Culture, Politics

Indian Jewry

As an undergrad, I wrote my thesis on the immigration and business patterns of Gujaratis (especially in the US as a way to re-imagine ethnic entrepreneurial niches). Gujarat shares the West Coast of India with a few other provinces including Maharastra (home to Mumbai) and Kerala (home to Cochin and most of India’s native Jews and Christians). As a result of that research, I got the chance to read a fair amount about the long history of Indian Christians and Jews. All this to say, the history is fascinating and there is a great (brief but deep) synopsis of the two thousand year old story in a recent New Republic article. Here is a particularly intense passage:

“The Indian Jewish identity is the only one that hasn’t been created by persecution,” he said. “We’ve never felt scared. This is the first time we’ve been made to feel like Jews.” That, to me, has been among the most tragic casualties of this terrorist attack. In a barrage of grenades and bullets, a part of the Indian dream that’s 2,500 years old has now been buried in a pile of bloody concrete shards.

Check out the story and I hope you’ll share my interest and wonder whiter Indian Jewry.

16 thoughts on “Indian Jewry

  1. Pardon my ignorance, but would the Chabad shluchim and Indian Jews intersect much? I was reading articles that the Chabad shluchim (may they rest in peace) were the “center” of the Jewish community there. Lauding obits aside, do the Indian Jews rely on foreign Jews for their services?

  2. Not in the past, but the Indian Jewish community has shrunk in recent years, with large numbers of them going to Israel. I couldn’t actually say what the current state is…however I suspec thtat the correct answer to your question is:
    The Chabad is certainly the center for Israeli Jews traveling abroad and other non-Indian Jews.

  3. The silence regarding the horrendous events of Mumbai on Jewschool is deafening.
    Other than “Praying for Mumbai” posted whilst the tragedy was still unfolding, barely a whisper of this has appeared.
    I assume that “progressive Jews and Judaism” have bigger problems to deal with than Jew butchering. Mainstream Media, Jewish Media seem to notice but not here . . .
    Perhaps it would be mentioned matter-of-factly in association with the next post analyzing a Rubashkin flatulation.

  4. The silence regarding the horrendous events of Mumbai on Jewschool is deafening.
    Also, I’ve never seen the Mumbai attackers and the Jewschool bloggers in the same room! Suspicious!!!

  5. Like many places world-wide, chabad set up shop in a town with centuries (in this case about 27) of Jewish history without connecting to the local Jewish community. Afterall, they certainly know better.
    Merliner, I didn’t have a perspective I thought was new to the coverage nor had I scene anything that I thought was particularly worth pointing out, so I didn’t. Had Chilul who? not put up his post, I certainly wouldn’t have known about that wrinkle. If I get any news I’ll pass it along, as will other contributors, don’t worry. Our sources just aren’t real deep in Indian Chabad.

  6. Merliner-
    I think perhaps this is such a large event that many of us are left speechless. To call this “Jew-butchering” is ridiculous. Over 120 people were killed, this was indiscriminate butchering.

  7. Merliner, there are only so many words you can use for horrible. If I had an opinion to lend which wasn’t already said somewhere, I’d have posted it. Mostly, I just feel sad.
    Thanks for capitalizing on the deaths of others to award yourself points.

  8. Do I really need to point out that just because the Rubashkin family and the Holtzberg family are both Lubavitcher doesn’t mean there is any connection between the two posts/news items?
    The Rubashkins were not murdered for being Jewish in Mumbai, and the Holtzbergs (alehem shalom) are not beef-selling criminals.
    Two separate people, two separate continents, two separate moral arcs, two separate stories.

  9. zt: Read up on the relationship between Rabbi Holzberg and the locals, he focused, it appears on tourists, travelers and backpacking Israelis but maintaine a positive, supportive and working relationship with the locals. (I believe he built a Mikveh AT THEIR SYNAGOGUE, brought minyans to their centers and worked closely with them, slaughtering chicken for the community etc. show me something to the contrary other than your personal inclination)
    Goldstein: How many Christians were premeditatively killed? How many Hindus were targeted for being Hindu. Of course this is not just a Jewish tragedy – but Train Station, Taj Hotel, Central Hospital . . . CHABAD HOUSE??!!! They specifically targeted innocent Jews for no reason other than their faith. Jew-butchering indeed.
    Chilul: I drew that comparison between two important, Jewish issues to illustrate the imbalance of attention received on Jewschool.

  10. Merliner, the best response to you is the first comment on the NY Post article you linked:
    The other euphemism promoted by US & British journalists is that it was westerners who were targeted. This is true, but hidden beneath the anglo faces of the west are 180+ Indian men and women who were slaughtered and executed in equally brutal fashion. I mean not to lessen the loss of the people of Chabad House, but only highlight those others who seem to be forgotten.
    There can be multiple motives. Antisemitic hate is abhorrent, but it does not trump the other motives and hate driving the tragedy. These terrorists were equal opportunity killers.

  11. Merliner-
    I’m pretty sure that every Hindu was targeted because they were Hindu… I’m pretty sure there’s a history of Muslims and Hindus killing each other in India…

  12. JG: Jewschool = Jewish blog. Is it odd that a Jewish website might focus on the Jewish effect of a larger crisis?
    Put your head in the sand and brush it over like it never happened.
    And KFJ: I agree that to label this entire event Jew hatred is obviously stupid and not the case – I simply take issue with a Jewish website not covering the blatant and premeditated targeting of Jews. Unlike what Al Jazeera, the BBC and NYT will have you believe:
    * The Times of India reported that some of the terrorists, claiming to be Malaysian students, rented nearby space in order to scout out Chabad.
    * The Indian doctor who conducted the post-mortems related in a shaken voice that: “Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th [the first day of the attacks] itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed.”
    * The only captured terrorist, Ajmal Kamal, confessed under interrogation that his fellow murderers were specifically ordered to target the Jews killed at Chabad.
    It’s not only close India-Israeli ties that the terrorists wanted to destroy. It’s likely that Mumbai’s age-old history of hospitality to Jews made the Nariman-Chabad House a strategic target.
    (From the Post article linked previously)

  13. Merliner writes:
    I simply take issue with a Jewish website not covering the blatant and premeditated targeting of Jews.
    Is your concern that, without more coverage from Jewschool, people have nowhere to find out about these tragic events? (Clearly you’ve found other ways to inform yourself anyway.) Or do you feel that Jewschool has a unique angle to bring to this news?

  14. Way to hijack the topic, Merliner.
    ZT, if you want info on Indian Jewry and Bene Israel in particular, go talk to Nissim at AJC. He’s a treasure trove of information on this issue.
    Some students from our university Hillel (where Nissim is an alum) have gone on a trip to India in order to visit the Jewish community. Unfortunately, I no longer have their contact info.

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