Indian American selected for Ellis Island medal

April 10th, 2008 - 3:54 pm ICT by admin  

By Parveen Chopra
New York, April 10 (IANS) Dhiraj H. Shah, a retired Indian American radiologist, has been selected for the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honour for his humanitarian work. The National Ethnic Coalition of Organisations (NECO) presents the medals annually to nearly 100 US citizens of diverse origins for their outstanding contributions to their ethnic groups, ancestral countries and to the US.

NECO is expected this week to release the full list for 2008 of those who will receive the honour May 10 but it has confirmed Shah’s selection.

Shah, 64, from Gujarat who lives near Niagara Falls in upstate New York, told IANS: “My life’s motto is what Lord Mahavir said: ‘One who serves the needy, sick and poor really serves me’.”

Shah has been past president of Jaina (Federation of Jain Organisations in North America) and chairman of Jaina’s World Community Service programme since its inception in 1990.

Among the humanitarian activities he has undertaken under the aegis of Jaina, he specially mentioned building a township near Bhuj after the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, relief work in southern India after the 2004 tsunami and similar activities in New Orleans after the 2005 Hurricane Katrina.

Coming to the US at the age of 27, Shah won conscientious objector status in 1970 when he refused to fight during the Vietnam War. He has since opposed wars and worked with peace groups.

While receiving the award at Ellis Island in New York, the site where millions of immigrants historically first set foot on US soil, Shah said he will talk of world peace based on teachings of his religion.

Shah is on the boards of the Rotary Club of Niagara Falls and the India Association of Buffalo. He is a trustee with the Hindu Cultural Society of Western New York and is also a member of the Democratic Party’s executive committee.

Shah earned medical degrees at the Gujarat University and at the State University of New York before becoming a Fellow of the International College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. He sold his radiology practice a few years ago.

The US Congress sanctions the Ellis Island Medals of Honour, and recipients’ names are listed in the Congressional Record.

Prominent past recipients include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Generals Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell, industrialist Lee Iacocca, singer-actor Frank Sinatra and boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

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