2024 Jain Leadership Forum (JLF) crafts the future: “Jainism from Success to Significance”

Long Range Planning Committee: Upper Row – Praful Giriya, Sonia Ghelani, Chintan Shah, Soha Shah, Bindesh Shah, Jayesh Shah, Manish Mehta, Lower Row – Mayur Shah, Vipul Shah, Yogendra Jain, Prem Jain, Dipak Jain, Sushil Jain, Manoj Jain, Yogesh Bapna, Bipin Shah – www.jainleadership.org

 

Chicago, IL- Often, one wonders what will be the future of their religion or values, especially when they are a minority community in a new land. From April 5th to 7th in Chicago, under the leadership of Dipak Jain, the former Dean of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, over 125 Jain leaders gathered to craft the future of Jainism, organized by JAINA’s Long Range Planning (LRP) Committee.

“It was an amazing gathering to get leaders, young as well as seasoned, to gather and share as well as debate how to move forward in developing a vision, mission, and strategy for a community of 200,000 Jains in North America,” said Dr. Manoj Jain, the Chair of JAINA’s Long Range Planning Committee. LRP has held such forums since 2005, however, this time, leaders from nearly every Jain organization were present, and nearly half the attendees were young leaders.

Attendees included presidents and co-chairs from JAINA , Young Jains of America (YJA), Young Jain Professionals (YJP), Jain International Trade Organization (JITO), and numerous Jain Centers across North America.

As with many minority communities, North American Jains face organizational, generational, leadership, religious, and community challenges. Recognizing these hurdles, the Jain Leadership Forum invited speakers who could ignite excitement and reach into each attendee’s passion for creating engagement and synergy that will reverberate throughout the coming days, weeks, months, and years for Jains in North America.

The keynote address was from Dr. Dipak Jain. Dean Jain is the first Jain dean at a North American academic institution of higher learning, and he shared how the core Jain principles of ahimsa (non-violence), anekantvad (multiplicity of viewpoints), and aparigraha (simplicity/non-possessiveness) enabled him to have a successful career and overcome numerous life challenges.

 

US Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL) in Center, with JLF 2024 Attendees

 

Dipak Jain shares life lessons in being resilient in the face of challenges

Dean Jain’s passion is summarized in his own words during his keynote address, “Excellence has no bounds, you can reach any height but there is always more to do. No challenge ahead of you is greater than the force behind you.”

Throughout the weekend, the participating Jain leaders heard from educators, business executives, medical professionals, academics, students, and community leaders, both volunteer and elected, and many more. Current US Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL) and former US State Representative (AZ) Dr. Amish Shah both echoed the need for Jains to have their voices heard in local, state, and national politics.

JLF 2024 not only included dignitary keynotes but, also included active participants who took the first steps towards identifying challenges that the Jain community faces and brainstorming multiple ways to address these challenges in order to help foster growth and strength, while working with the local community. Eight Round table discussions allowed attendees from around the US to share best practices, and actively learn from one another on topics such as increasing Jain Center engagement and increasing awareness of Jainism in the broader North American population.

“However, having a vision, mission, and strategy is insufficient for a meaningful change. Hence we need projects on the ground,” said Prem Jain, from California and former president of JAINA and LRP member. “There was tremendous energy and excitement around the question of ‘when can I start implementing what I have learned?’” At JLF 2024, participants enjoyed fully Jain Vegan meals throughout the weekend and heard from over 25 Jain Project Champions. “For the attendees, Jain Leadership Forum 2024 provided a solid foundation from which to build new initiatives, create synergies, expand on networking opportunities, and define a clear picture of how to shape Jainism’s future in North American” shared Yogendra Jain, LRP team lead from Boston.

“Each 2024 Jain Leadership Forum attendee traveled home with an expanded toolkit of how to inspire their local Jain communities to plan for the future and a broader network of Jain leaders to help strengthen the foundation of the large North American Jain community for future generations.” Said Mayur Shah, LRP team lead from Philadelphia. These attendees serve as the ambassadors for taking Jainism from success to significance.

