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Posts from the ‘Issue 12/The Indian Jewry’ Category

Contents – The Indian Jewry (Issue 12)

Contents - The Indian Jewry (Issue 12)

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Guest Editorial – The Indian Jewry and the Need for Jewish Studies in India

By Navras Jaat Aafreedi
The present issue of Café Dissensus makes a sincere attempt at generating interest in Indo-Judaic Studies by presenting a comprehensive picture of Jews in India through articles and essays from the best scholars in the field on the three Jewish communities in India, numerically the largest, the Bene Israel, the smallest one, the Cochini, and the last to settle in India, the Baghdadi. Along with the three Jewish communities of India, the issue also gives a profile of one of the two Judaizing movements in India, the Bene Ephraim.

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The Significance of Indo-Judaic Studies

By Nathan Katz
The very marginality of Indo-Judais studies offers perspectives that reconfigure our traditional objects of study. When perceived from a European perspective, ancient commercial patterns between South Asia and West Asia, for example. From London or Paris, one gazes at a Near, Middle and Far “East,” an ontological wall between cultures is intellectually erected. But when viewed from either Jerusalem or Varanasi, tendrils of connecttion spread by land and sea in all directions, yielding an Indra-like nerwork of connections rather than impenetrable barriers.

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The Sojourn of the Baghdadi Jews of India

By Joan G. Roland
When the Baghdadis first arrived in Bombay in the 1830s, they associated with the Bene Israel, using their synagogues and cemeteries, and encouraged their co-religionists’ return to Orthodox Judaism. They were early contributors to the Bene Israel school. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, however, the Bagdadis began to disassociate themselves from their brethren. They established their own schools, synagogues, and charity trusts and attempted to exclude Bene Israel from fully participating in them.

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Malayalam Zionist Songs of the Kerala Jews: Inspiration from Indian Cinema and Political Music

By Barbara C. Johnson
After the independent Republic of India was established in 1947 and the State of Israel in 1948, Kerala Jews had two Independence Days to celebrate. Rejoicing in the end of British colonial rule, they participated in flag-raising ceremonies for Indian Independence Day each 15th of August and for Israeli Independence Day on the 5th day of the Jewish month of Iyyar – the date on which the British Mandate over Palestine had ended – creating new Malayalam Jewish songs for their flag-raising celebrations.

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The Cochini Jewish Cuisine

By Bala Menon
Kerala cuisine, shaped by its maritime history, is different from what is considered fine Indian cuisine, mainly the creamy curries and vigorous breads of north India. The Malabar spice trade was for many centuries controlled by the Jews and they incorporated the spices into their cuisine. These included pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, asafoetida, red and green chillies, coriander, fenugreek, nutmeg and mace. The dishes were infused with the magic of curry leaves, tamarind pulp and coconut, creating a piquant cooking style.

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Researching the Heritage of the Bene Israel Community

By Nissim Moses
Most Contemporary Jewry is based upon the Torah and the leadership usurped by the Rabbis and their rabbinic rulings, post destruction of the Second Temple and later. Judaism during this period underwent a radical change in character and format from that which existed during the simpler period, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple when the Cohen’s and Levites played a leading role in the religious life of the Jews and where Rabbis were merely teachers.

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The Bene Ephraim

By Yulia Egorova and Shahid Perwez
It appears that Shmuel’s research into the Israelite past of his community was partly motivated by his desire to free the Bene Ephraim from caste inequality. Shmuel often recounted to us how, like other Madiga, he was discriminated against in the job market with very few occupations being open to him, despite the fact that he had achieved good results at school. His mother told him stories of how she was made to sit separately in school, often outside the classroom.

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The Benei-Menashe of North-East India

By Myer Samra
The very existence of the Benei-Menashe has raised political controversy and hostility in India itself, in Mizoram, and in Israel; while they may simply be interested in following their chosen religion, almost inevitably this has raised accusations and suspicion, and fears from segments in each of these societies.

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Baghdadian and Bene Israel Jewish song in twentieth century Bombay: Repertoire, performance and interaction

By Sara Manasseh
The two most prominent Jewish communities, numerically, in twentieth century Bombay (today’s Mumbai) were the Bene Israel and Baghdadian (also Baghdadi or Babylonian), the term ‘Baghdadian’ encompassing Jewish settlers from the Middle East and Central Asia. The Bene Israel had lived in India for centuries, first in villages along the Konkan coast, where, along with their neighbours, they spoke Marathi. The Bene Israel moved to Bombay and other cities in India from the eighteenth century.

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Indian Jewish Fiction in English

By Anna Guttman
The works of literature – including fiction, drama, poetry and literature for young adults – that have emerged from the Indian Jewish community tell many and complicated stories about the community – and its shrinkage. Most contemporary Indian Jewish fiction has emerged from Western India’s historic Bene Israel community. While the Bene Israel has experienced the most dramatic population drop of any of India’s Jewish communities (from roughly 20 000 individuals in 1948 to less than 5000 today), it remains India’s most vibrant and best organized, both in the subcontinent and outside.

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Contemporary Indian Jewish literature in Hindi

By Heinz Werner Wessler
For Sheila Rohekar, the enormous violence resulting from mainstream society is the focus of her attention as a writer. This is primordial structural violence, which can easily turn into direct violence, if traditional identities and their relation to the primordial ones are questioned and disregarded. The high sensitivity of the author for the vulnerability of minorities and their awareness of transcending limitations of traditional identities is related to her personal identity as an Indian Jew.

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India’s Synagogue Variety: Architecture, History, and Context

By Jay A. Waronker
The oldest synagogues belong to the Cochin Jews of Kerala in southwestern India. Though Kerala’s early Jewish houses of prayer from the tenth through fifteenth centuries perished as a consequence of natural disasters, attacks by the Moors, and shifting congregations, including a synagogue authenticated to 1344 by a surviving inscription, those originating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries subsist. Albeit all altered or rebuilt over time, some following Portuguese aggression in the mid-seventeenth century or after Tipu Sultan’s army burned them in the 1780s and others from internal congregational doings, the surviving synagogues include not only the oldest in India but within the British Commonwealth.

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Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage

By Saul Sapir
Another style used quite often in Bombay's edifices, is the Gothic style, imported from Medieval England and France throughout the 11th-14th centuries. As it seems, during the 19th century, at the time of Queen Victoria's reign, there was a Gothic revival in England, which was termed the neo-gothic or the Victorian style. Many architects used this style when designing their buildings in Bombay (David Sassoon Library and Reading Room, which is one of many structures).

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