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Bene-Israel of India

A Web Site created by

Aaron Solomon (Ph.D) & Shulamith Solomon (Ph.D.)

Contents

1. History

Languages spoken: Marathi, English

Population:

1940's was 26000

1980's was 6000

1990's 4000

Arrival : The Bene-Israel claimed to be descendents of the ten tribes of Israel who were shipwrecked off the west coast of India, near Nawgaon on the Konkan Coast in the second Century B.C.E. Only seven couples survived and their offsprings were cut off from other Jewish communities for centuries (Sadok Masliyah, 1994). They were jews who escaped persecution in Galilee in the Second century BCE. They maintained the practices of Jewish Dietary laws, circumcision and observance of Sabbath as a day of rest. In the 18th century they were discovered by traders from Bagdad and at that time they were practicing just a few outward forms of Judaism. However, different theories suggest they arrived from Palestine, Yemen, Persia, Babylon.

Assimilation: The Indian caste system enabled the Bene-Israel to blend into the Indian Society without losing their own distinctive Jewish Character. The evils of the caste system in India, proved to intact this Jewish group as the caste system did not allow intermarriage with other castes. Thus the Bene-Israelis were not totally assimilated into the Hindu society. (Sadok Masliyah, 1994) The community seemed to have eroded through emigration to Israel during the 1950's, 1960's, 1970's. In Israel a number of them prospered but faced sometimes subtle, sometimes blatent discrimination and had to eventually fight a political battle to be recognized as Jews in instances of marriages with other ethnic groups. (Frank Conlon 1994) The Bene-Israel community is found in Israel in cities such as Ashdod, Lod, Ramle, Beersheba. The Orthodox Chief Rabbinate of Israel decreed in 1962 that marriage with the Bene Israel was permitted, and the Israeli prime minister issued a statement in 1964 that the government of Israel regards them as Jews in every respect.

Information on the Charikars (from the book by H. S. Kehimkar, 1937)

The Churrikars (Charikars) take up the first place in the place, in the point of chronological order. We have have no authentic information as to the founder of this family, except that one Aaron belonging to it supposed to be its founder was appointed Nayek or Commander of a fleet by Khanoji Angria about the beginning of the 17th century. He performed his duties so satisfactorily that he received some land in Inam (gift) from the chieftains. It is still in possession of his descendent, and is enjoyed in perpetuity, though they have it is said to pay some land tax to the the present government. The Churrikars held the most important and responsible post of Naik or Comammder of the Angria fleet until it was burnt by the Peshwas in 1793. Besides the land granted to them in Inam they received a Sanad (honor) entitling them to receive a special honor and precedence from the local members of the Bene-Israel community.

2. Names and addresses of Synagogues in Bombay (marked with an asterisk are Bagdadi Synagogues)

Bombay

a. Magen Hassidim Synagogue, Morland Road, Agripada, Bombay.(built 1904)

b. Gate of Mercy, (Shaar Harahamin)  254 Samuel street, Mandvi, Bombay 400003. (built 1796)

c. Knesseth Elyahhoo, Dr. V. S. Gandhi Marg, Fort, Bombay 400001. (*) (built 1884)

d. Magen David Synagogue, Sir J.J. Road, Byculla, Bombay  400008. (*)  (built 1861)

e. Shaar HaShamaim Synagogue, Tembi naka, Thane 400601 (built 1878)

f. Shaare Rason Synagogue, 90 Tantanpura Street, Kodak, Bombay 400009. (Built 1840)

g. Tifereth Israel Synagogue, 92 K. K. Marg, Jacob Circle, Bombay 400011. (built 1886)

h. Etz Haeem Prayer Hall, 2nd Lane, Umerkhadi, Bombay 400009. (built 1888)

i. Kurla Bene-Israel Prayer Hall, 275 S. G. Barve Road, Kurla West, Bombay 400070. (built 1948)

j. Bene-Israerl Prayer Hall, Bandra, Bombay. (built 1930)

k. Rodef Shalom Synagogue Sussex road, Byculla, Bombay 400027. (built 1925)

Outside Bombay

a. Ohel David Synagogue, Pune Camp, Pune 411001. (built 1867)

b. Succoth Shelomo Synagogue, 93 Rasta Peth, Pune 411001 (built 1921)

c. Magen Aboth Synagogue, Alibag. (built 1848)

d. Bet-el Synagogue, Revdanda. (built 1842)

e. Talekar Synagogue, Post Chordee, Talekar.  Closed

f. Beth El Synagogue, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Panvel, 410206. (built 1849)

g. Knesseth Israel Synagogue, Talley Ghosaley, Mangaon Tehsil. (built 1849)

h. Beth Ha Elohim Synagogue, Pen (built 1863)

i. Hesed-El Synagogue, Poynad (built 1866)

j. Shaare Shalom Synagogue, Murud Janjira. (built 1869) Closed.

k. Ambepur Synagogue, Ambepur. (built 1882) Closed.

l. Bet- El Synagogue, Ashtami, Roha. (built 1882) Closed.

m. Shahar HaTephillah Synagogue, Mhesala. (built 1886) Closed

n. Or-Le Israel Synagogue, Nandgaon. (built 1896) Closed.

g. Magen Abraham Synagogue, Ahmedabad. (built 1933)

Jewish cemeteries are located at Mazagaon Road, Grant Road, Haines Road and Delisle Road (Bagdadi).

