15 August 2007

India: Jewish history

From an unlikely publication for Jewish genealogy, comes this Forbes piece by Gary Weiss.

Beginning with a discussion of secularism, the Indian Jewish community comes into play quickly, and the writer even quotes from Avotaynu.

In the U.S., diversity is a politically correct slogan. In India it is a historical fact. Much as we in the West may resent it, India has a lot to teach us when it comes to religious tolerance.

To my mind, the best example of that can be found in the remarkable story of a tiny minority--India's Jewish community. India may be the only country in the world that has been free of anti-Semitic prejudice throughout its history. As the Jewish genealogical journal Avotaynu recently observed in an article on one Indian Jewish group, "The Bene Israel flourished for 2,400 years in a tolerant land that has never known anti-Semitism, and were successful in all aspects of the socio-economic and cultural life of the people of the region."

Weiss, comparing India with the U.S. and other countries, writes "But in 'backward' India, from the beginning, the Jewish communities have not only been free of discrimination but have dominated the commercial life of every place where they have settled - something that has fed traditional European anti-Semitism."

He discusses why India has remained free of anti-semitism, highlights discusses the town of Cochin, its four 439-year-old buildings (the Paradesi Synagogue) and the community's history.

The article mentions the other Indian Jewish communities: Bene Israel in Bombay (now Mumbai) and Baghdadi (from Iraq and Iran), who first settled in Calcutta (now Kolkata).

Prominent community members include Lt. Gen. J.F.R. Jacob, Bollywood's silent movie queen Sulochana and others.

Read the article here.

I've previously posted about the Jews of India. For Jewish marriage records in Bengal and Calcutta, click here. For a posting on Bene Israel writer Sophie Judah's stories chronicling her own little-known community, click here.

1 comment:

  1. its seems that jewish came a lot time ago in india then any other religion like muslims .