Susan Adelman Explores the Ties Between Indians and Jews

adelman
Author Susan Adelman

Author, artist, jeweler, and retired pediatric surgeon Susan Adelman has released her third book.

From Jerusalem to Delhi, Through Persia” published by Gorgias Press LLC, is essentially a heartfelt tribute to India. It delves into the correlation between Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, and how antiquated Persian culture, and Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion, influenced Israel and India. This bond extends back more than two and a half millennia, to a period when Hindus in India and Jews in the Levant were at opposing regions of a vast Persian civilization.

As a result of this Persian influence, the mythology, folklore, culture, festivals, and faiths of India and Israel have affinities. This explains why Jews are drawn to India in droves each year. Due to their historic interconnection, Israelis are also known to join in Hindu or Buddhist events. I interviewed Dr. Adelman about her upbringing in a Jewish community, the inspiration for her books, her art, and the people who supported her along the way. This is what she shared.

On Being Raised as a Reform Jew

“I grew up as a Reform Jew,” Adelman says. “After I married, we joined a Conservative synagogue. My grandmother had been the secretary of our temple for many years, and we used to attend services on major holidays, but we were not observant in general. We did not follow the dietary laws, for example. There was some discrimination against Jews in my neighborhood when I was little, but in high school we all were well integrated, Jews and Christians (that is all there were then), without much concern about religion.”

She emphasizes the way her family influenced her.

“My role model was my father, because he was kind and very careful about all that he did, also a wonderful amateur photographer and carpenter,” Adelman says. “I think I got my artistic talent from him.”

Spark That Ignited a Literary Career

Adelman has written two other books. Experiences and friendships in India inspired her début book, “The Rebel: A Biography of Ram Jethmalani.” Her second book, “After Saturday Comes Sunday,” focuses on the Middle East’s Aramaic-speaking population, which is rapidly dwindling.

She explains where she drew inspiration for each of her books.

“My thirty years as a pediatric surgeon shaped my entire life,” Adelman says. “My books also came from that career. Our first trip to India was a result of my fascination with Indian textiles. Among my fellow residents were several from India, and they encouraged me to visit India. When we were planning our second trip, a fellow resident at Children’s’ Hospital of Michigan told me to call her father in Bombay. He turned out to be Ram Jethmalani, who at the time was the Chair of the Bar Council of Michigan.

“Ram became a close family friend of ours, over almost 50 years. My husband was a law professor, and when Ram came to the U.S. during the emergency, my husband arranged for him to teach at his law school in Detroit. Ultimately Ram’s daughter encouraged me to write Ram’s biography. Published by Penguin Random House in India, the book is ‘The Rebel: A Biography of Ram Jethmalani.’

“The next book came from a friendship that started when I operated on a little boy from Iraq, and I met his aunt, who translated for me. Since that meeting, we became like family, and I was inspired to write a book about her community. That book is ‘After Saturday Comes Sunday,’ a book about the last Aramaic speaking communities of the Middle East: the Chaldean Christians, Assyrians, and the Kurdish Jews. While researching that book, I learned about the ancient Persian religions, their relationship to ancient Judaism, and their relationship to Hinduism.”

She reveals, “That inspired me to write this current book, ‘From Jerusalem to Delhi, Through Persia.’ The idea is that the massive early Jewish literary compendium, called the Babylonian Talmud, was written in Babylon under a Persian Empire whose religion was Zoroastrianism, and the very earliest Zoroastrian oral and written traditions arose at the same time as – and almost in the same language as – the earliest Hindu oral and written traditions. The Persian empires were the bridge between the two.”

The Similarities Between Judaism and Zoroastrianism

Adelman describes how several chapters of her new book zooms in on the affinities between these two religions.

“Both teach the concept of one God, heaven and hell, a last judgment, resurrection, a final cosmic battle, the idea of creation taking place in seven steps, and angels. They shared certain similar modes of dress, and they shared important mystic ideas. In their literature, Zoroastrians have shown us that the Jews derived many important concepts from them.

Hindu-Jewish Analogies

Adelman notes, “Among the Hindu-Jewish similarities are pilgrimages and priests (both part of the past for Jews, very much in the present for Hindus), ritual immersions, dietary restrictions, the similarities between the holidays of Diwali and Chanukah, Holi and Purim, Navratri and Yom Kippur. Remember too, there once was a book whose title referred to ‘The Argumentative Indian,’ bringing to mind the equally argumentative Jew. Both cultures highly value family and education. And there is so much more.”

A Network of Supportive People

Said Adelman, “My husband always has been my greatest support, encouraging me and frequently remembering so many of the trips we have made to India (20 trips), Israel (more than 20), as well as many, many other places in the world, all of which enriched our understanding of the areas I have written about.”

Adelman also acknowledges the role her friends have played.

“My Indian friends, especially Ram Jethmalani’s family, and my Israeli friends have all contributed information, stories, and assistance at multiple junctures in the course of my research on all these books. One friend has graciously listened to all the books after I finished them and was in process of making final edits.”

Her Writing Methodology

Most writers have a unique approach to writing. I asked Adelman what method she emulated.

“When I write, my process depends on the subject,” she says. “Usually, I know a lot about the subject, but I need to research important details and facts. I do most of this online, but I also purchase many books, consult with experts, and study old newspaper articles. So far it has taken me about a year on each book.”

An Avid Painter and Jeweler

As a child, she started to hone her creative flair through painting. “I have painted since I was 5 years old. Geology was my main interest since I was a child. In college I majored in geology, but I took about half a major in art too, becoming fascinated with sculpture, ceramics and of course painting. During my career as a surgeon, I continued to sculpt marble and wood, also to paint portraits, landscapes, and abstracts.”

She adds, “After retirement from surgery, I became a silversmith and jeweler, developing a business selling my paintings and jeweler. Many of my paintings are of Indian themes, and many recall our many trips around the world.” Her paintings, jewelry, and sculptures are showcased on https://www.artandjewelryofsue.com

Plans for Future Literary Works

“Since my new book was just published, I am concentrating now on presenting it to as wide an audience as possible,” Adelman says. “Later, there will be time to think about some ideas I have for another book.”

From “Jerusalem to Delhi, Through Persia” by Susan Adelman is available on Gorgias Press and other leading book sellers.