The Paradesi synagogue, constructed 1568, is the most famous synagogue in Asia. Its Chinese willow tiles have inspired Salman Rushdie to fantasize about the relations and inter-relations of different peoples in Cochin (Kochi). Today, there is not even a quorum (minyan) at the famous Paradesi synagogue. Until recently, the synagogues of the Malabar Jews (once known as the “Black” Jews) were unknown to most people. However, in 2006, the Chennamangalam synagogue in a beautiful verdant village, was reconstructed by the Kerala government and inaugurated with an exhibition on the Cochin Jews in Cochin and Israel. Today, the synagogue at Parur is being reconstructed as part of the Muziris Heritage Project, which includes a huge archaeological excavation at Pattanam. Other synagogues at Mala and in Ernakulam may follow. This illustrated lecture will document the reconstruction of Cochin Jewish synagogues in Kerala and the impact this is having on the Cochin Jews in Israel.
Shalva Weil is senior researcher at the NCJW Research Institute for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specializing in Ethiopian and Indian Jews and other ethnic groups. Dr. Weil has specialized in research on the Jews of India for 40 years, including three years fieldwork with the Bene Israel Indian Jews in Israel. Her publications include 80 scientific articles on the Bene Israel, an edited volume on Cochin Jews, essays on the Baghdadi Jews, and papers on the Shinlung (“Bnei Menasseh”) in Mizoram and Manipur, and the Jews of Pakistan. She is editor (with Prof. David Shulman) of Karmic Passages: Israeli Scholarship on India (Oxford University Press, New Delhi,2009), editor of India’s Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art, and Life-Cycle (Marg 2002; 2nd edition 2004; 3rd edition 2009), and co-editor of Indo-Judaic Studies in the Twenty-First Century: A Perspective from the Margin (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007); she is also the author of Roots and Routes: Ethnicity and Migration in Global Perspective (Magnes Press, 1999).