful festival among Americans and across campuses. HAF’s Shakti Initiative highlights the feminine divine in Hindu traditions and culture. Responding to complaints of discrimination in the display of religious symbols, they worked with Jewish groups to dispel misunderstandings about the Indic swastika symbol. HAF spent $50K for a health clinic and lacking medical services in Jodhpur for Hindu refugees from Pakistan. Also mentioned was work with immigration and law-enforcement to clear the green card backlog and against hate-crimes.

The Pandits showcased Hindu diversity and varied HAF initiatives by inviting live testimonies. Volunteer RoshniKoul, a sophomore honors student at Loyola University Chicago, launched the community category by recounting her experiences as a 2018 Advocacy Track HAF intern lobbying Congressmen and Senators. Raj Koul and SomanDhar described their pleading for Kashmiri Pandit human rights at the State Department and outreach from the about 100 local families to other Hindu communities across Greater Chicago.

Through the independent review of records dating back to 1989, HAF has determined that 350K terrorized Hindus have fled the state, becoming internal refugees in their nation. Vigils were held across seven U.S. cities on Jan 19 to commemorate the 1989 Kashmir exodus.

“HAF aims at a more sustained local presence in the Chicago area by encouraging Hindu Americans here to contact us about any inaccurate information about Hinduism in textbooks, to get involved in advocating for a Hindu Awareness Month for the entire state, and to sign up for HAF’s Dharma Ambassadors program. They will thereby allow HAF’s national full-time staff of twelve to engage with local members and civic leaders to benefit all Hindus,” Rajiv Pandit told India Post.

Sporting a boldly SW-themed suitcase, Prof. Jeffery D. Long had dashed to the Vedanta Center in Homer Glen and the Vivekananda statue at the Lemont temple to pay his hurried respects. As in its invitations to the fundraiser, HAF presented the American professor, who obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, as a Jedi Master cast in the image of the illumined Yoda.

Swami Varadananda and Prof Jeffery Long

Swami Varadananda and Prof Jeffery Long

Proud wielder of a flashing replica of hero Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber Long traced SW creator George Lucas’ Hindu spiritual themes back through Joseph Campbell to Swami Nikhilananda and the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda current of Vedanta. He concluded by showing how the Jedi of each successive generation had to not only absorb her Guru’s legacy but fashion her(Rey’s) own distinctive lightsaber, to ensure the renewed transmission of knowledge-power. Such is HAF’s role, more generally, he emphasized, vis-à-vis Hindu American youngsters, who were amply represented in the gathering.

HAF’s now director of development Krishna Parmar said HAF has been hosting such events every two years or so in Chicago. Local Hindu and interfaith organizations, such as Indic Academy, and United for Peace, have shown keenness to collaborate. Until HAF establishes an independent center of operations here, it would seem that co-hosting events might be the best way forward.
The Pandits thanked Dr. Bharat and Mrs. Panna Barai and Indic Academy for their generous sponsorship.

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