Kerala’s Cochini Jews Meld Into Israel

4-kerala2-Indiaink-blog480Debra Kamin in the NYT:

On Moshav Nevatim, a dust-blown, palm-tree studded community on the northern edge of Israel’s Negev desert stands a humble little synagogue with an enormous past. The Kerala Synagogue, as it is called, was built in the style of the synagogues of India’s Cochini Jews, a hardy handful of whom settled Nevatim in the 1950s after emigrating from the Indian state of Kerala.

The synagogue has two reader platforms – a unique trademark of Cochini worshipers – as well as traditional wooden benches and electric lights meant to resemble the oil lamps of the synagogues the Cochini Jews left behind.

Some say the Cochini Jews, who were India’s first established Jewish community, came to the subcontinent 2,000 years ago, during the time of King Solomon. Others claim they settled in Kerala after reaching India’s fertile Malabar coast as pepper traders. Today, most Cochini Jews live in Israel, cherishing the relics of their tradition even as each generation grows more and more assimilated.