beth el synagogue

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Synagogues of India (Calcutta/Kolkata, Mumbai, and Cochin). Photographs by Jono David.

Jews were once a prominent component of India’s population. The three main branches of Indian Jewry are the Maharashtrian (Bene Israel) Jews, Cochin Jews, and Baghdadi Jews. Bene Israel, who constitute the majority of Indian Jews, claim to be descendants of seven Jewish families from Judea who were shipwrecked near the village of Navgaon in western India around 175 B.C. They settled primarily in Mumbai, Calcutta, Old Delhi, and Ahmedabad. 

Cochin Jews, according to local tradition, are descendants of Jewish merchants who arrived on the Malabar coast of India with the ships of King Solomon’s fleet. After the Spanish Edict of Expulsion, Jewish refugees migrated to Cochin from Aleppo, Constantinople, and Palestine. Within the same timeframe, Jews escaping forced conversions in Persia and persecution in Baghdad also fled to Cochin. 

The waves of Jewish emigration from Baghdad started gaining momentum in the 19th century. Via intricate mercantile routes, communities of Baghdadi Jewish traders reached Calcutta, a port city in eastern India and the former nerve center of the British Empire. Although there was no shortage of rifts and conflicts between Baghdadi Jews and the local Bene Israel of Calcutta, the two groups merged their cultures together and gave rise to new sociocultural forms.

India gained its independence of Britain in 1947, and nationalism and emphasis on the Partition of Hindu and Muslim identities intensified. The following year, the state of Israel was established, and Indian Jews relocated to Katamon in Jerusalem, Beersheba, Ramla, Dimona, and Yeruham in dramatic numbers. In the 1940s, over 30,000 Jews were registered in India; in 1971, there were roughtly 5,825. 70,000 Indian Jews live in Israel today (the great majority of them Bene Israel).

Ben Ezra Synagogue - Cairo, Egypt

Also referred to as the ‘El-Gheniza Synagogue’ or the 'Synagogue of the Palestinians’

According to local tradition, it’s located on the site where baby Moses (Moshe/Musa מֹשֶׁה‎ موسى‎) was found

The land for the synagogue was purchased in 882 CE for 20,000 dinars by Abraham ibn Ezra of Jerusalem

In the 19th century, the storeroom of the synagogue was found to have a treasure of Jewish scripts (both religious & secular) dating back as far as 870 CE, known as the 'Cairo Geniza’

You can see a church in the background

So, in case you were wondering what was happening in French antisemitism before four people were murdered today…