“The Long Range Planning Committee is a committee of JAINA. Its mission is to develop a strong, sustainable strategy for JAINA to pursue its vision and initiatives. LRP supports this mission by promoting and sharing a Jain Way of Life” said Chintan Shah, 41, from Jain Center of America, New York, and the former chair of LRP. “Jain Centers and Jain family connections, and working closely with YJA, YJP, and local sanghs to develop young leaders within the Jain community. I am a product of this collaboration and of the Jain Leadership Forum.”

For more information on Jain Leadership Forum 2024, the JAINA’s Long Range Planning Committee, various Jain projects, or JAINA and to share your interest in becoming more involved in shaping the future of Jainism, please visit www.jainleadership.org or email [email protected].

“The three-day experience was exhilarating and uplifting. I learned so much and am energized to do more,” said Soha Shah, a member of LRP and Jain Center of Cincinnati/Dayton.
Day 1: Video Album: Success to Significance – Mission and Vision
Day 2: Key Strategies – Being on the same page and the challenges
Day 3: Execution and Moving Forward

 

 

Organizations that are Transforming Jainism in North America

The 2024 Forum theme was “Success to Significance.” In a simple exercise, Dr. Manoj Jain shared with participants the number of Jains and their net income. “If we estimate that 1.1 % of the US population is of Indian background and 5% of Indians are Jains, then we predict there are over 180,000 Jains in the US and over 200,000 if you include Canada.

“More significant is the net income of Jains, who are quite prosperous in both India and the USA. The education level among Jains in India is very high, at 94%. However, the fertility rate is 1.2, which means that in each generation, there may be a greater than 25% reduction in population. This puts tremendous pressure on the community to preserve their religion, heritage, and values globally.”

To do this, “multiple Jain organizations help provide a resilient framework that works to serve North American Jains and to bring greater awareness of Jainism,” mentioned Dr. Jayesh Shah, LRP team member from Southern California. Organizations include:

 

JAINA

JAINA (Federation of Jain Associations in North America), is an umbrella organization of 70+ Jain Centers representing 200,000 Jains in USA and Canada; with a mission to preserve, practice, and promote Jain Dharma and Jain Way of Life. “With the blessings of Acharya Sushil Kumarji and Gurudev Chitrabhanuji, JAINA was founded in 1981 and formalized in 1983. JAINA is the largest organization of Jains outside India and conducts its various programs and initiatives through several committees. The dream of unity of all Jains is alive and thriving in North America through JAINA, as it represents Jains of all sects from all regions of the world.” said Bindesh Shah the president of JAINA.

Over 40 Committees under JAINA address issues from the environment to education and humanitarian services in America and globally.
To learn more, visit www.jaina.org

 

 

 

YJA Co-Chairs Deesha & Romit with Bindesh Shah, JAINA President

 

Khushali Shah (JLF Team Lead & Key Facilitator) outlines the need for collaborating and harnessing the collective power of Jain organizations

 

YJP Co-chair Ananya Jain, Dipak Jain, & Amish Shah with YJP leaders at JLF 2024

 

Young Jains of America

Young Jains of America (YJA), as an entity of JAINA, serves Jain youth from ages 14-29. “YJA was first established in 1991 and held its first biennial youth convention in 1994,” said Deesha Ajmera, 22, Co-Chair of YJA and from the Jain Society of Metropolitan Washington.

“Today, YJA serves over 10,000 members, creating opportunities for Jain youth to connect through social events, service, and education. Our Executive Board works with a network of Local Representatives, as well as local Jain youth groups, College Chapters, and other interfaith organizations across our six regions to host events, develop and share resources, and build communities. Our members are the next generation of Jain leaders in North America, and we strive to constantly bring together the knowledge and wisdom of our global community with the technology and opportunity of the 21st century to make Jainism relevant to their daily lives!” said Romit Nagda, 25, Co-Chair of YJA and from Jain Center of New Jersey.

