Posts Tagged ‘jew

31
May
17

Looking back…

Kolkata is a fascinating place. It is the third most populated metropolitan area in India. This city embraced every culture, religion and people from every corner of the world. Thus, we can say that Kolkata has a mini world inside and everyone here lives in happiness, peace and harmony. Some of the communities may be dwindling in numbers but their presence adds a great contribution to the heritage and culturally rich Kolkata.

Speaking of communities and culture, here I am talking about one of the oldest religions whose origin traces back to the late Bronze period that is 13th century BC. Yes, Jew or Judaism or Yhudim in Israeli pronunciation. As we know that the most Jewish are from and belong to Israel but across the world, they have created their mark.

It is a proud factor for Kolkata that people find this place peaceful for the living.

I remember when I was a child, my father used to bring fruit cake from Nahoum’s Bakery which is still situated in New Market. Once I visited the shop as a child with my parents and to my surprise, the décor is way different from other cake shops present. The glass cased teak wood furniture where a delectable array of confectioneries is displayed. Rum ball, Lemon Tart, Marzian Patties, Brownies and of course very famous Fruit Cake are a must try. More than 100 years old this shop stands as a landmark to a disappearing heritage. If you go inside you can see the traditional style decor which still they haven’t altered a bit.

nah

When I grew up and started taking interest in heritage and culture of Kolkata, I again come across Nahoum’s Bakery and thus come to know about the Jew community here. Today there are only 27 people living here but once 6000 Jews from Baghdad settled here. In the year 1798 first Jewish immigrant named Shalom Aharon Obadiah Cohen came to Kolkata and in the early 19th century more and more Jews settled here in Kolkata.

Slowly they started building a new life and community amongst all others in peace and harmony. Proud to say that Kolkata houses 3 Synagogues dated 1825 and still today 2 are in use. Obsessed with history and culture I tried to visit those Synagogues but unfortunately, I couldn’t. As you have to take permission either from the head of the Jew community or from ASI. From outside what I have seen, these Synagogues are large in structure and beautifully carved. There is also a Jew cemetery and two Jew schools present in Kolkata.

David synagogue

There are few streets like Ezra Street, Belilios Street and Synagogue Street which are kept as before reminding the presence of Jew community. Ezra Mansions and the Ezra Hospital and two buildings in the zoo which are still owned by the Jews. There are many other mansions, residences and office buildings that still stand but they no longer bear their Jewish names and few know they were once Jewish-owned. With dwindling numbers may be one day Jew community will vanish from Kolkata since people who are living are very old. Nevertheless, people are still trying to survive and leave their mark.

These people from Middle-East country adopted and embraced Bengali lifestyle, language and also their culture. Many recall Kolkata as their home and they belong here. They have intertwined Jewish culture with Bengali culture in several ways like food, jewellery and of course fashion. Many restaurants have opened a new section for the middle-east cuisines and people are loving it. Even in fashion Jewish style are adopted and loved.

Across the world Jew have created a big impact in every field, be it politics, art or science. You will be surprised to read few notable Jewish people of Kolkata whom we thought as Bengali. It was during the era of Zamindars in Kolkata when Mujra was a new thing, a very famous singer and dancer Gauhar Jaan gained fame because of her voice and music. She was actually a Jew named Angelina Yeoward who changed her name to Gauhar Jaan after she moved to Benaras and accepted Muslim as her religion. She was also the first woman to perform in radio. Like here there are many eminent people who are notable actresses, musicians, businessmen, administrators, ad man, artists and they are all children of Israel but belonged to Kolkata.

Gauhar_Jaan

Maybe in few years, Jewish community will disappear as more people are settling abroad or people due to age leaving the earth, but their creation will always be a part of Kolkata’s heritage and we will always remember that.