The Last Jews of Kerala: The 2,000 Year History of India's Forgotten Jewish Community

The Last Jews of Kerala The Year History of India s Forgotten Jewish Community Two thousand years ago trade routes and the fall of Jerusalem took Jewish settlers seeking sanctuary across Europe and Asia One little known group settled in Kerala in tropical southwestern India Ev

  • Title: The Last Jews of Kerala: The 2,000 Year History of India's Forgotten Jewish Community
  • Author: Edna Fernandes
  • ISBN: 9781602392670
  • Page: 360
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Two thousand years ago, trade routes and the fall of Jerusalem took Jewish settlers seeking sanctuary across Europe and Asia One little known group settled in Kerala, in tropical southwestern India Eventually numbering in the thousands, with eight synagogues, they prospered Some came to possess vast estates and plantations, and many enjoyed economic privilege and politiTwo thousand years ago, trade routes and the fall of Jerusalem took Jewish settlers seeking sanctuary across Europe and Asia One little known group settled in Kerala, in tropical southwestern India Eventually numbering in the thousands, with eight synagogues, they prospered Some came to possess vast estates and plantations, and many enjoyed economic privilege and political influence Their comfortable lives, however, were haunted by a feud between the Black Jews of Ernakulam and the White Jews of Mattancherry Separated by a narrow stretch of swamp and the color of their skin, they locked in a rancorous feud for centuries, divided by racism and claims and counterclaims over who arrived first in their adopted land Today, this once illustrious people is in its dying days Centuries of interbreeding and a latter day Exodus from Kerala after Israel s creation in 1948 have shrunk the population The Black and White Jews combined now number less than fifty, and only one synagogue remains On the threshold of extinction, the two remaining Jewish communities of Kerala have come to realize that their destiny, and their undoing, is the same.The Last Jews of Kerala narrates the rise and fall of the Black Jews and the White Jews over the centuries and within the context of the grand history of the Jewish people It is the story of the twilight days of a people whose community will, within the next generation, cease to exist Yet it is also a rich tale of weddings and funerals, of loyalty to family and fierce individualism, of desperation and hope.

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    1 thought on “The Last Jews of Kerala: The 2,000 Year History of India's Forgotten Jewish Community”

    1. I thought that this subject would have benefited by having a non-Jewish author to document the end of a people who had a much-different world experience than any other of these dispersed people. It didn't and obviously her editor wasn't Jewish either. Silly factual errors really rather do spoil a book that has obviously been quite deeply researched. The premise of the book is that of the several Jewish communities in India, some of which have been there since the time of King Solomon and are doc [...]

    2. This is my second time reading this book. Some may find it a bit opinionated others will love the history that is relayed to the reader in this book. Big question here is what causes a community or society to fold. The author points to community dissension and an apartheid type apparatus operating in the Cochini Jewish community. There are two groups of Jews in Kerala, one is a darker skinned almost Indian looking Jew and another one which hail form Europe is of lighter complexion. The lighter c [...]

    3. This book tells the story of a disappearing Jewish community in southern, tropical India, with sensitivity and attention to different historical narratives. The last chapter is also an interesting glimpse into the different experiences of Jews living in Israel, and the conflict between religious homeland v.s. India as home, as well as religious coexistence v.s. conflict. I enjoyed this book, which serves as a reminder of the complexities of religious and cultural diversity in different parts of [...]

    4. Judaism is one of the world’s oldest religions, but it is also one which is persecuted the most. Without sounding anti-Semitic, a plausible reason for this prejudice is the fierce religious zeal of many of its adherents and the belief that they are the only chosen people of god. With a history stretching to the time of Pharaohs, the Jews suffered at the hands of every bigot, every dictator and every psychotic ruler. The Holocaust, in which nearly six million Jews were exterminated in Europe du [...]

    5. This is an interesting book about two small Jewish remnant communities who live in Cochin, Kerala, India but are divided by their supposed racial differences. The communities have lived in India since Biblical times but the Black Jews and the White Jews have less than 100 members each. We find out the history of the communities, personalities in the communities and how this animosity started despite no prejudice against them from the non-Jewish Indian population. After bringing out the personali [...]

    6. This is my second time reading this book. Some may find it a bit opinionated others will love the history that is relayed to the reader in this book. Big question here is what causes a community or society to fold. The author points to community dissension and an apartheid type apparatus operating in the Cochini Jewish community. There are two groups of Jews in Kerala, one is a darker skinned almost Indian looking Jew and another one which hail form Europe is of lighter complexion. The lighter c [...]

    7. This book is an account of that portion of the Jewish diaspora that wound up on the southwest coast of India, in Kerala. King Solomon sent traders there before the Christian era, and later, after the destruction of the temples, additional Jews wound up on its shores. These early settlers, heavily male, intermarried with the dark-skinned local women and their descendants, retaining dark coloration, are known as "black Jews". One early settler made a great impression on the local Raja and was gran [...]

