By Madina Toure
The Hindu community is calling on the Port Authority to create a designated prayer room at JFK Airport in response to the airport’s large number of Hindu employees and passengers.
Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism in Nevada, is urging PA Board Chairman John Degnan and Executive Director Patrick Foye, along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Gov. Chris Christie, to consider establishing a prayer room called a Hindu mandir at the airport.
The PA could not be reached for comment.
The proposed prayer room would consist of murtis, or statues, of popular deities; copies of sacred scriptures; a traditional bell and recorded devotional music, Zed said. Daily sessions would be also held in the room.
The airport already has the Our Lady of the Skies Roman Catholic Chapel, Christ for the World Protestant Chapel, International Synagogue and the International Islamic Center.
“As a lot of Hindu passengers daily use JFK Airport and many Hindu employees work for various agencies and businesses there, it would be nice if they had a quiet facility at the airport where they could pray/meditate/worship and perform religious services,” Zed said in a statement.
The effort to bring a prayer room to the airport started eight years ago, according to Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of Hindu Temple Society of North America in Flushing.
“There are thousands of Hindus who travel to JFK day in and day out and the Hindus are very religious people and we believe in praying before we leave and when we come back,” Mysorekar said.
Activists previously reached out to former City Comptroller John Liu, she said.
Narain Kataria, president of the Indian American Intellectual Forum in Elmhurst, said he wrote two letters to JFK authorities three years ago.
“If we had it, it could be good for Hindus,” Kataria said. “We are so many.”
Pradip Das, director of the American Hindu Council’s Jamaica chapter, collected 320 signatures from Hindu temples and organizations in the borough.
The airport has a large number of Hindu employees, many of whom work for the Transportation Security Administration, he said.
“They could use part of their lunchtime or break time” to use the prayer room, Das said.
Jagadish Brahmachari, a priest at Vedic Seva Mission in Jamaica , who collected 2,500 signatures, said the prayer room would serve Hindu passengers who run into flight problems.
“Sometimes flights are canceled and sometimes flights are delayed,” Brachmachari said
Some temples were not aware of the initiative but said that they would gladly get involved.
Srad Kublall, a trustee for the America Sevashram Sangha in Jamaica, said he knows many Guyanese Hindus who work at the airport.
“It’s a good venture,” Kublall said. “I support it and I think the organization will support it wholeheartedly.”
Calling the initiative “refreshing,” Anand Singh, coordinator of the NY Varanasi Temple in South Ozone Park, said many Hindus live less than a 5-minute trip from the airport.
He said his temple is open to exploring the initiative to provide this service.
“Although they’re a large segment in the U.S., it somehow doesn’t seem to be available to Hindus so whoever is starting this initiative, it’s pretty great, especially for the New York Kennedy location,” Singh said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour