Thursday, October 11, 2012

History of Jews in Bharat

An Amazing Race – History of Jews in Bharat
Ravi Kumar

Many Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives while fighting and liberating Israeli city of Haifa from Ottomons in WWI. Nearly 900 Indian soldiers are cremated or buried in cemeteries across Israel. Their bravery and sacrifice is included in history text books in Israel.

"I am proud to be a Jew, but am Indian through and through."
Lt General JFR Jacob (PVSM)

“… I will not settle outside India. …There are many reasons. But above all, I don’t think there is any country in the world like India.”
Vice Admiral Benjamin Samson (Killekar) (PVSM)  1916 - 2008 A.D.

If there is one place in the world which has been a safe haven for Jews, it is India. “India has been the only country in the world where Jews have never been oppressed or suppressed or discriminated against,” says Romiel Daniel, who is Jewish-Indian-American.

"Other Israeli Jews don't like their motherland because they were driven out but we Indian Jews weren't. We can never forget what India has done for us. India is still our motherland and Israel is our fatherland."
Ezra Moses,

Why Hindus and Jews Should Come Together !!
Both Hindus and Jews are highly tolerant people and do not believe in converting others to their religion. Hence both should come together to save their religions from proselytising majorities.
Jews have lived in India for over 2500 years and have never been discriminated against. This is something unparalleled in human history".
Many Indian Jews now living in Israel have children and grand children born in Israel. While the older generation still speak Marathi and Hindi, cook Indian food at home and follow many of the Indian customs, the Israeli born children speak only Hebrew and know little of their Indian heritage. There is a need to bring teachers from India to teach the younger-ones Marathi, Hindi, Indian classical dance, music, folktales, games, rangoli and other cultural heritage. Only by remaining in touch with Indian culture, Americanisation of Indian Jews can be minimised and family values and bonds can be cherished.
Many Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives while fighting and liberating Israeli city of Haifa from Ottomans on 23rd September 1918 during WWI. Nearly 900 Indian soldiers are cremated or buried in cemeteries across Israel. Haifa city will be celebrating centenary year of this historic event in 2018. VAK should organise a team of Hindus and Indian Jews to Haifa city.
VAK in cooperation of Indian Jews should organise memorial lectures on 23rd September every year to pay homage to the brave Indian martyrs.

Vishwa Adhyayan Kendras in Mumbai and Pune should gear-up themselves for this task.

History of Jews in India
The history of the Jews in India reaches back to ancient times.
Judaism was one of the first foreign religions to arrive in Bharat in recorded history. Different Jewish tribes came to Bharat at different periods.  Hence it is hard to estimate Jewish population in Bharat. Some Jews arrived during the time of the Kingdom of Judah, others are seen by some as descendants of Israel's mythical Ten Lost Tribes. Of the total Jewish population in India, a large group live in Manipur and Mizoram and the rest live in the city of Mumbai.
Unlike many parts of the world, Jews have historically lived in India without any instances of anti-Semitism from the local majority populace, the Hindus. However, Jews were persecuted by the PortugueseChristians during their control of Goa and Mumbai and the Muslim rulers of Kerala.
The earliest Jews settled in Kodungallur (Cranganore) on the Malabar Coast, where they traded peacefully, until 1524. Jews have held important positions under Indian (Hindu) princes in the past and even after independence from British Rule, have risen to very high positions in government, military and industry. The largest synagogue in Asia outside Israel is in Pune (Ohel David Synagogue). In addition to five native Jewish communities, Jewish expatriates and recent immigrants are also in India:
1.      The Cochin Jews        arrived in India 2,500 years ago and settled down in Kerala
2.      The Bene Israel         arrived in the state of Maharashtra 2,100 years ago.
3.      The Baghdadi Jews    from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, and Arab countries took                                             asylum in the city Mumbai about 250 years ago.
4.      The BneiMenasheJews               are Mizo and Kuki tribesmen in Manipur and
                                    Mizoram who claim descent from the tribe of Manasseh.
5.      The Bene Ephraim     (also called "Telugu Jews") are a small group who speak


