Diwali in New York’s Melting Pot
Ah, New York – the wonderful melting pot! Where else would you find a Diwali celebration being held at a Jewish synagogue? A Diwali gala organized by the Jiva Performing Arts is being showcased at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, a Reform synagogue founded by German immigrants which is of the oldest synagogues in the US.
Joyous dhols and jingling ghungroos will resonate in the air.
Sonali Skandan, Director of Jiva Performing Arts, a non-profit organization which promotes Indian music and dance, is going all out with a Diwali celebration with Indian food, dance and music, topped with special performers like DJ Rekha, the Ambassador of Bhangra, comic Kunal Arora, MaxZT and Jiva Dance.
A spicy, joyous mix in the beautiful old synagogue – that’s New York for you! More details about this fun celebration at
Here Sonali Skandan talks about Diwalis, past and present.
1. How have your Diwalis changed in New York over the years?
As a child growing up here in the US, Diwali for the most part remained a virtually unheard of festival. We would celebrate quietly a home, exchange gifts and share good food and sweets with family.
Jump to 30 years later – as the world has gotten smaller, Diwali has gotten bigger, brighter and more mainstream. Being in a hugely multicultural globalized NYC, we see Diwali events all over – from schools, government, and even Times Square. Being a dancer and presenting work all over the city – from community events to mainstream venues, I see that Indian culture and arts have garnered much more attention and support. People want to celebrate through dance, music and festivals. Now my Diwalis are no longer quiet at-home events, but spent dancing and performing throughout the city.
2. Why do you think it’s important to have these Diwali events?
These events foster an understanding of South Asian culture to the larger population. They provide a platform for the arts of India, because often, we celebrate with music and dance. They also provide a sense of community amongst the South Asian people here in NYC. Diwali is a time for celebration, symbolizing the victory of good and evil, so what better way to celebrate then to go out and have a good time with friends family?
3. Your favorite Diwali memory of India.
Having done most of my growing up in the US, my memories of Diwali in India have been as a child running around the streets with sparklers in my hand, eating tons of sweets, and wearing new clothes. Last year I actually spent Diwali in Kerala in the tranquil backwaters with family and friends. Once again, I had a sparkler in my hand …