The Last Jews of Kerala: The 2,000 Year History of India's Forgotten Jewish Community by Edna Fernandes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is my second time reading this book. Some may find it a bit opinionated others will love the history that is relayed to the reader in this book. Big question here is what causes a community or society to fold. The author points to community dissension and an apartheid type apparatus operating in the Cochini Jewish community. There are two groups of Jews in Kerala, one is a darker skinned almost Indian looking Jew and another one which hail form Europe is of lighter complexion. The lighter complected Jews find themselves feeling superior to the other Jews and have excluded them from participating in the synagogue, will not eat from their restaurants and intermarriage between the two groups is absolutely forbidden. Jewish racism against other Jews is not something new. White Jews or European Jews have been been constantly discriminating against darker Jews since god knows how long.For poignant example one need look at how the Yemenite Jews were treated or the Moroccan Jews were treated. The Israeli Government had the audacity to kidnap 5,000 Yemenite babies and sell them abroad. Moroccan Jews were subjected to radiological experiments. Look up "Ringworm children" on the internet. The Bene Israel Jews have been at many times called "non Jews"despite several thousands of years of practice. The racism goes on.
Jews first came to India in the time of King Solomon. Traders settled there and took on Indians wives and had children with them . This was the nucleus of one of the Indian Jewish communities. This community would later be supplemented by refugees from the Babylonian Exile an the Roman exile in 70 CE. The Paradesi Jews from Spain arrived during the inquisition. Later on they would proclaim themselves the original community and would look down upon their darker brethren . Joseph Rabban who both Jews claim descent from was sort of like a Jewish governor. He helped one on the Rajas in battle and was given control over several villages. The copper tablet are held in a Paradesi synagogue. The darker Jews claim it was stolen from them. This is a major sticking point between the two communities.
Barriers started to break down during the Ghandi years when Avo Salem turned down a lucrative career in politics and fought a battle on behalf of his brethren. Against the Paradesi. He started slowly to enter the synagogue little bit by little bit until his community gain full recognition and were given a place. Avo's sons Balfour and Gamy would also marry Paradesi women. The women were ostracized to be sure. Some fought back really hard while others just went with the flow.
Edna Flores visited this community while she was pregnant with her child. The community was dwindling in India and was in it's last days. But in Israel those that went there in most cases thrived. They were building profitable businesses in the Negev desert. One guy name Abraham did want to move back to India as the spiritual life in Israel was some what lacking.
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