16 May 2009

India: Fighting to save Cochin's synagogue

Local state government authorities in Cochin, India have taken steps to block the future demolition of a centuries-old synagogue in the southern India city. This was in response to rumors of the possible sale of the building to a developer.

Jerusalem Post writer Michael Freund, who is visiting in Cochin, wrote this story.

The Thekkumbhagom synagogue, located on Jews Street in the Ernakulam area of Cochin, was built in 1580 and later renovated in 1939. Along with other local synagogues, it served Cochin's 3,000 Jews until most moved to Israel after the establishment of the state. Fewer than 35 Jews now remain in Cochin.

The synagogue is currently owned by the Association of Kerala Jews, and in recent years, the structure has fallen into disuse.

In recent weeks, according to former Cochini Jews living in Israel, the synagogue was put up for sale and negotiations were conducted with an Indian developer who wanted to buy the property and tear down the building.
The Association of Kerala Jews president Isaac Joshua denied the synagogue was for sale. He said the association plans to turn it over to the local archeological department to assure that it will remain protected and maintained.

A petition with dozens of signatures of former Cochini Jews now living in Israel was sent to the Kerala government's home minister, asking authorities to safeguard synagogues and Jewish cemeteries.

Kerala's secretary of tourism Dr. Venu V. Ias said he instructed the superintending archeologist to ensure the building was not demolished." He added that the structure was on the government list of "heritage buildings" which meant local authorities would have to grant permission to demolish it.

Read the complete article at the link above.

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