Bangalore’s Jewish son came from California

Bangalore: Rubin Moses, the unusual shoemaker of Commercial Street, and his family, came to Bangalore soon after the San Francisco earthquake in the early years of this century __ almost 100 years ago. And precisely at the time of the quake was the gold rush at KGF, much like the Californian gold rush, that made life possible in Bangalore. Moses’ journey is part of a journey of hundreds of Jews who left California at the time of the quake.

Moses, who married one Rahma from Calcutta, started off a shoe shop on what is now Commercial Street. Rubin Moses and Sons as it was known, was, at the beginning of the 20th century, says well-known researcher and writer Nemichandra, described as the largest in Asia! Ask any elderly Bangalorean today and he or she’ll tell you the Rubin Shoe Shop was the best known in the city. Moses was so industrious that at the time he and his family was said to have owned almost half the properties on Commercial Street!

Moses built the family home on Cavalry Road in 1921 in the Iraqi Casbah Style and the Rubin House on Main Guard Road where the shoes were manufactured. This house had a prayer hall made by Rubin’s wife Rahma. The Rubin House was so well known that Jews from all over India, US, England and Palestine made it to the House. Among them was one famous Israeli gentleman who was to later become Israel’s President.

Says Nemichandra: “An entry dated 26 September 1946 in the visitors’ book bears the signature of Ezer Weizmann who later became the President of Israel! He was part of the RAF in Bangalore and he’d come from 4, Malchett Road, Haifa, Palestine. There wasn’t Israel at that time! Moses’ Cavalry Road home, numbered 19, famously carried the Star of David. It later came to be known as Eastern Lodge.

If Moses himself was an interesting personality, his family was more so. His children, Margaret and Cathaline, went to South Africa in 1956 and then to Israel. Rahma’s daughter, Sophie, turned a fashion designer and set up a shop on South Parade, located where the Barton Centre stands today. She later went to England. Her son Ezra Moses went to Canada and another daughter Rosalind who studied at Mysore, went to the US. “Rubin Moses loved India and Indians. He died in 1939, while his wife, Rahma, died in 1959. His two other sons Aaron and Maurice died in 1984 and 2001. Aaron Moses’ son Sidney Moses seems to be the last Moses’ Bangalorean.”

“What is utterly fascinating is Aaron, Rubin’s son, married a Chinese Jewish girl, Seema Levi, born in Hong Kong. She later came to be called Seema Moses. After Aaron died in 1984, the Rubin Shoe Company shut shop in 1985. And in 1997, Weizmann who was President of Israel visited Seema to recollect his old days,” says Nemichandra.

And where the Rubin family business once ran is now Woody’s on Commercial’s. Nemichandra observes that Rubin Moses and his family were the only ones to live in Bangalore for almost a century.
(Tags: Indian Jews, History)


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