Jewish Kochi (also known as Cochin) is a city in southwest India's coastal Kerala state. It has been a port since 1341, when a flood carved out its harbor and opened it to Arab, Chinese and European merchants. Sites reflecting those influences include Fort Kochi, a settlement with tiled colonial bungalows and diverse houses of worship. Cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, typical of Kochi, have been in use for centuries. The Jews of Kochi are the oldest group of Jews in India, with roots that are claimed to date back to the time of King Solomon. The Kochi Jews settled in the Kingdom of Kochi in South India, now part of the state of Kerala. As early as the 12th century, mention is made of the Jews in southern India by Benjamin of Tudela. They are known to have developed Judeo-Malayalam, a dialect of Malayalam language. [caption id="attachment_43088" align="alignnone" width="1884"] A Malabar Jewish family (1930)[/caption] Following their expulsion from Iberia in 1492 by the Alhambra Decree, a few families of Sephardi Jews eventually made their way to Kochi in the 16th century. They became known as Paradesi Jews (or Foreign Jews). The European Jews maintained some trade connections to Europe, and their language skills were useful. Although the Sephardim spoke Ladino, in India they learned Judeo-Malayalam from the Malabar Jews. The two communities retained their ethnic and cultural distinctions. In the late 19th century, a few Arabic-speaking Jews, who became known as Baghdadi, also immigrated to southern India, and joined the Paradesi community. After India gained its independence in 1947 and Israel was established as a nation, most of the Malabar Jews made Aliyah and emigrated from Kerala to Israel in the mid-1950s. In contrast, most of the Paradesi Jews (Sephardi in origin) preferred to migrate to Australia and other Commonwealth countries, similar to the choices made by Anglo-Indians. Synagogues Most of their synagogues still exist in Kerala, with a few being sold or adapted for other uses. Among the 8 synagogues that survived till the mid-20th century, only the Paradesi synagogue still has a regular congregation. Today it also attracts tourists as a historic site. A few synagogues are in ruins and one was even demolished and a two-storeyed house was built in its place. The Chendamangalam synagogue was reconstructed in 2006 as Kerala Jews LifeStyle Museum. [caption id="attachment_42978" align="alignnone" width="2000"] Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi, India[/caption] Jew Town The historic Jew Town is the heart of the once-thriving Jewish community and a popular spot for tourists today. At the center of Jew Town is Synagogue Lane, where one can find antiques, carvings, and vintage items for sale, along with Keralan crafts and local spices. The neighborhood was once lined with Jewish homes and shops that are now mostly owned by Muslims. [caption id="attachment_42991" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Popular shopping street in Jew Town, Kochi, India[/caption] Notable Jewish Figures Joseph Rabban, the first leader of the Jewish community of Kodungallur, was given copper plates of special grants from the Chera ruler Bhaskara Ravivarman II from Kerala Sarah bat Israel, whose tombstone (d. 1249 A.D) is the oldest found in India and is currently located at the Chendamangalam Synagogue [caption id="attachment_43089" align="alignnone" width="608"] Tombstone of Sarah bat Israel, Credit: Dr. Ajay B, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] Eliyah ben Moses Adeni, a 17th century Hebrew poet from Kochi. Nehemiah ben Abraham (d. 1615 A.D), (Nehemiah Mutha), patron saint of Malabar Jews Abraham Barak Salem (1882–1967), Kochi Jewish Indian nationalist leader Benjamin Meyuhasheem, the last Kochi Jew in Seremban, Malaysia Meydad Eliyahu, Israeli artist
As the name suggests, Mocha art cafe is where one heads when in the mood for some relaxing enjoyment, tasty coffee, and soul-satisfying ambience! As you walk through the Synagogue lane in Jew town Mattanchery a panoramic view of the historic Jewish Synagogue greets your eyes. This oldest synagogue in the country attracts thousands of tourists and is one of the most visited spots in Kochi. However next to the Synagogue is another Dutch building 400-year-old and once upon a time home to the Rabbis who worked in the Synagogue. Back in 1910 Abdul Karim Mohammed a spice trader bought the building and converted it into a warehouse. Karim Mohammed passed on this legacy to his son AKM Sulaiman. As tourism flourished in Kochi and the number of tourists visiting the Synagogue increased Mr. Sulaiman moved his business from the Dutch building to another part of the city. From then on, this building with its treasure trove of history remained closed for almost thirty years until Junaid Sulaiman grandson of Mr. Karim Mohammed decided to convert it into an art cafe.
