The Meaning of Community

The Sikh Center of NY is a very welcoming community that clearly demonstrates its religious values. Both the building itself and the people within it provide resources for the public and reflect the Sikh belief that all humans are creations of God who are to be respected. With its roots in Punjab, India, this Flushing community consists of mostly immigrants who speak broken, if any, English. Therefore, although they were eager to help us with our research, the language barrier limited their ability to do so. Nonetheless, through brief conversations with younger members and the president of the Sikh Center, as well as a lot of observation, we were able to learn more about Sikhism and the kind of community it has created in Flushing.

The Center has created an ethnic enclave for the immigrant Punjabis. It is a place where tradition is not only practiced, but also taught. Part of that tradition is the Punjabi language, which the Sikh Center teaches in a free Saturday/Sunday school.  One of the central traditions of Sikhism is the idea that we are creations of God and should look out for each other. With rooms for the homeless, three free meals a day, and a corkboard that lists job/housing opportunities, the Sikh Center is clearly a place of support for the new immigrants. President Hardev Singh Padda notes that even among the older immigrants, members tend to move away once they have made more money. For this reason, it seems the Sikh center serves a slightly less privileged crowd. Nonetheless, those that remain seem very grateful for all that is offered. Members have expressed gratitude for all of these services from which they benefitted and continue to benefit, some of whom even now volunteer in providing these same services. Mr. Padda himself mentioned finding a job upon arrival through networking in the Center. He now is director of an Indian newspaper in the United States, Pardes News.

The Sikh Center’s congregants live all over Queens.  Also, the center is located in a residential area a two-minute walk away from Flushing’s Chinatown.  Although we classify the Sikh Center as an ethnic enclave because of the services it provides and the similar backgrounds and shared Sikh values of the congregants, there does not appear to be an economic extension of the ethnic enclave surrounding the Sikh Center.  Or at least, if one does exist, Punjabi goods stores are located elsewhere or nearly invisible in comparison to nearby Chinatown.  We were not able to glean any information as to the relationship of the Sikhs with the nearby neighborhoods.  Again, though, because people mostly attend services at the Center on Sundays and they come from a variety of places across Queens as opposed to living in a cluster around their house of worship, it’s possible that they haven’t created and don’t have a need to create a relationship with the neighborhoods surrounding the Sikh Center. Nonetheless, the services they offer, whether it’s spiritual or economic, are open to all and benefit the larger community of mankind.

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