One of the major upcoming events for YJA is the 2024 YJA Convention in Atlanta, GA where 900 young people will attend, witha waiting list of over 500 people. “The registration filled up as fast as Taylor Swift concert tickets,” said Suryaraj Jain, 26, Director of Project Development of YJA from Virginia.
To learn more, visit www.yja.org

Young Jain Professionals

 

Young Jain Professionals (YJP), also an entity of JAINA, is focused on increasing awareness and understanding of Jain principles and heritage by promoting networking among Jain professionals.
“YJP’s objectives also include cultivating and fostering future leaders, engaging in community service, mentorship for young Jains for their professional, financial & spiritual growth, and collaborating with other organizations to promote Jain ideals, and providing a forum for succession from YJA to JAINA.” said Ananya Jain, 33, co-chair of YJP from Jain Center of Greater Boston.
“The Young Jain Professionals (YJP) initiative serves as a beacon of community and belonging for the professionals within the Jain community in North America. “By creating a supportive environment, YJP fosters personal growth and development, empowering young Jains to become active contributors to society while upholding their inherited Jain values.” shared Shikha Kothari, YJP Director of Communications.
To learn more, visit www.yjp.us

Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago & North American Jain Centers

 

At the heart of the national Jain organizations are the local Jain Centers. “We were incredibly privileged and proud to host the Jain Leadership Forum in Chicago,” said Vipul Shah BOC chairman of Board of Trustees for Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago. “We are one of 72 Jain Centers in North America and many centers have temples as well.” mentioned Atul Shah, First VP JAINA.

 

Dipak Jain (center) with Bindesh Shah (JAINA) and JSMC Leaders (Jignesh Jain, Pragnesh Shah, Vipul Shah, Atul Shah)

“It was wonderful to have the Jain Leadership Forum attendees and Dr. Dipak Jain visit the temple during their visit to Chicago. It is important to add spirituality to thoughtful discussions as well. After all we get our core values of nonviolence, non-absolutism, and non-possessiveness from our religion. ” said Pragnesh Shah, President of Jain Center of Metropolitan Chicago
Each Jain Center provides its members with core services that help them exercise their faith, educate youth, and connect with each other through communal events, as well as being active in community volunteering & interfaith initiatives. The success of Jainism in North America lies in harnessing the power and passion of the Jain community, through these Jain Centers.

 

JITO

 

The Jain International Trade Organization (JITO) was founded in 2007 in India as a global organization made up of visionary Jain industrialists, business persons, and professionals. “JITO is a multi-stakeholder community of successful Jain business entrepreneurs and professionals working together for the common purpose of growth, economic empowerment, and social service,” said Dr. Sushil Jain, past president of JAINA and present JITO president and LRP member.
To learn more, visit www.jitousa.org

Arihanta Institute

 

Arihanta Institute’s vision is that Jain philosophy and practice will become more widely known, appreciated, and adopted through enhanced and accessible education in Jain teachings and practice. “Its mission is to build a world-class online institution for deeper learning of the Jain tradition, its principles, and how these principles apply to daily life for the benefit and well-being of individuals and society in light of today’s most pressing concerns,” said Parveen Jain, founder of Arihanta Institute and member of Jain Center of Northern California.
Future plans include offering college-level degree-earning courses as the institute seeks to become an accredited university.
To learn more, visit www.arihantainstitute.org

 

Jain Voices: Collaboration on the most pressing Challenges in North America

The Jain Leadership Forum engaged leaders in a thought provoking workshop to address challenges facing Jains in North America, with an aim to help move the Jain community from success to significance. “With 125 leaders from all over America, we collaborated to find solutions to eight of the community’s most pressing challenges,” said Khushali Zaveri Shah, designer and key facilitator of the workshop.

These challenges were identified through the results of a comprehensive survey of 1,600 Jains. Attendees were tasked with brainstorming how to solve these challenges and devising a set of actionable solutions that can be implemented locally and nationally, along with success measurements. Each group included diverse representations of gender, age, and geographic location, which provided for inspiring discussions and innovative solutions.

 

Workshops focused on brainstorming solutions to address pressing challenges facing the North American Jain Community. Here, Sonia Ghelani (LRP/JLF Team) facilitates a discussion on how to welcome those of diverse backgrounds such as interfaith couples and non-Jains who are interested in Jainism

The first five topics focused on the human capital of the Jain community, which needs to be further engaged and broadened. For example, increasing Jain center attendance and engagement through the lens of different groups, such as those under 22 years of age and senior citizens. The final three topics focused on our Jain values of Ahimsa via discussion about vegetarianism, Aparigraha regarding Seva in our community, and Anekantvad through public relations and the position of our Jain perspectives in North America.

“In order to find solutions, we need to examine a topic in-depth,” said Khushali Zaveri Shah.
So, in small groups, participants discussed the pushes and pulls on these demographics and the benefits of engagement rooted in Jain-affiliated places, including community, spiritual growth, moral and ethical guidance, and identity formation. “The group moderators, Soha Shah, Kinjal Mutha, Sunit Jain, Sonia Ghelani, Suryaraj Jain, Chintan Shah, Pritesh Mutha, and Seema Jain, did a phenomenal job of keeping the group on task and reaching tangible solutions.”

The various solutions that were discussed will become the next generation of projects and initiatives that the Long Range Planning committee will support. “Such solutions included giving avenues to youth voices at local centers, mentoring programs, improved organizational structure and communication between the 70+ Jain centers and JAINA,” said Kinjal Mutha, co-organizer from Jain Society of Houston.

 

Workshops focused on brainstorming solutions to address pressing challenges facing the North American Jain Community

“For caring for our senior citizens, various solutions were recommended from developing a housing center for seniors, to education seminars that can be provided online, at local Jain Centers, and at the JAINA Convention,” said Sunit Jain from Chicago. Additionally, the creation of volunteer programs at Jain centers to support seniors in errands, technology, community building, and engagement was discussed. All of these ideas are looking to address concerns that our seniors face with isolation, well being, and providing independence during the golden years.

“How to build a formal professional and/or personal network in the Jain community and the importance of it? is a topic important to the community,” said Suryaraj Jain, a member of Young Jains of America. “Some solutions suggested by the team were creating a centralized database of Jain professionals, in-person community building events, and mentorship programs between younger and older professionals. The challenge in developing any network includes: awareness, access and consistency.”

One of the unique challenges for any community is “How to welcome those of diverse backgrounds, such as interfaith couples?” Attendees discussed several interconnected topics aimed at fostering inclusivity and engagement within our community. “Rather than passing judgment, the focus was on finding ways to extend a warm welcome to non-Jain partners within our Jain Centers,” said Sonia Ghelani from Jain Society of Northern Texas.

In conjunction with considering impact, participants looked at how to increase visibility of and awareness about the Jain community in North America. “Our discussion first focused on introspection. We are as strong as our active community members. We need to emphasize consistent, timely communication with our base of nearly 200,000 Jains.,” said Chintan Shah, past LRP chairperson from the Jain Center of America, New York. “We have a strong elevator pitch. Our community should feel comfortable sharing it broadly. We also need to support key leaders with messaging and media training so that we share a consistent story about Jain dharma and our impact in the community.”

In line with our principle of Ahimsa (non-violence) the topic of “How to expand on Vegetarianism and Veganism in our temples and community?” was discussed. “One of the main focus areas was to minimize our violence at Jain centers by implementing solutions to educate the Jains on vegan alternatives while also promoting an all-vegan menu at the centers, which is currently done by the Jain Center of Southern California in Buena Park,” said Pritesh Mutha from Jain Center of Houston.

“As Jains, it is imperative for us to continually evolve and incorporate new practices of social service into our community engagement,” said Seema Jain from the Jain Center of Metropolitan Chicago. “It is crucial to extend our outreach and engage with our broader society.

