Years ago, I gawked at pictures of the handmade tiles that adorn this famous 16th century synagogue. I never imagined that one day I would walk on those handmade Chinese tiles or gaze up at the colored glass lanterns. A trip to Jew Town and the Paradesi Synagogue did not not seem possible. Sadly, security concerns prevent personal photos. I had to leave my camera with a nearby attendant. I can only share an interior picture that my son, Josh, took years ago and my exterior pictures. (see photo gallery)
This once vibrant Jewish community has dwindled to just a handful. It is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. Had I been traveling by myself or with Jews, I certainly would have tried to attend Shabbat services.
I was honored to meet Sarah Cohen, one of the few remaining Jews in Cochin. Her shop, Sarah’s Hand Embroidery, is located in the historical township of Jew Town.
The nearby Jewish cemetery was locked so I could not find many historical clues. Using the magnification on my camera, I saw Hebrew inscriptions in between the blades of overgrown grass.
For additional information on the Jews of Cochin read The Last Jews of Kerala: The Two Thousand Year History of India’s Forgotten Jewish Community by Edna Fernandes.
For general information on the Jews of India see The Jews of India: A Story of Three Communities by the Israel Museum Jerusalem, This is India, by Shobita Punja, The Jews of India: Their Story, by Rachael Rukmini Israel, and The Jews of India, by Benjamin J. Israel.
Rachael Rukmini Israel, my daughter-in-law, wrote her book, over a decade ago, for a youthful audience while she was attending a New Delhi high school.
Additional books of interest are The Girl from Foreign by, Sadia Shepard and books authored by Esther David.
***Read Bala’s comment below for additional resources.