The Jewish Cemetery in Kochi, also called the Gan Shalom, is part of the Paradesi Synagogue and was once one of the main cemeteries for Jews living in the city. Today, the cemetery is largly undisturbed and mostly only avaliable for visitors to view through the steel gate. Members from the town's small Jewish community are still buried here. Image credit: Emmanuel DYAN from Paris, France, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons; Jason Rosenberg, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons; Reuben Strayer from montreal, canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
The resting place of the Yemenite-born scholar known as the Kochi Kabbalist is not in the cemetery but on a narrow side street off Synagogue Lane—also called Jew Street. After his death in 1615, stories of his miraculous deeds circulated in the community, including one stating that he could fly through the air to reach home in time for Shabbat prayers. The tomb has become a sacred pilgrimage site for locals of all religions. It has been painted aqua and white, its Hebrew inscription and crown daubed a saffron color.
The Chendamangalam Synagogue is one of the oldest known synagogues built by the Malabar Jews, in Chendamangalam, a village in the Ernakulam district of the coastal state of Kerala. It is dated to 1100 A.D, though the synagogue structure itself dates to 1420 A.D or 1614 A.D., making it the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. A tombstone recovered from Shingly was stored in this synagogue and is presently on display in the courtyard in front. This tombstone with the inscription of Sarah bat Israel is the oldest Jewish relic found in India, dating to 1270 A.D. After the entire congregation made aliyah to Israel in 1950s, the synagogue was defunct for decades. Today it serves as a Kerala Jews Lifestyle Museum for the Muziris Project, a conservation project by the Government of Kerala. The synagogue has been restored and has an exhibit open to visitors from 9:30 to 5:00 during the week. A tombstone recovered from Shingly was stored in this synagogue and is presently on display in the courtyard in front. This tombstone with the inscription of Sarah bat Israel is the oldest Jewish relic found in India, dating to 1270 A.D. The Chendamangalam Synagogue Musuem showcases the lives and rituals of Kerala Jews who were firm believers and lived in close contact with the local society. The synagogue is located inside high walls that surround it. The wall in front is as high as the front elevation. When you cross the front door, it is the Azara, with a vast prayer room behind it. The balcony that projects into the prayer room is the second Bimah (elevated platform for Torah reading). Supporting it are two stone pillars with intricate carvings. The position of the Ark is on the wall across the door, and it is a beautiful piece of art in teak with carved images. On the wooden planks on the roof are carved images of lotus that are painted. On both sides of the Bimah are two rows of bench. There is a spiral staircase to climb up to the second Bimah.
Historic Jew Town, the heart of the once-thriving Cochin Jewish community, is known for its old-world charm and 16th-century Paradesi Synagogue. Quaint shops around Synagogue Lane and Jew Town Road sell antiques, carvings, and vintage collectibles, along with Keralan crafts and aromatic spices. Laid-back outdoor cafes and artsy eateries, some in heritage buildings, serve local specialties and Western fare. The neighborhood was once lined with Jewish homes and shops that are now mostly owned by Muslims. Some of the wrought-iron windows and outer walls retain their Star of David decorations, some side by side with swastikas, the Indian good-luck symbol that the Nazis co-opted. Souvenir and antique shops beckon with names like Café Jew Town and Shalom. A.B. Salem Street, which leads to the cemetery, is padlocked behind a gate. The street is named for a community leader, lawyer, teacher and follower of Mahatma Gandhi.
In a most unlikely setting, the Kadavambagam synagogue in Ernakulam (a 45-minute drive away from Jew Town) sits in the midst of a crowded market, hidden behind a plant and aquarium shop called Cochin Blossoms that incorporates hamsas on its sign. The current synagogue is the restored oldest synagogue of the Malabar Jews, with a Sefer Torah scroll and offering occasional services. It was established in 1200 CE and restored several times through the centuries on the same site. It is modeled on the earliest synagogue of the Malabar Jews at Muziris from the ancient times of Mediterranean sea trade with Kerala. The earliest synagogue of the ancient Malabar Jews is today submerged in the sea following the gradual rise of sea level over several millennia. Although the Chendamangalam Synagogue is the oldest surviving synagogue structure in Kerala and Indian subcontinent (established in 1166 CE), its Torah scrolls were taken to Israel by it congregation in 1952. This makes the Kadavumbhagham Ernakulam synagogue the oldest Malabar Jewish synagogue today (since its restoration in 2018) with a Torah scroll that is occasionally used for services. The Paradesi Sephardic synagogue at Mattancherry also has Torah scrolls but it was established much later in 1568. The Sabbath services at the Kadavumbhagam Ernakulam synagogue continued till 1972 when a large portion of the community immigrated to Israel by 1972 along with the Torah scrolls. For decades, the Kadavumbhagham Synagogue at Ernakulam remained without any Sabbath services and without a Sefer Torah. Today the synagogue is nested within the bustling market at Ernakulam with a thriving aquarium in the front area near the synagogue operating since 1985. After much effort, the Kadavumbhagham Ernakulam synagogue was restored and the Sefer Torah brought back to the synagogue in 2018 after 46 years. Today there are only two synagogues in Kochi that have Torah scrolls: the Paradesi synagogue of the Sephardic Jews in Mattancherry and the Kadavumbhagham Ernakulam synagogue of the ancient Malabar Jews.