Cochin Jews – Traders 722 BCE

One legend holds that the Jews first settled in India during the time of King Solomon, when there was trade in teak, ivory, spices and peacocks between the Land of Israel and the Malabar Coast, where Cochin is located. Others put their arrival as asylum-seekers at the time of the Assyrian exile in 722 B.C.E., the Babylonian exile in 586 or after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
The bible contains the first mention of Jews in connection with India. The Book of Esther, which dates from the second century B.C.E., cites decrees enacted by Ahasuerus relating to the Jews dispersed from Hodu to Kush. Hodu is Hebrew for India; Kush is Ethiopia. Talmudic and midrashic literature also mention spices, perfumes, plants, animals, textiles, gems and crockery which either bear names of Indian origin or are indigenous to the country.
The earliest documentation of permanent Jewish settlements is on two copper plates now stored in Cochin's main synagogue. Engraved in the local language, they detail the privileges granted a certain Joseph Rabban by Bhaskara Ravi Varman, the fourth-century Hindu ruler of Malabar. According to the inscription, the ruler awarded the Jews the village of Anjuvannam, meaning "five castes," as the Jews were believed to be the lords of the five castes of artisans. The plates also state that the Jews can live freely, build synagogue, own property without conditions attached and Anjuvannam shall remain in the possession of the descendants of these Jews "so long as the world and moon exist."
Twelfth-century Jewish, Christian and Muslim travelers described Jewish settlements around Cochin. The main community was in Cranganore, north of Cochin. For a time the Jews of the Malabar Coast served as a way station to the Jewish community in China. In 1167 Benjamin of Tudela wrote of 1,000 Jews on the Malabar Coast "who are black like their neighbors and are good men, observers of the law, and possess the Torah of Moses, the Prophets, and some little knowledge of the Talmud and the halakha."
The Jews prospered in Anjuvannam for more than a thousand years after the grant of the copper plates. Then, with the extinction of the line of Rabban, dissension arose between one of the descendants, Joseph Azar and his brother. The ensuing strife led to the eradication of Jewish autonomy in Southern India. In 1341 the brothers settled in Cochin with their followers and established the Kochangadi synagogue there.
The still-functioning synagogue in Mattancherry belongs to the Paradesi Jews, the descendants of Sephardim, who were expelled from Spain in 1492. There were two groups within the Paradesi community and some racial discrimination was practiced within their community. Later due to the peaceful satyagraha of Abraham Barak Salem (1882 – 1967) the lower caste Paradesi Jews were also admitted in the synagogue. Salem is rightly called the Indian Jew Gandhi. Both Cochin and Paradesi Jews have migrated to Israel and there are not more than 16 Cochin Jews, mostly elderly men and women, now in Kerala.

Persecution by Muslim rulers
In 1524, the Muslims, attacked these wealthy Jews of Cranganore (Kodungallur) on the pretext that they had an advantage with the pepper trade. The Jews fled to Cochin and went under the protection of Perumpadapu Swaroopam.

Portuguese Christian onslaught
Cochin_synagogue_as_seen_from_the_Palace.jpg (9803 bytes)temple_and_synagogue_cochin2.jpg (10834 bytes)The Jews could not have survived under Portuguese rule (1502-1663) had it not been for Parumal. In 1565 he gave them a strip of land next to his palace and in 1568 permitted them to build a synagogue not 30 yards from his temple. He appointed a hereditary mudaliar (chief) from among the Jews and invested the position with special privileges and jurisdiction in all internal matters in the Jewish community. This office continued in force under subsequent Rajas and even under Dutch and British rule. The Hallegua family, which still holds the title, continues to be influential in Cochin.

Most Cochin Jews have migrated to Israel after is formation in 1948. very few mostly old men and women have stayed back in Bharat. Jews from Cochin have contributed immensely to desert farming in Israel by adopting modern technology.  Shri Eliyahu Bezalel hailing from Chennamangalam, Cochin has distinguished himself as an eminent agriculturalist. He also became the first Israeli of Indian origin to receive the “Bhartiya Pravasi Samman” for the year 2005.

Jews influence on Christians
The presence of Jews among the early Malabar Nasrani Christians had significant effects on the liturgy and traditions of the entire community. The community maintained some of the original rituals of the early Jewish Christians, such as covering their heads while in worship. Their ritual services were and still are called the Qurbana (also spelled Kurbana), which is derived from the Aramaic and Hebrew term korban, meaning "sacrifice".. The Nasrani Qurbana used to be held in Syriac.

Bene Israel – 2100 years ago from a ship wreck – ShanivariTeli 
The Bene Israel (literally meaning children of Israel) claim that their ancestors fled in 175 B.C.E. from the Syrian-Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes. They were ship wrecked at Navgaon near Alibag, just south of Mumbai, on the Konkan Coast, and the survivors started a new life there and over the years their families spread to the surrounding villages. They claim their descent from The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. David Rahabi, a Cochini Jew, is credited with the revival of Judaism amongst the Bene Israel, teaching them Hebrew and the rituals of Judaism.
Towards the middle of the 16th century there was a gradual influx of the Bene Israelis into neighbouring Bombay, Pune and Thane district and after that they have spread to other parts of India including Delhi, Gujarat and other parts of Maharashtra. They were nicknamed the shanivār-telī ("Saturday oil-pressers") by the local population as they abstained from work on Saturdays, Judaism's Shabbat.
They set up their first synagogue in 1796, and expanded to 29 synagogues around Bombay and the neighbouring villages. Bene Israel communities and synagogues are situated in Pen, Mumbai, Alibag, Pune and Ahmedabad with smaller communities scattered around India. The Bene - Israel's distinguished themselves in the Army, Navy and the Air - Force both prior to and after the independence of India. Among them are to be found Government Officials, Army Generals and a number of doctors, lawyers, engineers, writers, film artists, educators, teachers, professors, architects and social workers who all together have made up the rich social fabric of this well know Jewish Community.
Their population grew to 30,000 around the time of independence. In the 1950s to 1960s many families from the community emigrated to the fledgling state of Israel. Presently Bene Israel community has shrunk considerably to around 5,000 and can be found in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Thane and the Konkan area.

