Tag Archives: Jews

Discovering Judaism In India – Is That Possible?

By Lakshmi:

As a little girl growing up in India, we never once questioned the ability of multiple ethnicities to coexist in one land. I went to Catholic schools, my best friend was Muslim and my family doctor was Jewish.  While there were plenty of  Christians, Hindus and Muslims around, except for my family doctor and her holidays, our exposure to Judaism was  minimal.  And then there was a discovery.  The state where my parents hailed from (Kerala) housed India’s oldest synagogue and one of the oldest known Jewish communities.  And slowly the awareness settled in.  The first community arrived in India 2,500 years ago.  They settled in Cochin in the southern state of Kerala and gradually more settlers arrived spreading their wings to different parts of the country.  A few months ago, I was walking around in Pune in western India and noticed a large synagogue.  It was old and beautiful and I discovered that it was the largest one in Asia.  Suddenly the linkages between Judaism and India were appearing more commonly before my eyes…was it the awareness that I was developing or simply more interest on a rather forgotten community?

This morning, the New York Times carried a lovely piece on Passover in India.  It was a lovely read and I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring our readers this little unknown slice of India.

“A Seder Spiced with Indian flavors” is a journey into how tradition and local cuisine have melded to create a one of a kind culture and history.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/dining/a-seder-spiced-with-flavors-from-india.html?_r=0

Conde Nast Traveller’s writing competition last year had a winner reporting on the “Jewish Settlements in India”. This is a lovely journey of visuals and words providing a sometimes sad/other times funny look at this community.

http://www.cntraveller.in/content/travel-writing-competition-traces-jerusalem

For those curious about how these synagogues might look like a world away, the following link provides beautiful photographs inside and outside some of these major places of worship.

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/synindia.html

If you happen to be in India and want to get a hands on orientation, here are a couple of tour companies offering specialized day trips.  Just reading the summaries gives you a peek into a far away world!

http://www.mumbaimagic.com/jewish_heritage.htm

http://www.viator.com/India/Synagogue/d723

Have you visited any synagogues in India or know more about the local Jewish traditions?  We’d love to hear from you.

 

Pinkas Synagogue, Prague – A Moving Tribute to Holocaust Victims

By Lakshmi:

Who?  Anyone who is visiting Prague and has an hour or more to spare and would like to understand the history of Jews in the area/pay tribute to victims of the holocaust.

What? The Pinkas Synagogue is a synagogue that has been turned into a memorial for holocaust victims.

How? The Pinkas Synagogue is located at

U Staré školy 1
110 00 Prague 1
phone:  +420 222 749 211

There is a variety of options and fees depending on whether you want to take in one or more sights in the Jewish Museum/Quarter.

Why?  I have to admit that prior to my visit to Prague, I had a vague picture of the Jewish communities that inhabited the area.  But close friends of mine  insisted that a visit to Prague would be incomplete without visiting the Jewish Museum/Pinkas Synagogue.  So one afternoon, a Jewish friend and I set forth to this area and spent several hours touring the museum and exhibits.  The most moving part of my visit was of course the Wall at the Pinkas Synagogue which was inscribed with the names of 80,000 or so residents of Bohemia and Moravia that perished in the holocaust.   Given that my visit to this memorial came many years before a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, this was the first full-scale impact of this chapter in history staring at me in the face.  Reading about a place like this does not prepare you in any way to the moving impact of seeing a wall filled with names of people and their origins and the sad end they met with.  I tried to follow the names, pausing to think about the untimely deaths of these individuals, all while gazing at my friend who was trying to trace family names with a tear in his eye.  If the wall moves you, then I cannot use any words to describe the impact of seeing the paintings left behind by the children who perished during this period as well.

A visit to the Pinkas Synagogue, just like visits to the Holocaust Museum in DC and the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is a grim reminder of what mankind should have never encountered and should never face again.

To learn more about the Pinkas Synagogue, click here:

http://www.jewishmuseum.cz/en/apinkas.htm