Book Review: Clock ticking fast for India’s oldest Jewish Diaspora

New Delhi, Nov 13 (PTI) They had survived the worst that could be thrown at them but now the clock is ticking fast for India’s oldest Jewish Diaspora, says a new book.

In Cochin’s Jew Town, two small communities descended from a ‘lost tribe of Israel’ are living side by side, in disharmony and on the brink of extinction.

Separated by a narrow stretch of swamp-like waters, and distinguished by the colour of their skin, the Black Jews and the White Jews have been locked in a rancorous feud for centuries, writes British-Indian journalist Edna Fernandes in “The Last Jews of Kerala”.

“Only now, when their combined number is less than 50 and they are on the threshold of extinction, have the two last Jewish communities in Kerala begun to realise that their destiny, and their undoing, is the same,” she says.

“It is the end of history for the Jews of Kerala: 60 years after the formation of the state of Israel, 60 years after the birth of the Indian republic, the clock is ticking for India’s oldest Jewish Diaspora and it is one minute to midnight.” Living in Cochin alongside this last generation, Edna tells their story from the illustrious arrival of their ancestors through their heyday of tolerance and privilege to their present twilit existence, as synagogues crumble to disuse and weddings disappear, leaving only funerals.

“While other faiths in India were susceptible to communal violence, the Jews of Kerala remained immune to the troubles that periodically threatened to endanger India’s delicately poised religious equilibrium.”

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