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There are at least 8 known synagogues in Kerala in recorded history, even though most of them are not operating anymore. One of these belonged to the White Jews of Cochin, while the other 7 belonged to the Malabari (Brown or Black) Jews. [1] Each of these is quite unique in its construction and architecture; nevertheless, they retain very similar aesthetics, blending in both the Jewish and Keralite traditions rarified over centuries.[2]

Only the Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry still functions as a synagogue and is a popular tourist destination. The Parur Synagogue, Chendamangalam Synagogue, Mala Synagogue and the Kadavumbhagam Ernakulam Synagogue in Ernakulam downtown are open to public visit, even if they do not serve their originally intended religious purposes anymore. They remain as souvenirs representative of Kerala's rich cosmopolitan heritage, religious tolerance and cultural magnificence.

Many old synagogues are completely lost, a notable example being the Kochangadi Synagogue built in 1344 (the foundation stone of which is still retained in the Paradesi Synagogue) mostly likely after the Jews had to abandon Muziris due to the great flood of Periyar river in 1341 .[3][4]

Contents

List of Synagogues in KeralaEdit

Name Location Photo Current state
Paradesi Synagogue Mattancherry, Kochi
 
Interior of the Paradesi Synagogue
Operational
Mala Synagogue Mala, Thrissur
 
Mala Synagogue
Non-operational for worship, open to visits
Chendamangalam Synagogue Chendamangalam, North Paravur
 
Chendamangalam Synagogue
Non-operational for worship;
Open to public visits as Kerala Jews Life Style Museum.
Paravur Synagogue North Paravur (Parur) [5]
 
Paravur Synagogue Museum during renovation (2011)
Non-operational for worship;
Open to public visits as Kerala Jews History Museum
Kadavumbhagam Ernakulam Synagogue Market Road, Ernakulam;

At the center of the crowded market area on west side of Market Road,
just south of where it intersects with Jew Street [6] [7] [8]

Non-operational for worship (was functional until 1972, when its membership could no longer support it [9]);

currently hosts a business "Cochin Blossoms" by the present owner Mr. Elias (Babu) Josephai;
it is undergoing restoration as of 2018 [10];
open to visits [11] [12]

Thekkumbhagam Ernakulam Synagogue [13] Jew Street, Ernakulam;

On the north side of Jew Street, between Market Road and Broadway and to the west of the Juma Masjid, a landmark mosque.

Non-operational for worship;

It has served as a gathering hall for community events in recent years.
Currently, it is a locked property; access has to be prearranged with the present owner "Association of Kerala Jews", who can be contacted through Mr. Elias (Babu) Josephai, the caretaker of the nearby Kadavumbhagam Ernakulam Synagogue.

Kadavumbhagam Mattancherry Synagogue Mattanchery
 
Interiors of Kadavumbhagam Mattancherry Synagogue displayed in Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Non-operational for worship; in ruins; served as coir storage facility; Heckal (Holy Torah Ark) was moved to Israel and remains at the Synagogue in moshav Nehalim; interior moved to Israel, restored and displayed in Israel Museum at Jerusalem [14][15][16]
Thekkumbhagam Mattancherry Synagogue Mattancherry Non-operational and not existing anymore;

Bought by a Paradesi Jew after the congregation left to Israel in 1955,
it was later demolished to build a 2-storeyed house at the same site. [17]
Through the efforts of anthropologist Professor David G. Mandelbaum and Seymour Fromer of the former Judah L. Magnes Museum, many relics from this synagogue have been preserved at the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at the University of California, Berkeley and the most important antiquity being the restored Torah Ark (Heckal).[18]

List of Lost Synagogues in KeralaEdit

Many old synagogues are completely lost and their historic sites are not yet clearly identified or geo-located. Some of the known ones [4] from the 2nd millennium (identified either from recorded history or oral tradition) include:

Architectural SimilaritiesEdit

All the 8 synagogues in Kerala built during the recent centuries have similar traditional architectural features that include:

  • a central Bimah of brass or silver metal on a concrete or stone base
  • an Ark on the western wall
  • a balcony above the eastern entry to the sanctuary that is used by the reader on certain holidays.
  • a women's gallery behind the balcony, with a stairway leading up to it, usually from outside the building.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Mandelbaum, David G. (1939). "The Jewish Way of Life in Cochin". Jewish Social Studies. 1 (4): 423–460. JSTOR 4464305.
  2. ^ India’s Synagogue Variety: Architecture, History, and Context, Jay A. Waronker, Café Dissensus, 31 December 2014
  3. ^ Indian Jews: This little known minority community has a rich heritage, Sifra Lentin, First Post, 26 June 2016
  4. ^ a b Lost Kerala Synagogues, Jay A. Waronker, Friends of Kerala Synagogues, 2011
  5. ^ A revival of Jewish heritage on the Indian tourism trail, Shalva Weil, Jerusalem Post, 16 July 2010
  6. ^ Kadavumbagam Synagogue, Ernakulam, Jay A. Waronker, Friends of Kerala Synagogues, 2011
  7. ^ Harman, Danna (31 March 2016). "Only 26 Jews left in this Indian city — and they still can't get along". Haaretz.
  8. ^ The Last Jew on Jews Street, Karen Saul, Haaretz, 21 April 2003
  9. ^ Synagogues360: Kadavumbagam Synagogue, SYNAGOGUES360, A Visual and Historical Record of Synagogues from Around the World - 360° panoramas of Jewish Culture, 2013
  10. ^ Abraham, Tanya; Abraham, Tanya (9 February 2018). "A synagogue comes to life". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  11. ^ History preserved – Cochin Blossoms, Potliwalas, 2013
  12. ^ Kerala - Kadavumbagam Ernakulam Synagogue, Indian Jewish Heritage Center, 2014
  13. ^ Tekkumbagam Synagogue, Ernakulam, Jay A. Waronker, Friends of Kerala Synagogues, 2011
  14. ^ "The Israel Museum Permanent Galleries: Interior of the Kadavumbagam synagogue". museum.imj.org.il. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  15. ^ K, Laju Paul (2 November 2011). "Jewish Monuments of Kerala: Journey of the 'Holy Ark' of Kadavumbagam Synagogue from Mattancherry to Jerusalem". Jewish Monuments of Kerala. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  16. ^ Isaac, Ido. "Kerala - Kadavumbagam Mattancherry Synagogue". indianjews.org. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  17. ^ Kerala - Tekkumbagam Mattancherry Synagogue, Indian Jewish Heritage Center, 2014
  18. ^ Surendranath, Nidhi (14 September 2013). "Reliving the glorious days of Kochi's Jews". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 22 July 2018.