Bene Israel of Thane
Recently there has been a major influx to the city of Thane which is about 35 KMs from Mumbai. 40% of the Jewish Community of India resides in Thane making the Shaar Hashamaim - Gate Of Heaven Synagogue the center of all Jewish Activities. Many of the other old Synagogues have fallen into disuse.
Marathas ruled Thane around 1740. Many Jews held high positions in the military regime of the Maratha rulers like Subedhar, Major, Mukadam, Sardar Bahadur and so on. The Jews were also responsible in constructing the famous Parsik Tunnel and also the GIP railway laying the first railway track between Bombay and Thane around 1850. A very famous street in the heart of Thane was known as Balaji Mosaji Road. Balaji Mosaji was Subedar Major Mr. Benjamin Moses Umedekar a very famous Jew during his time.

Hardship in Israel
In Israel, initially the Bene-Israel were not recognised as Jews. Also since they were dark skinned as compared to the European Jews, they were humiliated and given menial jobs. In India they were never discriminated and rose to high positions and ranks. In Israel they had to fight for their rights. Now they are slowly progressing. They are still struggling to maintain and pass on their Indian heritage to their children and grand children born and brought-up in Israel.

Baghdadi Jews–came as Refugees 250 years ago–Mumbai - Philanthropists

Knesset Eliyahoo, a 150 year old Jewish Synagogue in Fort, Mumbai, India
Despite the name, the Baghdadi Jews are not exclusively of Iraqi origin: many came from Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen as refugees to India around 250 years ago and settled in the city of Surat. They established Synagogue and Cemetery after they moved to Bombay (Mumbai) and Pune. They were traders and quickly became one of the highest earning communities in the city. As philanthropists, some of them donated their wealth to public structures. The David Sassoon Docks, Sassoon Hospital and a Sassoon Library are some of the famous landmarks still standing today.
Baghdadi Jews also spread to other parts of India including Kolkata. Scions of this community did well in trade particularly jute and tea. In later years they contributed officers to the army. One Lt-Gen J. F. R. Jacob PVSM, became state governor of Goa, Punjab and later administrator of Chandigarh. They spoke Arabic or Persian and English. At one time, there were about 5000 of them, but today there are less than 200, most of them having emigrated to U.K., Australia and Canada. One Kadoorie family from Kolkatta has been extremely successful in business and remembered in China and Hong Kong for their philanthropic activities in spreading education.

BneiMenashe –Jews of Mizoram and Manipur

An estimated 9,000 people in the north-eastern Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur practicing halachic Judaism, claimed to be descendants of the Tribe of Manasseh. Recently Israel has given permission for immigration of 7200 Jews to Israel from Manipur.

Bene Ephraim – Telugu Jews
The Bene Ephraim are a small group of Telugu-speaking Jews in eastern Andhra Pradesh whose recorded observance of Judaism, like that of the BneiMenashe, is quite recent, dating only to 1981.Many among them follow the customs followed by Orthodox Jews like hair customs of having unshaved long side locks and having head covering all the time.

Delhi Jewry – Expatriates, Diplomats, Tourists

Judaism in Delhi is primarily focused on the expatriate community who work in Delhi, Israeli diplomats and a small local community. A synagogue and a religious centre setup in Paharganj,Chabad in a backpacker area is regularly visited by Israeli tourists.


The majority of Indian Jews have "made Aliyah" (migrated) to Israel since the creation of the modern state in 1948. A total of 75,000 Indian Jews now live in Israel (over 1% of Israel's total population).