The Paradesi Synagogue aka Mattancherry Synagogue is a synagogue located in Mattancherry Jew Town, a suburb of the city of Kochi, Kerala, in India. It was built in 1568 A.D. by Samuel Castiel, David Belila, and Joseph Levi for the flourishing Paradesi Jewish community in Kochi. The Malabari Jews or Yehudan Mappila (also known as Cochin Jews) formed a prosperous trading community of Kerala, and they controlled a major portion of worldwide spice trade. In 1568, Paradesi Jews constructed the Paradesi Synagogue adjacent to Mattancherry Palace, Cochin, now part of the Indian city of Ernakulam, on land given to them by the Raja of Kochi. The first synagogue in India was built in the 4th century in Kodungallur (Cranganore) when the Jews had a merchantile role in the South Indian region (now called Kerala) along the Malabar coast. When the community moved to Kochi in the 14th century, it built a new synagogue there. Today the Paradesi Synagogue is the only functioning synagogue in Kochi with a minyan (though this minyan must be formed with Jews from outside Kochi, as the number who still reside there is not sufficient). In conformity with the Hindu, St Thomas Christian or Syrian Mappila and Muslim Mappila traditions of Kerala, the worshippers are required to enter the Paradesi Synagogue barefoot. Other facets which are unique to the Cochin Jewish community, and which are results of Hindu influence, include special colours of clothing for each festival, circumcision ceremonies performed at public worship, and distribution of grape-soaked myrtle leaves on certain festivals. The Paradesi Synagogue has the Scrolls of the Law, several gold crowns received as gifts, many Belgian glass chandeliers, and a brass-railed pulpit. It houses the 10th-century copper plates of privileges given to Joseph Rabban, the earliest known Cochin Jew. These two plates were inscribed in Old Malayalam by the ruler of the Malabar Coast. The floor of the synagogue is composed of hundreds of Chinese, 18th-century, hand-painted porcelain tiles, each of which is unique.
This inn is conveniently located in the heart of old Bukhara, just 165 ft from Lyab-i Hauz Architectural Complex and right across from the Bukhara Synagogue. Free Wi-Fi, 24-hour front desk and a welcome cup of tea are featured at Salom Inn.The bright, air-conditioned rooms have warm-colored, hand-crafted interiors and traditional Uzbek décor. Each room comes complete with a minibar, a desk, a hair dryer and a private bathroom.Salom Inn Restaurant serves Uzbek cuisine in the hotel’s lovely shaded courtyard. A partner tourist agency can arrange tours and excursions for guests of the Salom.Nodir-Divan-Begi Madrasa is a 2-minute walk away, while Magoki-Attari Mosque and the famous Bukhara Kalon minaret are a 5-minute walk from the inn.Bukhara International Airport is 3 miles from Salom Inn.
In the Middle Ages, Bukhara became the heart of Jewish life in central Asia, as Jews from other communities in the region settled there. By the turn of the twentieth century, the Jewish community of Bukhara was the largest among a network of Jewish minorities in Uzbek cities including Tashkent, Samarkand, Kokand, Andijan, Marghilan, and Navoi. Bukharian Jews were active in establishing trade connections with the Russian Empire and held positions in law, medicine, and local government, while others were well-known musicians, actors, and dancers. Following the Russian Revolution and throughout the Holocaust, Jews from Eastern Europe continued to immigrate to Bukhara to avoid persecution. Less than 200 Bukharian Jews remain in the old mahallah. The vast majority left Bukhara for Israel and the United States following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Due to this mass exodus and the development of new building techniques, the traditional houses are now under threat of disappearance and are subject to alterations insensitive to their historical significance. The houses were included on the 2020 World Monuments Watch to encourage the documentation and creation of sustainable urban conservation standards for the adaptive reuse of the Bukharian Jewish Houses. - Description and photos by the World Monuments Fund
Bukhara is an ancient city in the central Asian country of Uzbekistan. It was a prominent stop on the Silk Road trade route between the East and the West, and a major medieval center for Islamic theology and culture. It still contains hundreds of well-preserved mosques, madrassas, bazaars and caravanserais, dating largely from the 9th to the 17th centuries. Though the community has decreased significantly over the years, the city of Jewish Bukhara once had a thriving Jewish population. The Bukharan Jews are considered one of the oldest ethno-religious groups of Central Asia and over the years they have developed their own distinct culture. Throughout the years, Jews from other Eastern countries such as Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Morocco migrated into Central Asia (by way of the Silk Road). [caption id="attachment_42916" align="alignnone" width="1268"] Jewish children with their teacher in Samarkand[/caption] While some Bukharan Jews relate their own ancestry to the period of the Assyrian captivity