Against backdrop of Mumbai terror, India’s oldest Jewish community to celebrate first wedding in 21 years
The oldest Jewish community in India is poised to celebrate its first wedding in over 20 years, The Times of India reported recently.
The Kochi community in the southern state of Kerela – a once flourishing group now comprising only 48 members – will see the union of Shelomo and Susan on December 28 at the 400-year-old Dutch Cochin-Jewish synagogue in Jew Town in Mattancherry.
Set against the backdrop of last month’s terror attack in Mumbai and the siege of that city’s Chabad headquarters, the portside Kochi community expects a high level of security present at this milestone event.
“We wanted a quiet ceremony,” says Elias Josephia, a close relative of the groom, Shelomo, told The Times of India. “But the news of the marriage leaked out and now it is a different story.”
The bridegroom’s family had called for the increased security fearing that the wedding would be used as a target for terrorism, Josephia said. “They’re now giving out passes to guests to ensure no one else enters the synagogue. Vehicle passes are also being issued,” he told the paper
The couple, Shelomo and Susan, met on a social networking site and requested their parents’ permission before deciding to ties the know. They plan to wed according to “Talmudic rituals.”
“The bridegroom will offer a silver coin to the bride. On the day of the marriage, both the bridegroom and bride will fast till evening. Later, they will take out rings immersed in a glass of wine and exchange them. After this, they’ll also drink the wine and break the fast,” Josephia told The Times.
The groom’s family are still thriving members of Cochin’s small Jewish community while the bride’s family belongs to the Bene Israel community now settled on Mumbai.
Fewer than 5,000 Jews remain among India’s 1.1 billion people, but the faith has a long history in the secular country. There are dissenting opinions as to when Jews first arrived, but the first established community is thought to have been formed in Kerala in 70 AD.
Today, there are fewer than 50 Jews left in the area, and according to Josephia, “60 percent are are above 75 years old. So, this marriage calls for special celebration.” Most of the ancient community has immigrated to Israel.
The synagogue where the wedding will be held was described by The Times of India as “an architectural marvel.”
The 18th century hand-painted willow patterned floor tiles are from Cantum in China, adorned with Hebrew inscriptions on its stone slabs. The scrolls of the Old Testament and ancient scripts on copper plates are the oldest in the Commonwealth, according to The Times, and attracts tourists from across the world. The building itself was damaged by Portuguese shelling in 1662 and rebuilt two years later.
(Tags: India, Weddings, Jews)