Notable Indian Jews

1.      Lieutenant General J F R Jacob - Former Chief of Staff of the Indian Army's Eastern Command; Former Governor of Punjab and Goa.
2.      Jacqueline Bhabha - Lecturer at Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School.
3.      Eli Ben-Menachem - Israeli politician.
4.      Lalchanhima Sailo - Rabbi and Founder of Chhinlung Israel People's Convention.
5.      Ezekiel Isaac Malekar - Bene Israel Rabbi.
6.      David and Simon Reuben - Businessmen.
7.      David Sassoon - Businessman.
8.      Albert Abdullah David Sassoon - British Indian merchant.
9.      Ellis Kadoorie and EllyKadoorie - Philanthropists.
10.  Horace Kadoorie - Philanthropist.
11.  Joseph Rabban - Was given copper plates of special grants from the Chera ruler Bhaskara Ravivarman II from Kerala.
12.  Sassoon David Sassoon - Philanthropist and benefactor of greater Indian Jewish community.
13.  Anish Kapoor - Sculptor. – Padma Bhushan
14.  Gerry Judah - Artist and Designer.
15.  Farhat Ezekiel Nadira - Bollywood actress.
16.  Ruby Myers, Bollywood actress of the 1920s known as Sulochana.
17.  David Abraham Cheulkar - Bollywood actor.
18.  Samson Kehimkar - Musician
19.  Pearl Padamsee - Theatre personality.
20.  Ruth Prawer Jhabvala - Writer.
21.  Solomon Sopher - Jewish community leader in Mumbai.
22.  Abraham Barak Salem - Cochin Jewish Indian nationalist leader.
23.  Bensiyon Songavkar - Professional cricketer.
24.  Ranjit Chaudhry-Bollywood actor
25.  Nissim Ezekiel - poet, playwright, editor and art-critic.
26.  Esther David (March 17, 1945— ) is a Jewish-Indian author, an artist and a sculptor
27.  Reuben David- Industrialist who built famous zoo Near Kankaria Lake in Ahmedabad
28.  Padma Shri Leela Samson,  daughter of Vice Admiral Benjamin Samson and Laila Samson.

Sassoon General Hospital is a large state-run hospital in Pune, India with over 1500 beds. The Jewish philanthropist David Sassoon from Mumbai made a generous donation to make the construction of the hospital possible in 1867. The hospital could originally accommodate 144 patients. Meher Baba was born in Sassoon Hospital on 25 February 1894. Mahatma Gandhi was operated upon on 12 January 1925 for an eventful emergency appendectomy in Sassoon Hospital.
The Sassoon Docks is one of the oldest docks in Mumbai and one of the few docks in the city open to the public. It is situated just off Cuffe Parade in South Mumbai, and is today one of largest fish markets in the city. It was built in 1875 on reclaimed land by Albert Abdullah David Sassoon (1818–1896), son of David Sassoon, a Baghdadi Jew and the leader of the Jewish community in Bombay.
The David Sassoon Library (1870) is a famous library and heritage structure in Mumbai, India. It is situated in the center of the city and was the brainchild of Albert Sassoon, son of the famous Baghdadi Jewish philanthropist, David Sassoon. The building was designed at a cost of Rs. 125,000. David Sassoon donated Rs. 60,000, while the rest was borne by the Government of Bombay Presidency. Above the entrance portico is a white stone bust of David Sassoon.

Sir Ellis Kadoorie (1865–1922), philanthropist and member of the wealthy Baghdadian Jew family that had large business interests in the Far East. His family were originally Iraqi Jews from Baghdad who later migrated to Bombay (Mumbai), India in the mid-eighteenth century. The Kadoorie brothers made their fortunes, achieving success in banking, rubber plantations, electric power utilities and real estate, and gaining a major share-holding in Hong Kong Hotels Limited. In the 1910s Sir Ellis founded several schools in China and Hong Kong. The Kadoorie Agricultural High Schools one for the Jewish population and another for the Arabs were built in Palestine from his donations.

"I am proud to be a Jew, but am Indian through and through." PakRetired Lieutenant General Jacob-Farj-Rafael "JFR" Jacob (born 1923) is a Baghdadi Jew, best known for the role he played in India's victory in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and the Liberation of Bangladesh. Jacob served as the Chief of Staff of the Indian Army's Eastern Command during the war. The war was a significant victory for India, with nearly 90,000 Pakistani soldiers surrendering to the Indian Army. Dhaka fell, despite the fact that there were 26,400 Pakistani soldiers in the city and only 3,000 Indian soldiers in the immediate area. "It was a total victory over a formidable, well-trained army”. He later joined Bharatiya Janata Party. He also served as the Governor of the Indian states of Goa and Punjab. He was instrumental in erecting a memorial for all the Indian soldiers who died in combat after 1947. The motto for this memorial in Punjab is “Shandar Yadgar” (Glorious Memory). Admiral Benjamin Samson (Killekar) 1916- 2008 (PVSM), was born in Poona, State of Maharashtra, India. He joined the Indian Navy and took part in World War II operations. He was considered an expert in underwater weapons and warfare. When asked why he and his wife hadn’t joined their son who had migrated to Israel, he replied. “There are many reasons. But above all, I don’t think there is any country in the world like India.
Their daughter Leela Samson is an accomplished Bharata Natyam dancer from Kalakshetra, Chennai and a recipient of Padmashree award (1990), Sanskrit award, Nritya Choodamani award, Sangeet Natak Akademi award and Kalaimamani award (by the Tamil Nadu State). 

The history of modern state of Israel starts with the supreme sacrifice of 900 brave Indian soldiers who died while liberating the Palestinian port of Haifa from the Ottoman rule on 23 September 1918 during World War I Allenby’s thrust towards Damascus. Their graves are looked after by the government of Israel till this day.