and exiles from the tribes of Naphtali and Issachar, basing this assumption on a reading of "Habor" at II Kings 17:6 as a reference to Bukhara, Bukharan Jewish tradition generally associates their establishment in the country with the emigration of Persian Jews, fleeing the persecutions of King Peroz I (458–485 CE). Some scholars believe Jews settled in Central Asia in the sixth century, but it is certain that during the eighth to ninth centuries they lived in Central Asian cities such as Balkh, Khwarezm, and Merv. At that time, and until approximately the sixteenth century, Bukharan Jews formed a group continuous with Jews of Iran and Afghanistan. Today, Bukharan Jews represent a small fraction of the total Jewish population in the United States, but the Bukharan community is growing rapidly, especially in Queens, New York. In the past 30 years, the community went from one synagogue to thirty. Out of the total 70,000 Bukharan Jews that are estimated to live in the U.S, approximately 50,000 Bukharian Jews live in Queens, New York. History of Jewish Synagogue in Bukhara In the Old Quarter of Jewish Bukhara only two synagogues remained: the nearest and far synagogues. And once there were thirteen. In the 70s, Jews began to leave the Soviet Union, including the countries of Central Asia, and the synagogues were closed. And in Bukhara, the Jewish community has declined significantly: if in the past it consisted of 35,500 people, now there are just over 400 Jews. The rituals in the Bukhara synagogue are virtually indistinguishable from those conducted in Israel. Only bright suzane hanging on the walls tell about the fact that after all this is the synagogue of Bukhara. The construction of a synagogue in Bukhara is closely connected with the building of a place quite famous all over the world in the city - the architectural ensemble Lyabi House. As Bukhara scientists assert for the first time this story was mentioned in writing by Z.A. Amitin-Shapiro in 1921. The locals told him about this tradition, and it is this, and no other, that is considered the most faithful to this day. In the XVII century, one of the viziers of Imam Quli Khan built a large mosque in the center of the city, the Honako Nodir Divan Begi. Next to the mosque there was a small courtyard belonging to a Jewish widow. Nodir Divan Begi, having decided that instead of her house a large reservoir could well have been built, he turned to her with a request to sell her yard for any fee. But the widow did not succumb to the vizier's persuasion and refused his offer. Then Divan Begi turned for help to the Khan, being sure that he would resolve the dispute in his direction, because, as is known, Nodir Divan Begi was the uncle of the Khan. But Imam Quli Khan handed over the consideration of this question to the colleges of muftis who forbade taking the house from the hostess, since the Bukhara Jews paid a tax of "jizya" for the right to preserve their religion and had the same rights as Muslims. The vizier had to confine himself to a reservoir of small size. Then his friends told him to take a small canal (aryk) from the city channel “Shokhrud”, so that it would pass near the Jewish house. The ingenious plan worked. When the water began to wash away the foundation of the house, the woman turned to Nodir Divan Begi, to which he responded with the same conditions. The widow had no heirs and she did not need the money. She agreed to a deal with an official on her own terms, which provided for the issuance of a site for the construction of a Jewish synagogue in Bukhara. Nodir Divan Begi agreed with the woman and gave her his plot of land, which was located not far from her old house. Jews built a synagogue here, and the vizier expanded his reservoir to its present size. It is known that the woman, after the construction of the synagogue, lived on its upper floor, but unfortunately her story did not preserve her name. Today, the synagogue is also a monument of antiquity and is under state protection. This Bukhara synagogue keeps the Torah, which is 500 years old. The synagogue in Bukhara is visited by many tourists, visitors to the city, and high-ranking officials. Members of the community of Bukhara Jews piously honor the memory of their ancestors. In the place of honor in the synagogue there are photographs of 18 rabbis who in different years lived in Bukhara. The Bukharian Cemetery The Bukhara-Jewish cemetery is located in the area of the "Old town". The graves are dated back to 1945. The approximate number of graves exceeds 10,000 people. The cemetery consists of several sectors. The state of graves and tombs is good. The relatives who still live in the country visit the graves on holidays and at the date of death. There are some famous people whose graves are located at the cemetery: Composer, People's artist of Uzbekistan Suleyman Yudokov (died in 1990) Honoured coach of Uzbekistan R.R. Davidov (died in 1963) Honoured artist of Uzbekistan, professor Yu. Ishokov People's artist of Uzbekistan M. Leviev (died in 1990) Doctor of philology sciences, professor N.M. Mallaev (died in 1996) People's artist of Uzbekistan E. Kalantarov (died in 1984) People's artist of Uzbekistan M. Yakubova (died in 1987