By Dov Wilker
Rarely do the pages of the Atlanta Jewish Times recognize or profile non-Israelis who are not Jewish, and considering the paper’s roots, this makes perfect sense. But there are times that call for recognizing the heroes among us who are of another faith.
We are mourning the passing of Mary “Mother” Hughes and Dr. L.S. “Narsi” Narasimhan, pillars of their respective communities who are virtually unknown in Jewish circles. Despite their unfamiliarity to us, many have benefited from their numerous mitzvot.
Mother Hughes, who passed away at age 102, was renowned for her volunteer work. On her 100th birthday, she was profiled by WSB-TV for marking the special day, as she did every other day, by delivering boxes of clothes to children in need.
In another small but consistent act, she helped American Jewish Committee. Each year she joined leaders from the Atlanta business community to serve on the tribute committee for our National Human Relations Award dinner, honoring a member of Atlanta’s business community. She would send hundreds of handwritten letters asking corporate leaders to support our community by supporting AJC.
Dr. Narsi had a sudden heart attack and passed away a few weeks ago. He was the backbone of the Indian community and always sought to connect professionals from a variety of industries. It was if his sole purpose was bringing people together — any and all people, no matter their race, creed or color.
He was a constant champion of Indian-Jewish relations, always encouraging AJC to arrange more opportunities for members of the Indian and Jewish communities to serve and celebrate in tandem. An alumnus of AJC’s Project Interchange, his resolve was strengthened by his participation in this AJC-sponsored visit to Israel in 2006.
Both Mother Hughes and Dr. Narsi were prime examples of the value and benefits of simple bridge-building. Both deeply believed that by communicating and networking we can find common ground in friendship and shared democratic values. For each, it was never self-serving, but rather an appreciation of the bigger picture — the forest, not the single tree.
If not for their persistent efforts, I am sure our relations with Atlanta’s African-American and Indian communities would not be what they are today.
Undoubtedly many other non-Jewish heroes are not known to us. That makes it even more important to recognize these “relationship engineers” as significant role models. They deserve a respectful farewell and shout-out from the Atlanta Jewish community.
Dov Wilker is the regional director of AJC Atlanta.