HAIFA DAY: WWI Indian Soldiers Lauded in Israeli Textbooks for Freeing Haifa City
http://news. outlookindia. com/items. aspx?artid= 776013
Haifa, a city in northern Israel, was liberated from the Ottomans in September 1918 by Indian horsemen serving in the British Army after overrunning Ottoman positions armed with spears and swords. On 22 September 1918, British troops were heading to Nazareth when a reconnaissance report was received indicating that the Turks were leaving Haifa. The British made preparations to enter the city and came under fire in the Balad al-Sheikh district (today Nesher). After the British regrouped, an elite unit of Indian horsemen were sent to attack the Turkish positions on the flanks and overrun their artillery guns on Mount Carmel. A large number of Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives in this region during the First World War and nearly 900 are cremated or buried in cemeteries across Israel.
While remaining unknown in their own country, some Indian soldiers will become household names in Haifa after figuring in the history textbooks taught at schools for their contribution in liberating this city in 1918. The municipality of Haifa has gone ahead with its decision to immortalise the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers by including the stories of their valiant efforts in liberating the coastal city.
Hedva Almog, deputy Mayor of Haifa said in September 2012 that the municipality is planning big centenary celebrations to commemorate the event in 2018, calling upon India to join hands in making it a success.

The Indian army commemorates September 23rd every year as Haifa Day, to pay its respects to the two brave Indian Cavalry Regiments that helped liberate the city in 1918 following a dashing cavalry action by the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade. A task force of the Indian Navy comprising of four ships paid a goodwill visit to Haifa Port in August 2012.  During the visit, the Fleet Commander paid respects at the Memorial in Haifa for the Indian soldiers who had lost their lives in the First World War.
Residents of the Israeli city also celebrate Haifa Day the same day with a series of cultural programmes during the week.

It can be safely said that India is the most pro-Israeli country in the world. India and Israel enjoy an extensive economic, military and strategic relationship. India formally established relations with Israel in January 1992 and ties between the two nations have flourished since, primarily due to common strategic interests and security threats. India is the second-largest Asian economic partner of Israel. India is also the largest customer of Israeli military equipment and Israel is the second-largest military partner of India after the Russian Federation. Military and strategic ties between the two nations extend to joint military training and space technology. Israel provided India with crucial information during its multiple wars. Israel was one of the selected few nations, a group that also included France and Russia, that did not condemn India's 1998 Pokhran-II nuclear tests. Sushma Swaraj (Bharatiya Janata Party leader, and leader of opposition of the 15th Lok Sabha) said that Israel is a reliable partner.

Visits by leaders
Israel's President Ezer Weizmanin 1997 and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003 visited India. Sharon was welcomed by the Bharatiya Janata Party led National Democratic Alliance coalition government of India. Several newspapers expressed positive views on his visit and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee voiced confidence that Sharon's visit would pave the way for further consolidating bilateral ties. The Hindi-language daily Navbharat Times called Sharon "an important friend of India." The Hindi language weekly Panchjanya described the visit as “an opportunity to get closer to Israel and fight terrorism jointly.” Sharon said that Israelis "regard India to be one of the most important countries in the world." Indian Foreign Ministers Jaswant Singh  and SM Krishna visited Israel. In early 2006 Indian government ministers Sharad Pawar, KapilSibal and Kamal Nath visited Israel. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has also visited Israel.

Commercial and Economic Relations
From US$ 200 million in 1992 (comprising primarily of diamonds), merchandise trade diversified and reached US$ 5.15 billion in 2011. In 2011 India was the 8th largest trade partner of Israel, and 3rd largest in Asia. India is Israel’s 11th largest import source including diamonds, and 16th largest import source excluding diamonds.  Balance of trade in 2011 was in Israel’s favor by US$ 844 million.
Major exports from India to Israel include precious stones and metals, chemical products, textile and textile articles, plants and vegetable products, mineral products, rubber and plastic products, base metals and machinery. 
Major exports from Israel to India include precious stones and metals, chemical and mineral products, base metals, machinery, and transport equipment.
In real estate Israel plans to build 10,000,000 square feet (930,000 m2) of world-class residential and business space in three cities.
India is building closer ties with Israel in the areas of nanotechnology, information technology, water technology and biotechnology. The Indo-Israel Joint Committee of scientists was constituted with representatives from various research organizations in India and Israel.
Israel is helping India in a plan to grow crops such as olives, dates and grapes to be introduced and cultivated in the states of Rajasthan and Maharashtra, to create an agricultural market that meets Western demand for products like olive oil. In addition it is hoped that this plan would boost yield and stave off famine.

