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In Pictures: Indian Jews keep heritage alive
Jewish community - mainly based in Mumbai - hold onto centuries-old tradition, but their numbers are dwindling fast.
Last updated: 26 Jun 2014 11:08
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Mumbai, India - Although a sizeable number at its peak, the Jewish population in India has diminished drastically, leaving behind a miniscule minority who are trying to keep their traditions alive.

The first Jews arrived in India more than 2,000 years ago and settled in the southern state of Kerala. Six hundred years later, the Bene Israelis followed, while the Baghdadi Jews arrived in 1730, some of them fleeing religious persecution in the Arab world.

After the formation of Israel in 1948, around 33,000 people emigrated, leaving just 5,000 Jews in India today. The majority of them are Bene Israelis, most of whom live in Mumbai. The city is also host to around 100 Baghdadi Jews.

The community continues to observe Jewish practices and its synagogues serve as a meeting point.

"Very few synagogues survive in this part of the world," conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah told Al Jazeera, "but Bombay has traditionally had a large Jewish population."

The Jewish community has often been applauded for integrating completely with the local population. Most people in the community wear Indian traditional dress, participate in local festivals and speak local languages.

Al Jazeera visited some of Mumbai's most iconic Jewish buildings and met the people who make up one of India's smallest religious minorities.

Follow Suranjana Tewari on Twitter: @suranjanasays


/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera
Built in 1796, the Shaar Harahamim or Gate of Mercy is the oldest synagogue in Mumbai.


/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Many of Mumbai's Jews speak the local language, Marathi. Inside the Gate of Mercy synagogue, signs are written in English, Marathi and Hebrew.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Emanuel Chandgoankar has been looking after the Gate of Mercy for the last nine years. One of his brothers serves in the Israeli army.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Founded in 1884, the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue is one of two Baghdadi Jewish synagogues in Mumbai. Funded by the Sassoons, a prominent Jewish family of entrepreneurs and philanthropists, it was built in the classical revival style with a double height prayer hall. According to experts, it has some of the finest stained glass in all of Mumbai.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

More than a hundred years of monsoons have gravely affected the structure of the synagogue. The roof, ceilings and walls are damaged, some areas of the floors are sinking and parts of the Victorian stain glass window need replaced. A section of the prayer hall's floor has already collapsed due to leaks, causing rubble to fall into the mikwah, a religious bath and the holiest part of the synagogue.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

A dwindling population means that the trust is unable to raise funds needed to carry out urgent repair work. The chairman of the trust, Solomon Sopher, left, says he cannot force the few people left in his community to contribute to the project, so he is seeking help from Jews abroad.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

All synagogues in Mumbai have round-the-clock police protection after a Jewish centre was attacked by Pakistani gunmen in November 2008.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Ralphy and Yael Jhirad have been conducting tours of Jewish heritage sites for the last thirty years. They have a strong connection to Israel despite being born and raised in India. "India is my motherland and Israel is my father's land, or my forefathers' land," Ralphy Jhirad told Al Jazeera.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera
The Beth El Synagogue in Panvel, Navi Mumbai was founded in 1849.


/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Moses Jacob Korlekar is a retired civil servant. He recites prayers for the community when a rabbi is not available. There are around 60 people in the synagogue's congregation with 20 to 25 families visiting regularly for prayer services.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera
The Jewish community celebrating the first day of Shavout at the Bet El Synagogue in Mumbai.


/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Conservation architects say that preserving Jewish heritage is essential to the community's legacy in Mumbai.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

The Panvel Jews descend from the Bene-Israelis who are thought to have become stranded in India after a shipwreck more than 2,000 years ago.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Many in the community say it's important to hold onto traditions to pass them onto the next generation.



/Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Although the Jewish population in Mumbai is small, it is still a vibrant community.




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images:
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captions:
Built in 1796, the Shaar Harahamim or Gate of Mercy is the oldest synagogue in Mumbai. ;*;

Many of Mumbai(***)s Jews speak the local language, Marathi. Inside the Gate of Mercy synagogue, signs are written in English, Marathi and Hebrew.

;*;

Emanuel Chandgoankar has been looking after the Gate of Mercy for the last nine years. One of his brothers serves in the Israeli army.

;*;

Founded in 1884, the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue is one of two Baghdadi Jewish synagogues in Mumbai. Funded by the Sassoons, a prominent Jewish family of entrepreneurs and philanthropists, it was built in the classical revival style with a double height prayer hall. According to experts, it has some of the finest stained glass in all of Mumbai.

