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SALDEF ( Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund)


2009 Civil Rights Awards Gala at Los Angeles
Navdeep Singh Chugh, of the Chugh Law Firm, donated $50,000 to SALDEF

Los Angeles, May 02, 2009
Raj Grewal

SALDEF stands for Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the purpose of this important event was to honor the individual for their achievements and contributions for the betterment of society through their direct leadership and efforts of their office.

The 2009 SALDEF Gala at the famed Sheraton Cerritos Hotel in Los Angeles turned out to be an exciting evening! The program began at 6pm with delectable appetizers consisting of an array of exotic fruits and traditional Indian fare including divine samosas, savory chicken tikka pieces with chutney, delicious cheese pakoras, and refreshments. The guests were enjoying the feast while mingling with the diverse crowd. Also on display and sale were art from Vicki Singh.

The actual program started at 7pm with a magnificent performance by the Major League Bhangra Team in their black and red outfits dancing to traditional bhangra music. Next, Speaker Manjit Singh, co-founder and chairman of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, briefly introduced his organizations mission to protect Sikhs, talked about who we are as Sikhs and Sikhs unity. He also thanked the sponsors and volunteers. He said, “It is a blessing and privilege that we come together for peace, unity and joy.” In addition, there were many other Bhangra Teams entertain the crowd.

Navdeep Singh Chugh, (right) of the Chugh Law Firm, gave a brief speech and generously donated $50,000 to SALDEF for services and support for their leadership.

Mr. Iqubal Singh Bhan ( from Michigan) was also the evening’s guest entertainer.

This year, SALDEF presented five awards to leaders who examplify services and dedication to the betterment of their Communities:

  1. SALDEF Youth Leadership Award recognize the extraordinary achievements of young Sikh Americans who have been leaders in community and an inspiration to younger generations of Sikh Americans.The award recipients serve as role models for young Sikhs and exemplify Sikh values in their chosen careers.
    • Gurumustuk Singh
      • This award is being presented to Gurumustuk Singh for his leadership in developing, Sikhnet into a world-class community portal for Sikhs while protecting the national security of the United State.
  2. SALDEF Public Service Award
    • Joseph Persichini Jr., Assistant Director- FBI, Washington
      • He was recognized for his leadership in developing an engagement model which protects the rights of Arab- Muslims and sikhs while protecting the national security of the United states.
  3. The Dorthy Height Coalition Building Award
    • James Standish
      • He has been named the co-recipient of the 2009 Dorothy Height Coalition Building Award for his dedicated leadership to religious freedom in the United States and around the World and for his leadership as a past co-chair of the Workplace Religious Freedom Coalition. Mr. Standish joined the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as Executive Director in August 2008. Mr. Standish has extensive experience working on human rights issues, and particularly religious freedom. He has lived ten years in Asia, four years in Europe, and eight years in Australia, and has traveled widely throughout the world. Mr. Standish is widely published, has discussed religious freedom issues on nationally broadcast television and radio, and has testified on religious freedom matters before the United States House of Representatives.
      Richard Foltin
      • He has been named the co-recipient of the 2009 Dorothy Height Coalition Building Award for his dedicated leadership to religious freedom in the United States and around the World and for his leadership as a current co-chair of the Workplace Religious Freedom Coalition. Mr. Foltin, Legislative Director and Counsel in the American Jewish Committee's Office of Government and International Affairs in Washington, D.C, is responsible for the development, promotion and execution of AJC's legislative agenda (which includes religious liberty, civil rights, immigration, hate crimes, the intersection of national security and human rights, and foreign affairs issues).Before moving to Washington, D.C., Mr. Foltin served in AJC's New York headquarters as director of governmental affairs and associate legal director and, prior to that, was an associate with the litigation department of a major New York law firm. He has testified before Congressional committees and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, most recently on religious discrimination in the workplace before the House Committee on Education and Labor.
    • Nishkim Sikh Welfare Council was recognized contributions by a Sikh in keeping with Sikh spirit and tradition of seva (selfless service ) .The award is named in honor of Dr.Bhagat Singh Thind (1892-1967), a pioneering Sikh American soldier, scholar, and activist. Award was provided to.
      • Nishkim Sikh Welfare Council organized in response to the anti-Sikh pogroms which swept through India in November 1984, Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council is devoted to serving humanity- especially widows, orphans, and the disadvantaged regardless of caste, creed, and religion. Nishkam operates a medical center in New Delhi for the widows of 1984 and offers job training, English classes, adult education courses, humanitarian relief, and microloans.
  5. Dalip Singh Saund Legislative Learership Award
    (Read about Dalip Singh Saund)
    • Dr. Judy Chu
      • This award was presented to former California assemblywoman Judy Chu for her outstanding leadership in highlighting the plight of sikh americans after 9/11 and leading efforts to protect victims of hate crimes in California. Dr. Judy Chu was elected to the California State Board of Equalization in November 2006. In January 2009, Dr. Chu was unanimously elected Vice Chair of the Board of Equalization

Dr. I.J. Singh was the key speaker for the program. He is a writer on the sikh experience in the diaspora and interfaith issues. He currently serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Sikh Review. He has authored four collections of essays on his journey as a Sikh in North America: Sikhs and Sikhism: A View with a Bias (1994, 1998); The Sikh Way: A Pilgrim’s Progress (2001); Being & Becoming a Sikh (2003); The World According to Sikhi (2006). Read more about - Dr. I.J. Singh

Bhai Sahib Satpal Singh Khalsa, Ambassador Sikh Dharma Chairman Guru Ramdass Sikh Mission of America congratulated SALDEF on hosting this 2009 Civil Rights Awards Gala. He told the audience his organization appreciates the outstanding leadership and proactive approach of SALDEF in building bridges for the Sikh community and he congratulates all of the esteemed award recipients for their extraordinary leadership roles.

The evening ended with a fabulous dinner and dessert for all to enjoy. Congratulations to all of the award recipients and a great evening was had by all in attendance!






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