Space collaboration
Israel was one of the countries that participated in Indian Chandrayaan’s successful mission of sending an unmanned craft to the moon. Israel's TecSAR radar satellite was launched by India in 2008.The Indian PSLV launch-vehicle was chosen instead of its own home grown Shavit rocket. This was due to the cost of the PSLV, $15 million compared to the Shavit at $20 million. Tecsar is an Israeli spy satellite, primarily meant to monitor Iran's military activities.
In March 2009, India launched the RISAT-2 satellite which is based on the technology employed in Israel's TecSAR. The satellite has the capability to take high resolution images at night and can carry out reconnaissance operations even through a dense cloud cover. The decision to purchase the satellite was taken in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Later India launched its own, indigenous version of RISAT-2, capable of taking images through clouds and at night.

Cultural ties
One of RSS senior members Shri Narayan Hari Palkar’s book “Chhala-kadun Bala-kade” (From slavery to Strength) has been well received and read in Sangh circles. When Beni Jews from Maharashtra went to Israel, they formed a street in Palkar’s name in their make-shift residential area. Vishwa Adhyayan Kendra should organise cultural visits between the two countries to strengthen these bonds. In April–May 2011 renowned Indian artists from India flew to Israel to participate in a three-week-long cultural festival commemorating 20 years of Indo-Israel diplomatic relations. More such tours should be organised by NGOs on both sides.

More than 40,000 Israelis, mostly youth, after finishing their military service, visit India annually. Many Israelis visit the Himalayas, Old Manali and the villages surrounding Dharamsala. Even shops and public transport vehicles in the Kullu Valley sport Hebrew signs. The number of tourists from India visiting Israel touched 20,000 in the year 2007.  By 2010, India replaced Korea as the top source market for Israel from Asia with 41,000 tourist arrivals. VAK should organise classes on Indian culture and Hindi for the benefit of interested tourists and expatriates.

Quotations on Hinduism and India by famous Jews
Nobel Laureate Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) said the following about Mahatma Gandhi.
"Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this walked the earth in flesh and blood"
Other quotations by Albert Einstein
We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made
"When I read the Bhagavad-Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous." ~ Albert Einstein

J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904 – 1967)
J. Robert Oppenheimer, American physicist and director of the Manhattan Project, learned Sanskrit in 1933 and read the Bhagavad Gita in the original, citing it later as one of the most influential books to shape his philosophy of life. Upon witnessing the world's first nuclear test in 1945, he later said he had thought of the quotation "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds", verse 32 from Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita.
Niels Bohr, (1885 – 1962)
Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. About Hinduism he said, “I go into Upanishads to ask questions”.

Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert, (1931) is an American contemporary spiritual teacher and the author of the seminal 1971 book Be Here Now. He is known for his association Harvard University in the early 1960s, for his travels to India and his relationship with the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, and for founding the charitable organizations Seva Foundation and Hanuman Foundation. He continues to teach via his website.
Tamal Krishna Goswami (1946 – 2002), born as Thomas G. Herzig in New York City, NY United States served on International Society for Krishna Consciousness's Governing Body Commission since its inception in 1970. In January 1972, he accepted the renounced order of life sannyasa in Jaipur. He served as GBC Secretary for India from 1970–74 and was appointed trustee of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, responsible for sales in the USA. He completed a bachelor's degree in religious studies at Southern Methodist University.

Sharon Salzberg (born 1952) is a New York Times Best selling author and influential teacher of Buddhist meditation practices in the West. In 1974, she founded the Insight Meditation Society at Barre, Massachusetts. Her emphasis is on vipassanā (insight) and mettā (loving-kindness) methods, and has been leading meditation retreats around the world for over three decades. All of these methods have their origins in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. Her books include Loving kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (1995), A Heart as Wide as the World (1999) and Real Happiness - The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program (2010), which was on the The New York Times Best Seller list in 2011.

Hollywood Actress Marilyn Monroe (1926 – 1962) converted to Judaism in 1952.  She practiced yoga for shaping her legs. These photos were featured in Life Magazine.

Hindu Jewish Interfaith Relations
Hindu-Jewish interfaith leadership summits and meet were held respectively in New Delhi, Jerusalem and USA (New York and Washington) in 2007, 2008 and 2009. These were spearheaded by Hindu organizations in India, Jewish organizations in Israel and the American Jewish Committee.
The chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger and Swami Dayanand Saraswati stated that "The Jewish and Hindu communities are committed to the ancient traditions of Judaism and Hindu dharma respectively, and have both, in their own ways, gone through the painful experiences of persecution, oppression and destruction. "Mertzger quoted:" Jews have lived in India for over 2000 years and have never been discriminated against. This is something unparalleled in human history".
The Jewish delegation accepted that true Hindus accept One Supreme Being and do not think that the representations used in worship are idols. Despite snowy weather in Jerusalem, the Hindu delegation visited and said their prayers at the Kotel, also known as the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites for Jews.

