B'nei Menashe caught in cross-fire

More than 150 breadwinners of the B’nei Menashe Jewish families  were caught in the recent crossfire of violence in Manipur, India.

According to reports, one B’nei Menashe, a father of four, was killed and four more people were injured as a result of the shooting. Ten others are missing after fleeing the violence.

Read the report and Aya Khongsai’s account of events at Plus61J…

We extend our deepest concern to the B’nei Menashe community at this heart-breaking turn of events in India, a country that is known for its tolerance and inclusivity of the Jewish communities of India. We appeal to IJAANZ members, and to the Australian and international Jewish communities to support our Jewish brethren. Donations to support the families can be made via this link (in Hebrew).

Please donate generously!

Kenesseth Eliyahoo wins UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award of Merit

Above: Exterior of Kenesseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in South Mumbai. Image © Jewish News.
Above: Today Kenesseth Eliyahoo once again as it boasts the most extensive stain glass windows in India.

The historic Kenesseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in Mumbai was awarded UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Award of Merit in December 2022.

First built in 1884, Kenesseth Eliyahoo has been a sacred gathering place and the pride of the Indian Jewish Community for generations. In 2010, the World Monument Fund, which has helped preserve sites such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, drew up a plan to restore the synagogue. In 2017, the JSW Foundation stepped in to fund the project, seeing its value not just to the Jewish community but to all Indians.

Sangita Jindal, Chairperson of the Jindal South-West Foundation (JSW) and visionary, saw a need to aid the Jewish community and was compelled to help. “I am a Hindu, but…I will try and help people in my city. It was a dire need. They did not have the facility to do it on their own because they have a very small community….they are our neighbours.” The project completed in two years under the direction of architect Abha Lambah.

Today, Kenesseth Eliyahoo once again as it boasts the most extensive stained glass windows in India, thanks to artist Swati Chandgadkar.

Read more…Stroll down memory lane here…

The Jews of India celebrated in Australia’s capital

IJAANZ, the Australian Jewish Historical Society, and the ACT Jewish Community celebrated the Jews of India with a talk and Exhibition on the afternoon of 7 May, 2023.  The event was attended by His Excellency High Commissioner Manpreet Vohra, High Commissioner of India, Her Excellency Mrs. Vohra, and more than 50 ACTJC congregants and friends.

IJAANZ Sydney President Angelica Jacob speaks on the contribution of the Jews of India at the ACT Jewish Museum on 9 May 2023.
His Excellency Manpreet Vohra, High Commissioner of India, (front, second from right), Her Excellency Mrs. Vohra (front, first from right), David Rosalky, ACTJC Treasurer and friends.

In her talk, “Not a People Apart – The Jews of India”, IJAANZ Sydney President Angelica Jacob told the audience the relationship between Jews and India dates back to Biblical times.

The audience heard of the significant contributions the Jews of India made to Indian life in art, literature, science, engineering, the armed forces and Government services. Remarkably, Hebrew was added as a second language in 1870 for the national matriculation examinations and higher courses – India was the only country in the world to do so.

The event was enhanced by the ‘Journeys in Watercolours – The Synagogues of India’ Exhibition of artworks which line the ACT Centre’s curved gallery wall. 

Adele Rosalky, President of the Australian Jewish Historical Society (AJHS ACT) interviewed Professor Jay A. Waronker,PhD who joined the event from his home in Atlanta GA. about the inspiration behind the artworks.

The event concluded with an afternoon tea of delicious Indian treats generously prepared by the Joshua family. The Exhibition can be viewed at the ACTJC until 31 December, 2023.

Constituted in 1951, the ACTJC welcomes all Jewish people to Canberra. It  offers a diverse range of religious, educational, cultural and social activities. The community currently has around 200 membership units and is home to Orthodox and Progressive congregations. 

Images © Jay A. Waronker
Adele Rosalky of ACT Historical Society ACT interviews Professor Jay A. Waronker on the inspiration behind his work. Evocative artworks line the ACT Gallery's curved wall.

Rabbi recites Torah at new Parliament

Rabbi Malekar: "I was there as an Indian."

At the opening of the new Parliament building in New Delhi, on 28 May, 2023 the Jewish faith was represented by Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, who leads Delhi’s Judah Hyam Synagogue.

Hear Rabbi Malekar recite the prayer here. Read more about the new Parliament building.

CJHC-IJHC celebrate major milestone 

The Cochin Jewish Heritage Center and the Indian Jewish Heritage Center celebrated a major milestone with the ceremonial Laying of the Foundation Stone for the Auditorium on Thursday 8 June at 17:00 IST at Moshav Nevatim.

This takes CJHC-IJHC closer to its goal to set up and raise funds for the Heritage and Cultural Center of the Jews of India.

The situation in the south is more challenging than other parts of the country. “The people of the south deserve a healthy and happy lifestyle. Their children and families deserve a better standard of living. We need to confront the root of the financial problems that are faced by the disadvantaged people, and give them tools to support and meet the financial needs of their households,” CJHC-IJHC said.

The Jewish National Fund Australia (JNF) is proudly supporting this cause. Your valuable donation will help build this Center in Nevatim. Nevatim is not far from the border of Gaza

Please Donate generously via JNF here. Read more about the Center.

Indian Jew represents Israel to the UN

Eddna Samuel went from Mumbai to Tel Aviv and now to New York where she represents Israel at the United Nations. Pictured here with her husband Brett Jonathan Miller.

“Growing up in India, I never imagined that I would one day represent Israel in the United States. I take real pride in being Indian, but I have always taken real pride in being Jewish too. Coming to Israel was like finding a new home..I am so proud to be an Israeli citizen.”

Read more…

The Art of Siona Benjamin

It has been said artistic diversity transcends borders and builds bridges and Siona Benjamin’s art does just that, exquisitely. Siona’s prolific portfolio intersects contemporary themes through a Jewish lens and asserts feminist perspectives.

Finding Home No. 74 (Fereshteh): Lilith, 2006. Gouache on wood panel, 30 x 24 in.
Siona Benjamin’s rendition of “Eliyahu Hanavi”, Gouache & 22K gold leaf paper, 1999.
Siona Benjamin (left) painting blue dancer Dina. All Images © Siona Benjamin.
Finding Home #89 (Fereshteh) "Vashti", 7" x 10", Gouache and 22K gold leaf on paper.

Curators and organisers alike say Siona’s Exhibitions “created understanding across difference, facilitated vital conversations with students and produced new insights, research, experiences, and questions”. (Samantha Basskind, 2022).

Siona Benjamin, who is of Indian Jewish heritage now living in the US, is inspired by the style of Indian/Persian miniature paintings, Sephardic icons, the socio-political climate of today and in exploring the cultural boundary zones of her immigrant self.

Siona’s impressive portfolio and myriad achievements include two Fulbright Fellowships to India and to Israel. She has held residencies, solo and group exhibitions, including  “Beyond Borders: The Art of Siona Benjamin” in numerous museums around the world including the US, India, and Israel.

Read more…

Full cover of Siona Benjamin's book, 'Finding Home'

B’nei Menashe culture celebrated

The B’nei Menashe Exhibition in Israel in 2022. Image Courtesy © CJHC-IJHC.

The culture and traditions of the B’nei Menashe was celebrated at the Nof Hagalil community centre in cooperation with the Indian Jewish Heritage Center and Shavei Israel. 

The beautiful photos by Dorit Lombrusco, as well as explanations of the B’nei Menashe history and culture, were impressive and very well received.

 Read more  

Shabbat at a B’nei Menashe home. Image Courtesy © CJHC-IJHC.