;*;

More than a hundred years of monsoons have gravely affected the structure of the synagogue. The roof, ceilings and walls are damaged, some areas of the floors are sinking and parts of the Victorian stain glass window need replaced. A section of the prayer hall(***)s floor has already collapsed due to leaks, causing rubble to fall into the mikwah, a religious bath and the holiest part of the synagogue.

;*;

A dwindling population means that the trust is unable to raise funds needed to carry out urgent repair work. The chairman of the trust, Solomon Sopher, left, says he cannot force the few people left in his community to contribute to the project, so he is seeking help from Jews abroad.

;*;

All synagogues in Mumbai have round-the-clock police protection after a Jewish centre was attacked by Pakistani gunmen in November 2008.

;*;

Ralphy and Yael Jhirad have been conducting tours of Jewish heritage sites for the last thirty years. They have a strong connection to Israel despite being born and raised in India. "India is my motherland and Israel is my father(***)s land, or my forefathers(***) land," Ralphy Jhirad told Al Jazeera.

;*;The Beth El Synagogue in Panvel, Navi Mumbai was founded in 1849.;*;

Moses Jacob Korlekar is a retired civil servant. He recites prayers for the community when a rabbi is not available. There are around 60 people in the synagogue(***)s congregation with 20 to 25 families visiting regularly for prayer services.

;*;The Jewish community celebrating the first day of Shavout at the Bet El Synagogue in Mumbai.;*;

Conservation architects say that preserving Jewish heritage is essential to the community(***)s legacy in Mumbai.

;*;

The Panvel Jews descend from the Bene-Israelis who are thought to have become stranded in India after a shipwreck more than 2,000 years ago.

;*;

Many in the community say it(***)s important to hold onto traditions to pass them onto the next generation.

;*;

Although the Jewish population in Mumbai is small, it is still a vibrant community.

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Image Source:
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Gallery Source:
Daylife
Daylife Raw Data:
Synagogue Indiahttp://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_Indiaen-ussupport@newscred.comUntitled Site10Wed, 25 Jun 2014 07:16:26 GMT http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/397d58810ec13a426f1dbf1ead0d815b

Built in 1796, the Shaar Harahamim or Gate of Mercy is the oldest synagogue in Mumbai.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/397d58810ec13a426f1dbf1ead0d815bSuranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Built in 1796, the Shaar Harahamim or Gate of Mercy is the oldest synagogue in Mumbai.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/9441d40a9bd3f1536ddf8d6462789a0c

Many of Mumbai's Jews speak the local language, Marathi. Inside the Gate of Mercy synagogue, signs are written in English, Marathi and Hebrew.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/9441d40a9bd3f1536ddf8d6462789a0cSuranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Many of Mumbai's Jews speak the local language, Marathi. Inside the Gate of Mercy synagogue, signs are written in English, Marathi and Hebrew.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/82462eb271a8df44de127345809aa3ca

Emanuel Chandgoankar has been looking after the Gate of Mercy for the last nine years. One of his brothers serves in the Israeli Army.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/82462eb271a8df44de127345809aa3caSuranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Emanuel Chandgoankar has been looking after the Gate of Mercy for the last nine years. One of his brothers serves in the Israeli Army.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/3bef96fbdd5e8e2fd8c6bc6d626a4d3e

Founded in 1884, the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue is one of two Baghdadi Jewish synagogues in Mumbai. Funded by the Sassoons, a prominent Jewish family of entrepreneurs and philanthropists, it was built in the Classical Revival style with a double height prayer hall. According to experts, it has some of the finest stained glass in all of Mumbai.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/3bef96fbdd5e8e2fd8c6bc6d626a4d3eSuranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Founded in 1884, the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue is one of two Baghdadi Jewish synagogues in Mumbai. Funded by the Sassoons, a prominent Jewish family of entrepreneurs and philanthropists, it was built in the Classical Revival style with a double height prayer hall. According to experts, it has some of the finest stained glass in all of Mumbai.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/38f570219d2804ae433a19f053a5645e

More than a hundred year of monsoons have gravely affected the structure of the synagogue. The roof, ceilings and walls are damaged, some areas of the floors are sinking and parts of the Victorian stain glass window need replaced. A section of the prayer hall's floor has already collapsed due to leaks, causing rubble to fall into the mikwah, a religious bath and the holiest part of the synagogue.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/38f570219d2804ae433a19f053a5645eSuranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