Hinduism in Israel refers to the Hindu population in Israel. The resident Indian community of about 700 Indian citizens includes diamond traders, some IT professionals and students. There are also about 6,000 unskilled workers mainly employed as care-givers. There is a Central Organization of Indian Jews, which brings together a large section of Indian Jews.
There is a growing group of Hindu devotees from Russia who immigrated to Israel to escape the severe economic oppression in the CIS. There is an ISKCON center in Tel Aviv. There is a growing movement of devotees to the teachings of Mata Amritanandamayi in Israel. Sai satsangs are held since 1991 in Ein Hod, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Hindus are able to practice freely in the country. This is notably shown by the celebrations of Krishna Janmashtami.
For many years it has been custom for Israeli soldiers upon completing their compulsory active duty service to travel to international destinations. Their most preferred destination has been India and many Israelis have discovered the wide array of spiritual teachings and practices India has to offer. Eventually some of these have found their way back to Israel to take root and grow on their own.
Hindus and Druze: The Hindu and Druze religions share the belief in reincarnation. Druze-Krishna Cultural Center in Osafia, Israel was established in 1990.

Indian Influence in Israel Spiritualism, Yoga  and Boombamela
Searching for essence of life in esoteric and mystical philosophies, a number of Israelis get attracted to Indian philosophy and spiritualism like ShirdiSai Baba and Osho Rajneesh. India has become a popular destination among Israelis and over 25,000 people visit the country every year.
A number of youngsters are seen taking Yoga classes and attending Hare Krishna lectures. Long queues are found outside the Indian ‘dhabas’ serving boiled rice and lentil soup.
Dancing, singing, reveling, meditating and relaxing their bodies and souls, over 30,000 Israelis gathered for four days at Nitzanim beach on the Mediterranean to celebrate Boombamela, a festival modelled on the Kumbhamela. This event was started in Israel three years ago. Many of the visitors at the festival have been to India or are planning to visit.
Ithamar Theodor, who teaches Indian culture at the Department of Asian Studies of Haifa University, said "there is a general attraction towards Indian culture. It is not just a religious attraction but more of a cultural attraction. The process of Americanisation in Israel has left a void which is very well filled by the Indian cultural aspects ranging from its spirituality, philosophy, music and a whole range of other alternatives."

 Indian Jews in Israel – Story of struggle for recognition
Majority of Indian Jews "made Aliyah" (migrated) to Israel since the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948. A total of 75,000 Indian Jews now live in Israel (over 1% of Israel's total population). They consist largely of Cochin Jews and the Bene-Israel. Most Baghdadi Jews settled down in Britain or America.
For many Indian Jews their arrival in Israel was not so rewarding. In the '50s, Indian Jews were among the darkest of all the new immigrants and experienced racism. It was a shock to many of them. In India they never had to fight for their rights but in Israel they did. Because of their dark skin they were subjected to differential treatment in everything. In employment, they got bad jobs and had less money. One group even returned to India in 1952.
The biggest insult to the community came when the Israeli government refused to recognise that the Bene-Israel were real Jews. So from 1962 to 1964, the Bene-Israel held a sit-down strike in Jerusalem until their status as Children of Israel was officially acknowledged.
The Cochin Jews were put into agricultural settlements and in due course they became wealthy. The Bene-Israel however had very difficult time integrating into their new society. They were placed in peripheral towns such as Dimona, Ashdod or Beersheva, not in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. They are now on the margins of society; this was not the case in India, where the Bene-Israel played a prominent part, such as Nissim Ezekiel and Leela Samson, who were awarded the Padmashris and Benjamin Samson rose to the rank of Vice-Admiral in the Indian Navy. In Israel, Indian Jews do not occupy equivalent positions. Slowly they have made progress in their adopted country.
The Indian-Jewish community has built 55 orthodox synagogues there, in keeping with the Bene Israel tradition. Indian Jews are in many businesses, including Indian restaurants in Israel – so now you can always get kosher Indian treats there! In fact, Indian food has caught on so much in Israel that you have non-Jewish entrepreneurs – the Punjabis – who run successful Indian restaurants there.

List of Diaspora organizations
1.   Bnei Menashe in “Shavei Israel Organisation’’
         Chairman:       Michael Freund,     Heichal Shlomo, 58 King George St.
– 94262                                                                  
                                  O-02-6256230,   Fax: 02-6256233                                                      
                                  Email:,  Website:
2.      Central Organisation of Indian Jews in Israel
President:       Mr. Benny Walter,     2/14, San Martin. St., Lod
Mob. 052-2929402,  0778951057,     Res. 03-9351075
3.      GOPIO (Global Organisation of Persons of Indian Origin (Israel)
            President:       Mr. Naor
Mob. 054-4595856                 Tel.  077-9500074

4.      Indian Community Organisation, Petha Tiqwa
            President:       Mr
 Yaacov Talker,    
                                    3/4 Greenstein Street,            Petha
                                    Mob. 050-4432228,    Res. 03-9304635

