Though many may be aware of this. India has had resident Jewish communities for more than a millennium. Regular visits by Jewish merchants and sailors from West Asia go back two millennia and more. This book tells the story of the three strands of Indian Jews--the ancient Bene Israel and Cochini Jewish communities and the more recent (18th-20th century) community of West-India Jews, the 'Baghdadis', their inter-relations and interactions, both among themselves and with the Hindu and Muslim communities among which they lived and worked in peace and harmony.
Never numerous, the number of Jews in India has dwindled, especially of the Cochinis and Baghdadis, who are now so few that they find it extremely difficult to maintain any community activity, religious or otherwise, without the support of the Bene Israel of Maharashtra who, though a fraction of their original number, are still numerous enough to sustain a viable community life.
The second part of this book is devoted to this small but surviving India Jewish community, their religious evolution after years of total isolation from all centers of world Jewry, and the surnames they adopted which link them for all time with their ancient village homelands in the coastal Konkan region of Western India. Few though they are, they remain a continuing demonstration of how a miniscule community, long subject to discrimination and persecution elsewhere, could live in India with honor and in complete harmony with its fellow Indians over almost two millennia, in spite of its centuries-long complete isolation as a religious group.
Table of Contents:
Foreword by Ezra Kolet to the 1982 edition
THE JEWS OF INDIA
Indian Jewish Communities
The Bene Israel
The Cochin Jews
Supplement: The Jewish Contribution to India
TWO BENE ISRAEL STUDIES
MAP: Kolaba District
Religious Evolution among the Bene Israel of India since 1750
Appendix: Moses Maimonides and the Bene Israel
Bene Israel Surnames and Their Village Links
Map: Kolaba District--Village
Appendix 1: Bene israel Surnames
Appendix 2: Tahsilwise List of Villages with Populations
(The Once Bene Israel) Habitat
Glossary of Jewish Terms
About the Author:
BENJAMIN J ISRAEL studied in the Elphinston College, Bombay, where he was College Scholar and Dakshina Fellow. A member of the Bombay Philosophical Society, he wrote several papers and reviews for the Society. After retirement, he made a deep study of the Bene Israel community and his knowledge and observations were often drawn upon by scholars and even by Encyclopedia Judaica.