The Jews of India: A Story of Three Communities
Jews of India, one of the lesser-known and perhaps most interesting of the Diaspora, comprise the three geographically and ethnographically distinct communities examined in The Israel Museum's unique and authoritative volume The Jews of India. The Bene Israel, the largest group at approximately 24,000 members, inhabited the Maharashtra State on India's western coast; its ties with mainstream Judaism were reestablished in the nineteenth century. The smallest and oldest of the Indian Jewish communities, the Jews of Cochin have been a presence on the Malabar Coast of southwestern India for at least a thousand years. They numbered about 2,500 in the mid-1950's, just prior to their immigration to Israel. The Baghdadi Jews migrated from Iraq and Syria to large commercial cities in western and eastern India in the late eighteenth century. Numbering about 5,000 at the population's peak, Baghdadi Jews were largely assimilated into British colonial society, did not develop a distinct material culture in India, and so are a relatively minor presence in this book.
Esteemed editor Orpa Slapak spearheaded studies of all three Indian Jewish communities in Israel and in India, and has assembled a vivid and powerful portrait of these peoples. The text is profusely illustrated with striking color and black and white photographs of Indian Jews at home, work, prayer, and leisure, as well as a multitude of remarkable Indian Jewish artifacts, including illuminated manuscripts, lamps, clothing, jewelry, and household implements. Several maps, useful glossaries, and a selected bibliography complete the volume.
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