5.      IJCC (Indian Jewish Community Centre)
            President:       Mr. Isaac
Indian Jewish Community Centre,
 Hahasmonaim St. Kiryat Mozkin. Haifa.
                                    0544-719839, 04-9591028 Fax

6.      Indian Jewish Heritage Centre (IJHC)
            Chairman:       Mr. Robin Samuel,     Mazel
 Dagim 8, Had Ha Sharon
                                    Mob. 050-3161518

7.      Indian Jewish Women’s Organization
            Secretary:       Mrs. Elizabeth David,             Lod

8.      Kolmebesher (Cochini Jews)
            Secretary:       Mr. Yossi Oren,         Moshv
 Taoz,   D.N. Samson-99725
                                    M-050-6241788,         Tel: 02-9912173

9.      “Sitar” - Organization of Indian Jews in Eilat,
            President:       Mr. Isaac Solomon,    P.O. Box-2247,  Eilat-88000.
08-6375570,    08-6367084 (Fax)

10.  Indian language publications in Israel:
            MAIBOLI (Marathi Quarterly )
                        Chief Editor:   Mr. Noah
Tel: 02-5870507 (R),  Mob. 0507-927247,    Fax: 02-5870507

The Story of Indian American Jews
Indian-American Jews proudly participate in the Israel Day Parade in New York in the annual celebration of Israel, marching with the mainstream Jewish community along Fifth Avenue.
Many Indian Jews have migrated to North America for economic opportunities and today there are about 1500 in Canada and 350 in the US. It’s a small but vibrant community The Bene Israel Jews celebrate Purimwhich observes all the high holidays and festivals. “We don’t want to lose our own traditions; we want to integrate but we don’t want to assimilate,” says Daniel who started organizing services for the community in 1995. The Indian Jews are scattered in all five boroughs of New York and in New Jersey, so they attend services at mainstream synagogues. Since they don’t have their own synagogue they rent the Bene Israel Congregation in the Village every year to hold their events. While the liturgy is the same, the trope or musical notations in Indian Jewish traditions are totally different.

Maintaining Indian cultural roots
Many Bene-Israel now have children and grandchildren born in Israel. While the older generation still speak Marathi and Hindi and cook Indian food at home, the Israeli, US or UK-born generation speak only Hebrew or English and know little of their Indian heritage.
Some community leaders like Reuben Raymond in Israel are involved in a committee to build a museum to preserve and promote the heritage of the Bene-Israel. "We have tried to preserve as much of our Indian life as possible. We have cricket and hockey teams and spice shops. We have kept our Indian folklore, songs, and teach Indian classical dance. Through our museum and cultural centre, we can establish good ties with India. We can import teachers to teach the younger ones Marathi."
It is clear that the bond with India is still cherished. As Reuben explains, "Other Israeli Jews don't like their motherland because they were driven out but we weren't. We can never forget what India has done for us. India is still our motherland and Israel is our fatherland."

Ravi Kumar is the International Joint Coordinator of Sewa International.
Ravi Kumar, B.Sc.Tech from Madras Institute of Technology, Chennai (India) in Instrumentation and Process Controls (1970). After working as a Project Engineer in Tatas and Larsen & Toubro for 5 years he gave up his professional career in 1975 to work for the less privileged tribals in Maharashtra as a Full Time Social Worker.
In 1982 Ravi Kumar was transferred Hong Kong. Since then he has been travelling to over 40 countries where Indians live in large numbers. He has motivated Indians to donate blood on a regular basis in Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Sydney Australia and New Zealand. He organized large scale Lord Buddha exhibitions in Thailand at Sanam Luang, Puttamonthon and Chiang Mai. Over 20,000 Indian students and youth appear for Indian Science Talent Tests conducted every year.
Ravi Kumar has conducted over 500 Workshops on Vedic Mathematics in over 30 countries in universities, research institutions, schools and public gatherings for teachers, research scholars, students and professors.
He has authored 3 books, “Glimpses of Hindu Genius”, “Ramayan Around the World- a Living Legend” and “Vedic Mathematics”.



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Historian Indian Jewish Heritage said...

Mr. Ravi Kumar has literally copied many subjects from my article which I gave to him several years ago changing a few sentences and put it in his article without proper acknowledgement to the author. It should be noted that the article has been reproduced in my Book The Heritage of the Bene Israel of India. The Section I am referring to is The Similarities Between Hinduism & Judaism. Upon further reading of other sections of his article I noticed a general similar trend in many other sections.

Further he has stated that the President of the Indian Jewish Heritage Center is Mr. Robin Samuel. This person resigned seven years ago and the current President is the author of this note

Nissim Moses
Historian Indian Jewish Heritage & Bene Israel Genealogy Research
President Indian Jewish Heritage Center-Israel