“Everyone agrees on the principle of non-violence (Ahimsa), but consensus on how to and to what extent it is practiced, differs,” commented Yogesh Bapna, one of the JLF team leads from JCNC. Ideas such as consideration for a National Ahimsa Day, working in collaboration with interfaith groups to volunteer at events, collecting and displaying community service hours, and creating a national SevaHub to promote volunteerism were discussed.

In order to make a sustainable impact, it is imperative to have representative unique voices at the table, and this was accomplished through the forum and the setup of these workshops. Participants devised a set of actionable solutions and presented them to the larger group in order to develop a common understanding and to move the conversation from success to true significance.

 

Yogendra Jain (LRP- JLF Lead) facilitates one of several “Fireside Chats” topics with attendees, including Shikha Kothari (JLF Team). Here, they discuss “Rebranding and Repackaging of Jainism in North America”

—————————————————————————————————————————

Challenges for the Jain Community
  • How to increase Jain Center Attendance and Engagement focused on beyond the youth above 22?
    – Identified as jain professionals
  • How to engage youths in Jainism and activities from birth to 22?
  • How to build a formal professional/personal network in the Jain community?
  • How to support Jain seniors/aging Jain population?
  • How to welcome those of diverse backgrounds such as interfaith couples, non-Jains interested in Jainism?
  • How to increase PR/publicity of the Jain community in North America? How to increase Western knowledge of Jainism in North America?
  • How to expand on Vegetarianism/Veganism in diet and beyond in our temples and community?
  • How to engage in the local community (beyond the temple) Seva/volunteerism

————————————————————————————————————————–

 

Projects striving to preserve Jain values in North America

Transforming and changing human behavior is not easy. “To help bring a change, we are employing a stepwise business model called PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act,” said Viral Shah from the Jain Society of Greater Atlanta leading the Projects team along with Satej Shah.

They invited community members to become Jain Project Champtions. “We thought we would get 4-5 projects,” said Viral Shah, but now we have nearly 30 projects. This can transform the landscape of Jain Values in North America.”

 

Over 125 attendees participated in JLF 2024, crossing multiple geographies and demographics

 

JLF 2024 Jain Project Champions presented their ideas that will help bring Jainism from Success to Significance

Each team submitted an AIMS statement that serves to define the problem and strategize on solutions that result in positive change and problem improvement. Project Champions build a team and execute on the project with help from the JLF Projects Team.

“Operationalizing and sustaining these projects requires funding. We have been blessed to receive over $60,000 for JLF 2024 and project funding, yet need another $60,000 to successfully execute on all the projects,” said Rajeev Pandya, from Jain Center of America and lead for fund-raising for the Jain Leadership Forum.

A key element JLF 2024 was the introduction of Jain Projects. The following ideas, organizations, and Jain Project Champions are representative of the passion within the Jain community to drive positive change.
For more information on Jain Projects, visit www.jainleadership.org.

 

Dr. Varun Gandhi presents a successful project prototype of the fully vegan Hot Meals program, for scaling nationwide

 

 

 

JLF 2024 thanks the community philanthropists for their generous support

 

  • Prem & Sandhya Jain Family Foundations, CA
  • Mahendra & Asha Pandya Family Foundation, NY
  • Drs. Manoj & Sunita Jain Family Foundation, TN
  • Vardhaman Charitable Foundation – Jaswant & Meera Modi, CA
  • JAINA
  • JITO USA
  • Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago
  • Bhavik & Priyanak Shah – Ari Investment, VA
  • Manish & Varsha Mehta Family Foundation, MI
  • Kundanbhen, Komal, Prashant Desai Family, CA
  • Bindesh & Roopal Shah Family Foundation FL
  • Drs. Manish & Varsha Mehta Family Foundation, MI
  • Mr. Parveen Jain & Family, CA
Image courtesy of (All photos’ courtesy: JLF 2024 Attendees)

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