Kochi, Kerala and an Ancient Jewish Community: India Travels Part 3

January 1, 2023: Arrived in Kochi (Cochin), located on the far southwestern tip of India, from Delhi on New Years Eve. But the real party in Kochi seemed to be on New Years Day, when the streets were filled with costumed and bewigged people atop floats that would parade through the city. Women of all ages wore their most gloriously-colored sarees, and painted their fingers red. The parks and the esplanade along the Fort Kochi peninsula grew more boisterous with each hour as the time for the parade approached. #kerala #fortkochi

The ubiquitous coconuts of Kerala
The edge of India

January 2, 2023. One joy in my travels is finding ancient or lost Jewish communities-a reminder of how, over millennia, Jews have integrated into communities around the world. Jews in India claim their origins to the diaspora after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. In Kochi-an important trading port for centuries— Sephardi Jews also arrived after their expulsion from Spain and Portugal. The pictures here are of the Paradesi synagogue, built in 1568, when the Portuguese governed. We stopped in the shop of the late Sarah Cohen, who had been the last surviving Kohen in Kochi. A Muslim man whom she had taken care of now is the steward of the shop that still sells Judaica. This charming area of Kochi is called Jew Town and is now filled with shops. Less than 50,000 Jews remain in India. #kochi #jewtownkochi #kerala #indiatravel #paradesisynagogue

The historic, once-Jewish neighborhood in Kochi is still called Jew-Town. It’s filled with many small shops, a lot of them run by Kashmiris who have escaped some of the violence in Kashmir
The main shopping street in Jew-Town
The bimah of the Pardesi Synagogue. The crystal chandeliers are from Belgium, the blue and white floor tiles from China–an indications of how Kochi has been a trading hub for centuries
Outside the Pardesi synagogue
The Ark for the Torah
Near the entrance to the Pardesi Synagogue, with the words of the Shema, one of the most important prayers in the Jewish tradition
A photo of Sara Cohen in what had been her shop of Judaica. A Muslim friend of the family has kept the shop going since her death
Menorahs in Sara Cohens shop (with an image of Gandhi in the background)
Indian tourists peeking into a closed Gan Shalom, the old Jewish Cemetery in Jew-Town. Gan Shalom means Garden of Peace in Hebrew.
peering into Gan Shalom. An introduction to the lush tropical landscape of Kerala

2 Replies to “Kochi, Kerala and an Ancient Jewish Community: India Travels Part 3”

  1. Fascinante. En un viaje a Cuba en nuestro grupo conocí a un joven de India que se llamaba Suda Yehuda. Era de Kerala. Si me acuerdo bien, me dijo que su familia había estado en Kerala durante siglos. 

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