3. Jewish Schools in Bombay

a. Sir Jacob Sassoon High School, Sir J. J. Road, Byculla, Bombay 400008.

b. Sir Elly Kadorie School,Mazgaon, Bombay.

c. ORT India,Mazgaon, Bombay.

d. ORT for Girls, Worli, Bombay.

d. E. E. Sassoon School, Byculla, Bombay 400008

4. Places of Interest on the Bene-Israel

a. Nawgaon: Site of their first landing. This is the site where the jews first landed in India. It is a small village and a memorial structure has been erected here. The graves of those jews who perished at this location is also found at this village.

b. Alibag: Synagogue. Alibag is a small town located 19 miles from Bombay. Here the Magen Aboth Synagogue was constructed in 1848. Many jews owned in this town, plots of land used for farming, rasing livestock, etc. Later many of these jews shifted to Bombay during the British period.

c. Pen: Synagogue

5. Photos

a. First landing at Nawgaon and site where a Memorial is built.

b. Oldest Bene-Israel Synagogue still holding prayers. Gate of Mercy Synagogue established 1796

c. Photos of Bene-Israelis in the British Era.

d. Documents related to Bene-Israelis.

6. Other related Web Sites

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Contact Information

address aaron91320@yahoo.com

Shulamith Solomon, 2/8 Rekov Rambam, Azor Beth, Ashdod, Israel. Tel : 08-8564150.

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5.Bibliographic Information (Books on Bene-Israel of India, arranged chronologically).

a. Haeem Samuel Kehimker. 1937. The History of the Bene-Israel of India. Dayag Press, Tel-Aviv.

b. Moses Ezekiel. 1948. History and Culture of the Bene-Israel in India. Bombay.

c. Benjamin J. Israel. 1963. Religious evolution among the Bene-Israel of India since 1750. Bombay.

d. Shellim Samuel. 1963. Treatise on the Origin and early history of the Bene-Israel of Maharashtra. Bombay.

e. Schifra Strizower. 1971. The Children Of Israel: The Bene-Israel of India. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

f. Carl Gussin. 1972. Bene-Israel of India: Political, Religious and systematic change (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Syracuse University).

g. Ezekial Barber. 1981. The Bene-Israel in India: Images and reality. University Press of America, Washington.

h. Benjamin J. Israel. 1984. The Bene-Israel of India. New York.

i. Thomas A. Timberg. 1986. Jews in India. Vikas Press, New Delhi.

j. Shirley B. Isenberg. 1988. India's Bene-Israel: A comprehensive Inquiry. Berkeley. J. L. Museum.

k. Joan G. Roland. 1989. The Jews in British India: Identity in a colonial era. Hanover, NH. University Press of New England for Brandeis University Press.

l. Shulmith Solomon. 1991. Ph. D. Thesis. "The Bene-Israel of the Konkan Coast of Maharashtra:  An Ethanographic Study" Bombay Univeristy, Bombay.

m. Sadok Masliyah. 1994. The Bene-Israel and the Bagdadis: Two Indian Jewish Communities in conflict. Judaism Volume 43, No3 pp279-293.

n. Illana Sugbaker and Ammiel Alcalay. 1994. Memories of an Indian upbringing. The Literary Review Volume 37. No2, pp266.

o. Nathan Katz. Editor. 19-- . Studies on Indian Jewish Identity. Manohar Publishers New Delhi.

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Address of the Israeli Embassy in Bombay

Kailas, 50 G. Deshmukh Marg, Peddar Road, Bombay 400026. Tel :386-2793/4/5

Name and address of the Rabbi in Bombay: Mr. Abraham Benjamin.

Mohels: 1. Dr   E. Kolet        2. Mr. Moses Phansapurkar

Jewish Organizations in Bombay    

1. BZA (Bombay Zionist Organization)

2. Council of Indian Jewry

3. Jewish Federation of India

4. JRU (Jewish Religious Youth)

5. Maccabi Sports Association

6. American Joint Distribution Organization

7. Young Pioneers

Disclaimer:

This Web Site was created and is maintained for information regarding the Bene-Israel and is not a guarantee for authenticity of dates and materials. The authors disclaim any liability and information used is at your own risk.

The purpose of this web page was to have information and a collection of links on the Bene Israel together on one comprehensive page. They have been away from their homeland for centuries but still followed their Jewish customs, attented Jewish schools, built Jewish Synagogues and observed Jewish dietary laws, festivals and ceremonies thus truly and faithfully maintaining their Jewish identity.

Site Created June 27, 1997. Copyright . 1997.
Last revised: Aug 06, 2002.

Web page maintained by Aaron Solomon.

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