    8. Unfortunately I started reading this book just after returning from Kerala. (I only heard of it on my trip.) This was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the descriptions she gives of the people, food, atmosphere, and city brought back wonderful memories of my time in Kerala and I often knew exactly what she was talking about.On the other hand, however, during my trip I knew nothing about the Jews of Cochi, and had to read the book kicking myself because I had not visited Jew Town, etc, while I w [...]

    9. Excellent portrait of this vanishing ethnic group. The old testament contains suggestive hints that already as far back as king Solomon's days, Jews traded between Israel and the west Indian coast. It's not unlikely that already back then some Jews either remained behind or left offspring in India. However, quite certain is that after the Roman destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, in 70AD, some Jews did move to India to settle. Then, in two more waves after that, Jews came to India as well, t [...]

    10. I enjoyed reading this book and learning more about Indian Jews--especially because this is the first book I've read about them where the author gives some plausible explanation for how they got here and also why so many became Zionist colonists in Palestine. Here the mythology of a biblical ship wreck is not the story one gets as to how Jews arrived in India--it was about trading relations. Too, it was economics that pushed them out in the 1950s when they first started moving to Bedouin areas o [...]

    11. I learned that the Jews have been in India for thousands of years. They traded with India for decorations for the first temple of Solomon. They were awarded a high status by the Indian Raj, and enjoyed respect and peace in India unlike any other country to which they came. Those who had been in India a long time had intermarried and had darker skin than those who escaped Europe during the inquisition. The later, light-skinned Jews dubbed the others "Black Jews," kicked them out of their temple, [...]

    12. A sad but beautiful account of the past and present of the Jewish community in Kerala. Found it especially interesting since I had made a touristy visit to the much mentioned quaint Jew Town at Mattanchery on my last India trip. Not only is the book informative but also gives the reader much food-for-thought about how religion and faith has ended up playing a sad role in the painful disappearance of a fairly content and promising community. Highly recommended if (like me) you prefer your history [...]

    13. The book gave an interesting narrative by a reporter who spent time getting to know the jewish Kerala community. It refers to more comprehensive literature on the background and is a soft story of the local community. It interestingly talks about the various religous communities in Kerala who live harmoniously side by side, jew, christian, hindu and Muslim.It explores the inner dynamics of the white and black Jewish community and was an interesting read. It makes me think Kerala would be a inter [...]

    14. This is a very interesting read about the ancient Jewish Community in Kerala in India. Jews have been living in this area for around two thousand years in harmony with the Hindus, Christians and Muslims. The book traces the history and life of this unique community of Jews which is dying out due to it's own racial divide between the Black Jews and the White Jews.Rather than being just history it is a social history with interviews of the "last" Jews and it even traces some who have migrated to I [...]

    15. "The Last Jews of Kerala" by Edna Fernandes in an interesting and well researched historical study and account of a small minority in India. It is accurate and brings to life many small biographies over centuries and some interviews with the last members of that particular group. I did find that at times it lacked a bit of bite or journalistic edge, at least for my liking and I was beginning to loose interest towards the end of the book.

    16. This was an ok read. It was mostly depressing as she kept on talking about a vanishing community. Yes, I agree its about to happen. The thing that shocked me the most was the apartheid towards the Black Jews. I found that to be so sad and horrendous.There was one note of confidence from the one person in Israel who sees Israel as his homeland and is flourishing with his business, and now that business is bad is changing his business - GO Brother!!

    17. This wasn't a terrible book. It was informative in regards to the social dynamics of the community/communities. However it was not a comprehensive overview of the Jews of Kerala. So if you are looking for something like thatyou are bound to be disappointed. I wish that the book included more graphics of the people and places that the author referred to.

    18. Very honestly written book. The harsh facts have also been presented in an extremely subtle fashion. Unlike the history books full of text this one actually is woven with anecdoteslores.poetry which keeps you engrossed and the way of writing takes you back in the days of the Jewish lanes

    19. As a Keralite I felt there were a few weird discrepancies mostly with the names of places which I found quite inexplicable. The content could have been better researched as well though this book I more about the personal experiences than history. A bit more depth and 3rd person commentary would have made this a must read.

    20. Interesting and sad anaylsis of why the Jewish popuation in Kerala has declined so drastically; the feud between the Black and White Jews plus the exodus to Israel after 1948 . For those that left Kerala,There appeared to have left a wonderful, peaceful life in Kerala which they swopped for a western, state that was permenently in the state of conflict.

    21. Poignant. Could have included more material, though. Many passages/topics/sentiments are repeated a few times in the book. Will be of interest to Malayalees, Jews, Malayalee Jews, and others interested in this unique culture.

    22. A clear and well thought out account. She tells the stories well and comes across as impartial but fair. I felt like the book could have done with more careful editing, some information was repeated several times in the space of a few chapters.

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