28 Apr 2011
Jewish Mumbai (Bombay), India
Mumbai is amazing, busy and electric in a way unlike any other city I have ever visited.
It feels like a setting for an old Humphrey Bogart movie.
All that will be tomorrow’s report because today was Jewish Mumbai.
India's Jews arrived here 2,200 years ago, after escaping from King Antiochus and surviving a shipwreck off the coast of Bombay. They kept many rituals, but over time were not certain why. Then, about 250 years ago, they rediscovered their heritage.
Today, 6,000 Jews live in India, and 90% of them live in Mumbai. Anti-Semitism is generally not an issue here.
The Shaar Ha-Rahamim (Gate of Mercy) synagogue, built in 1796, is the oldest synagogue in Bombay.
The largest synagogue in Asia, the Magen David Synagogue (built by David Sassoon in 1861), has an interior in the style of a Baghdad synagogue.
The Baghdadi Jews first arrived from Iraq, Syria, and Iran around 1796, fleeing persecution (as usual). They retained their Arabic language and their separate cultural identity.
The most prominent Baghdadi Jew was Sir David Sassoon. He established the Indian House of Sassoon in 1832, and paved the way for many other Iraqi Jews in India.
Next, we visited the Tiphaereth Israel Synagogue.
Check out the Torah cover.
The Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue was built in 1884, by David Sassoon's grandson Jacob Sassoon.
It is the most beautiful synagogue here.