  • December 22, 2014 - Paris - A bullet fired from an air gun pierced a window of the David Ben Ichay synagogue. No one was injured.
  • December 1, 2014 - Paris - Three armed individuals robbed a Jewish couple - a 19 year old woman and her 21 year old partner- at gunpoint, and raped the woman. The assailants reportedly told the couple they shouldn’t try to pretend they didn’t have money because they knew they were Jewish.
  • November 6, 2014 - Paris - A visibly Jewish male was beaten by a group of approximately 15 teens outside of a school. 
  • August 12, 2014 - Marseilles -A visibly Jewish male was in his car and wanted to park in his building’s garage, but another car was blocking the entrance.  He honked and a young man came out of the building and said, “Dirty Jew, you’re not in Gaza here.  I’m going to kill you and your family.”  The victim tried to flee into the building, but was followed by the young man and several members of his family who hit him in the face and head.
  • August 1, 2014 - Nice -Two men insulted two Jews near a local synagogue on Friday night, then came back at 3:30am Saturday with iron bars and broke a glass door and a surveillance camera. Police were close by and arrested them on the spot.
  • July 26, 2014 - Toulouse - Following an anti-Israel demonstration, a protestor threw two Molotov cocktails at the security kiosk of the Jewish Community Center. The cocktails exploded but missed their target, and the attacker was quickly arrested.
  • July 24, 2014 - Bobigny - A Jewish male was attacked by a group of people after his address was published on a Facebook page. He sustained light injuries.
  • July 23, 2014 - Paris -Police arrested 16 people, mostly minors, for yelling “Death to Jews!” at a patrons of a restaurant on rue de Rosier, one of the more famous streets in the old Jewish Quarter of Paris.
  • July 22, 2014 - Gap - During an anti-Israel demonstration yesterday in Gap (southeastern France) with 300 participants, ten hooded individuals broke a window where a Star of David was visible.  They threatened to kill the woman inside, but didn’t enter and fled before the police arrived. 
  • July 20, 2014 - Sarcelles -A kosher store that was attacked with an improvised grenade in 2012 was attacked again, apparently with a Molotov cocktail, during an illegal anti-Israel demonstration.
  • July 18, 2014 - Lyon - A young Jewish male was hit in the head as his attacker yelled, “I want to kill all the Jews.” The attacker was arrested on the spot by police.
  • July 18, 2014 - Lyon - A banner with “Israel Assassin” was hung on the gate of a synagogue.
  • July 13, 2014 - Paris - During a large anti-Israel demonstration two synagogues were attacked. Dozens of demonstrators broke off and tried to attack the Synagogue de la Roquette, while other demonstrators tried to enter the synagogue at Rue des Tournelles.  Anti-Semitic slogans were reported in both incidents and chants of “Death to the Jews!” were heard during the demonstration.
  • July 7, 2014 - Paris  - A 17-year-old Jewish girl was attacked and pepper sprayed in her face while the assailant made anti-Semitic remarks.
  • June 14, 2014 - Paris - Two men pointed what appeared to be firearms at police officers stationed outside a synagogue.
  • June 14, 2014 - Garges les Gonesses - A knife and other objects were hurled into the interior yard of a synagogue.
  • June 7, 2014 - Sarcelles - Two visibly Jewish teenagers were sprayed with tear gas.
  • May 30, 2014 - Paris - A Jewish man was attacked by three assailants who said to him: “We know it was you who called the cops yesterday. You Jews are all the same.” They then proceeded to physically assualt the individual, shouting “You’re a dirty Jew. We know where you live, we know your wife, your kids, your car.” The man sustained a broken elbow during the incident. 
  • May 24, 2014 - Paris - Two Jewish brothers, aged 19 and 22, who were on their way to a local synagogue, were beaten with brass knuckles by two assailants. One victim was hospitalized with a severe eye injury.
  • May 13, 2014 - Paris - A Jewish woman and her baby were assaulted while waiting for a bus. An unidentified woman shook the baby’s stroller and shouted at the mother: “Dirty Jewess, enough with your children already, you Jews have too many children, screw you!”
  • March 10, 2014 - Paris - A visibly identifiable Jewish male was attacked by two men with a stun gun near a local synagogue. He was not seriously hurt, but did require hospitalization.
  • March 2, 2014 – Paris – An orthodox Jewish man was assaulted and beaten on a Metro train.  The four assailants, who were described as of Arab descent, reportedly shouted “Jews” before the attack.
    • April 23, 2013 - Paris - A rabbi and his son were stabbed near the Beth-El synagogue by an Iranian man who had recently escaped a psychiatric hospital. The attacker stabbed the rabbi in the neck causing light injuries, while the rabbi’s son was lightly cut when he came to his defense. The attacker was subdued by bystanders and turned over to the police.
    • March 14, 2013 - Vitry-Sur-Seine - Three men accosted a Jewish Kippa-wearing teenager on the subway, and threatened to do to him “what Mohammed Merah did.” They added that Merah “was right to do what he did…We will kill all of you Jews — one day we will kill a Jew.” Mohammed Merah is a reference to the 23-year-old Islamist who last year killed four Jews at a school in Toulouse.
    • March 12, 2013 - Lyon - A fake bomb was found near the Hillel Center, a Jewish institution in the city. Police successfully destroyed the device.
    • February 5, 2013 – Toulouse - A woman with a history of aggression toward Jews threatened a 16 year-old boy wearing a kippah with a knife. The incident occurred close to the Jewish school, where three children and a rabbi were murdered by Mohammed Merah, an Islamic radical terrorist.
    • Februrary 4, 2013 - Marseille - A 20-year-old Jewish man wearing a Star of David pendant was mugged and robbed twice outside Marseille’s main train station. Two men on a scooter tore the chain off his neck and called him a “dirty Jew.” Moments later, another group of young men approached the victim and hurled anti-Semitic insults before stealing an MP3 player and 100 Euros. They also reportedly hit the victim.
    • January 3, 2013 - Toulouse - Anti-Semitic slogans, including a swastika alongside the words “SS” and “get the f*** out”, were graffitied on a local chapter of the Paris Psychoanalytical Society. The incident occurred less the a year after a terrorist killed a rabbi and three students at a Jewish school in the city.