More than a hundred year of monsoons have gravely affected the structure of the synagogue. The roof, ceilings and walls are damaged, some areas of the floors are sinking and parts of the Victorian stain glass window need replaced. A section of the prayer hall's floor has already collapsed due to leaks, causing rubble to fall into the mikwah, a religious bath and the holiest part of the synagogue.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/e4315af3d7a28c9f141c9eaaccf7497f

A dwindling population means the trust is unable to raise funds needed to carry out urgent repair work. The chairman of the trust, Solomon Sopher (left) says he cannot force the few people left in his community to contribute to the project, so he is seeking help from Jews abroad.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/e4315af3d7a28c9f141c9eaaccf7497fSuranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

A dwindling population means the trust is unable to raise funds needed to carry out urgent repair work. The chairman of the trust, Solomon Sopher (left) says he cannot force the few people left in his community to contribute to the project, so he is seeking help from Jews abroad.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/3b882b13965b1d418bd26322fbdd33c2

All synagogues in Mumbai have 24 hours police protection after a Jewish centre was attacked by Pakistani gunmen in November 2008.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/3b882b13965b1d418bd26322fbdd33c2Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

All synagogues in Mumbai have 24 hours police protection after a Jewish centre was attacked by Pakistani gunmen in November 2008.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/595ebcccda490adae73cdb98f7e48131

Ralphy and Yael Jhirad have been conducting tours of Jewish heritage sites for the last thirty years. They have a strong connection to Israel despite being born and raised in India. 'India is my motherland and Israel is my father's land, or my forefathers' land,' Ralphy Jhirad told Al Jazeera.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/595ebcccda490adae73cdb98f7e48131Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Ralphy and Yael Jhirad have been conducting tours of Jewish heritage sites for the last thirty years. They have a strong connection to Israel despite being born and raised in India. 'India is my motherland and Israel is my father's land, or my forefathers' land,' Ralphy Jhirad told Al Jazeera.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/ba46211604e6418cc5bc58a5ceca12aa

The Beth El Synagogue in Panvel, Navi Mumbai was founded in 1849.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/ba46211604e6418cc5bc58a5ceca12aaSuranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

The Beth El Synagogue in Panvel, Navi Mumbai was founded in 1849.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/2a4a797aa2b15083dad43a8d5661b419

Moses Jacob Korlekar is a retired civil servant. He recites prayers for the community when a rabbi is not available. There are around 60 people in the synagogue's congregation with 20 to 25 families visiting regularly for prayer services.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/2a4a797aa2b15083dad43a8d5661b419Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Moses Jacob Korlekar is a retired civil servant. He recites prayers for the community when a rabbi is not available. There are around 60 people in the synagogue's congregation with 20 to 25 families visiting regularly for prayer services.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/87e6f82de9ee5293b4f5d2ca6f1beffa

The Jewish community celebrating the first day of Shavout at the Bet El Synagogue in Mumbai.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/87e6f82de9ee5293b4f5d2ca6f1beffaSuranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

The Jewish community celebrating the first day of Shavout at the Bet El Synagogue in Mumbai.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/71fff506dbafbe30fb8eb0f0a3035a63

Conservation architects say that preserving Jewish heritage is essential to the community's legacy in Mumbai.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/71fff506dbafbe30fb8eb0f0a3035a63Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Conservation architects say that preserving Jewish heritage is essential to the community's legacy in Mumbai.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/11f11c74d8e2d67bd3cd6a13c5a488b1

The Panvel Jews descend from the Bene Israelis who are thought to have become stranded in India after a shipwreck more than 2000 years ago

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/11f11c74d8e2d67bd3cd6a13c5a488b1Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

The Panvel Jews descend from the Bene Israelis who are thought to have become stranded in India after a shipwreck more than 2000 years ago

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/5a7ea6888e34db2a9cf7e024875b9b22

Many in the community say it's important to hold onto traditions to pass them onto the next generation.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/5a7ea6888e34db2a9cf7e024875b9b22Suranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Many in the community say it's important to hold onto traditions to pass them onto the next generation.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/6cc112623b9400a41a8aae458c1fe13d

Members of the community say that although the Jewish population in Mumbai is small, it is still a vibrant community that allows them to observe Jewish traditions.

http://aljazeera.galleries.newscred.com/gallery/Synagogue_India/slideshow/no-caption/6cc112623b9400a41a8aae458c1fe13dSuranjana Tewari/Al Jazeera

Members of the community say that although the Jewish population in Mumbai is small, it is still a vibrant community that allows them to observe Jewish traditions.



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