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From Kolkata to Cochin, the surprising landscape of Indian Jewish food

TJI Pick
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Published: 26 April 2022

Last updated: 4 March 2024

Separated by geography and language, there's not much that might seem to connect India's five dwindling Jewish communities – except praying in Hebrew, and food

EAST OF THE Hooghly River in the Indian city of Kolkata sits Barabazar, a wholesale market whose history goes back to the 18th Century. Everything – from spices, clothes and electronics to salvaged doors and second-hand furniture – is traded here.

Amidst this bustling grid of roads, at the corner of Brabourne Road and Canning Street, sits the imposing Magen David Synagogue. Adjacent to it is the city's oldest existing synagogue, Neveh Shalom Synagogue.

Built in Italian Renaissance style in the late-19th Century with bright brick finish, beige trim, arches and a pointed tower, Magen David is striking. Inside, chequered floors, ornate pillars, shimmering chandeliers and stained-glass windows make for a memorable image. However, the synagogue is deserted on most days, and hardly any religious activity takes place.

Kolkata is home to the Baghdadi Jews, who were once abundant enough to warrant five synagogues; now there aren't enough for a minyan (minimum [10] male Jews required for liturgical purposes).

Magen David and the smaller Beth El Synagogue on nearby Pollock Street were both classified as protected monuments and renovated by the Archaeological Survey of India in 2017. Today, they are tourist destinations, and kept open for the odd visitor.

FULL STORY The surprising landscape of Indian Jewish food (BBC)

Photo: Jewtown in Cochin (Michael Visontay)

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