Hindu Woman Priest Named to Obama Faith Council

April 9, 2009

Author: Sunita Sohrabji

Source: India West


Anju Bhargava, one of the handful of Hindu women priests in the U.S., has been appointed to the advisory council of President Barack Obama’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Obama announced the creation of the new office Feb. 5, and had named Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, based in Chicago, Ill., one of 25 advisors to serve as a resource for non-profit organizations working in local communities. Bhargava’s appointment to the council was announced by the White House April 6.

The new office has already established several key priorities, including making community organizations part of the nation’s economic recovery plan. The office is also charged with examining teenage pregnancy with the goal of reducing the need for abortions, and for creating initiatives to support fathers and encourage responsible fatherhood.

The office will also work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with world leaders and scholars.

Bhargava — an ordained pujari — is the principal director at Global Synergy Associates and the founder of the New Jersey-based Asian Indian Women of America. She previously served in the White House under the Clinton administration as a community builder fellow.

She also co-founded the organization Asian Indians in Livingston and the Dr. Martin Luther King initiative.

Speaking by telephone from the White House, following a briefing of the advisory council, Bhargava told India-West she wanted to use her appointment to leverage more social services for the Indian American community.

“Our temples need to understand we are living in America now. We’re here and we’re not going away. So we must become more engaged in the social needs of our community,” she said, adding that she envisions every temple and gurdwara having a service center.