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Event Series Event Series: Jews of India

Jews of India

Jewish Museum-FIU

Fri, March 24th @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm EDT

Jews of India

India is known for its antiquity and modern high-tech. Spirituality and Bollywood swagger. Bustling cities and pristine nature. A cultural kaleidoscope that’s the world’s largest democracy.

But what’s typically not known is India’s long history as one of the most hospitable homes in the Jewish diaspora. For centuries, its three distinct Jewish communities – the Cochini, Bene Israel, and Baghdadi Jews – found a haven in which their traditions flourished. So too, they were among India’s great mystics, starred in the wildly popular film industry, served as mayors in major cities, and produced the country’s greatest military hero as well as its most celebrated English-language poet.

The Jewish community of Kochi (formerly Cochin) has been in South India for at least 1,000 years if not twice that. Spice traders, agriculturalists and merchants, they once served their ruling maharajahs as prime ministers and military generals. The Bene Israel, from the remote western Konkan Coast, boasts a fascinating origin story as to their arrival on the subcontinent thousands of years ago, transforming from an anonymous oil-pressing caste into modern, urbane Jews whose numbers in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) peaked to 30,000, the largest of all the country’s Jewish communities. Baghdadi Jews arrived in India primarily during the 18th century from Baghdad, as their name suggests, but also from other Arabic and Persian-speaking countries, escaping religious persecution and seeking business prospects. Settling in commercial centers of the time such as Mumbai and Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), they were mainly in the textile trade, some achieving considerable success including the Sasson family, known for their philanthropic activities such as building schools, hospitals, and libraries.


Fri, March 24th
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
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Jewish Museum-FIU
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