The Baghdadi Jews in India: Maintaining Communities, Negotiating Identities and Creating Super-Diversity 9780367203252, 9780367197872

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The Baghdadi Jews in India: Maintaining Communities, Negotiating Identities and Creating Super-Diversity
 9780367203252, 9780367197872

Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of figures
Notes on contributors
Part I: Sociological and historical perspectives on the Baghdadi Jews under the Raj
1 Super-diversity among the Baghdadi Jews of India
Super-diversity in all its manifestations
Demography and geography
Indian independence, Zionism and the Baghdadi dispersion
Literature on the Baghdadi Jews in India
The volume
2 Negotiating identity in a changing world: from British colonialism to Indian independence
Relationships with other communities
Participation in politics and public affairs
Indian nationalism
The war years and after
Part II: Diversified religious life
3 The Baghdadi synagogues of India: their design roots, aesthetic and history
Baghdadi synagogue architecture in Indian context
Ohel David Synagogue, Pune
Magen David Synagogue, Mumbai
Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai
Maghen David Synagogue, Kolkata
Beth El Synagogue, Kolkata
Neveh Shalome Synagogue, Kolkata
4 Music traditions in the Baghdadi Jewish communities of Bombay and Poona: continuity, new horizons
The Baghdadi Jewish communities of Bombay and Poona in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: an overview
Continuity of music traditions: religious, life cycle and secular perspectives
New horizons in music traditions: recordings, synagogue choirs, youth organizations, Euro-American popular song and professional musicians
Concluding remarks
Part III: The Baghdadis of Maharashtra: formal and informal education
5 Jewish schools, their entrepreneurs and their educational landscape in Bombay
Historical and geographical background
The Sir Jacob Sassoon Free High School
The Sir Sassoon J. David School
The Ezekiel Ezra Elisha (E.E.E.) Sassoon High School
6 Jewish sports and sectarianism in pre-independence Bombay
Bombay’s Jews under British rule
Jewish sports in Bombay
Piercing the barrier: Zionist sports
Part IV: The Baghdadis of Bengal: formal and informal education
7 Muslim students in the Jewish Girls’ School, Kolkata: a changed legacy
A brief history of the Jewish Girls’ School
End of an era: admitting non-Jewish students
Jewish in name and on special occasions
Implications: teachings on multicultural engagement from Calcutta
8 Sport, gender and socialization: the experience of Jewish and Parsee women in colonial and post-colonial Bengal
Jewish and Parsee women in sport
Socializing agents in sports: Jewish and Parsee women
Part V: Print and digital dissemination
9 Jewish press in India in Baghdadi Judeo-Arabic as an indispensable source for the history of Iraqi Jews in the nineteenth century
Emigration to Baghdad in the nineteenth century
The first vocational Jewish girls’ school in Baghdad
Jewish Boys’ School Band in Baghdad
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
Appendix 3
Appendix 4
Appendix 5
Appendix 6
10 Archival cartographies: multi-layering Calcutta’s Baghdadi Jewish histories
Methodology: the building blocks of the digital archive
Social integration among the Baghdadis and mainstream and minority communities
Professional range, cultural and political integration
Women pioneers

Citation preview

The Baghdadi Jews in India

This book explores the extraordinary differentiation of the Baghdadi Jewish community over time during their sojourn in India from the end of the eighteenth century until their dispersion to Indian diasporas in Israel and English-­speaking countries throughout the world after India gained independence in 1947. Chapters on schools, institutions and culture present how Baghdadis in India managed to maintain their communities by negotiating multiple identities in a stratified and complex society. Several disciplinary perspectives are utilized to explore the super-­diversity of the Baghdadis and the ways in which they successfully adapted to new situations during the Raj, while retaining particular traditions and modifying and incorporating others. Providing a comprehensive overview of this community, the contributions to the book show that the legacy of the Baghdadi Jews lives on for Indians today through landmarks and monuments in Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata, and for Jews, through memories woven by members of the community residing in diverse diasporas. Offering refreshing historical perspectives on the colonial period in India, this book will be of interest to those studying South Asian Studies, Diaspora and Ethnic Studies, Sociology, History, Jewish Studies and Asian Religion. Shalva Weil is Senior Researcher at the Research Institute for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and Research Fellow in the Department of Biblical Studies and Ancient Studies at the University of South Africa.

Routledge South Asian Religion Series

  5 Health and Religious Rituals in South Asia Disease, Possession and Healing Edited by Fabrizio M. Ferrari   6 Time, History and the Religious Imaginary in South Asia Edited by Anne Murphy   7 Cross-­disciplinary Perspectives on a Contested Buddhist Site Bodhgaya Jataka Edited by David Geary, Matthew R. Sayers and Abhishek Singh Amar   8 Yoga in Modern Hinduism Hariharānanda Āraṇya and Sāṃkhyayoga Knut A. Jacobsen   9 Women, Religion and the Body in South Asia Living with Bengali Bauls Kristin Hanssen 10 Religion, Space and Conflict in Sri Lanka Colonial and Postcolonial Contexts Elizabeth J. Harris 11 Religion and Technology in India Spaces, Practices and Authorities Edited by Knut A. Jacobsen and Kristina Myrvold 12 The Baghdadi Jews in India Maintaining Communities, Negotiating Identities and Creating Super-­ Diversity Edited by Shalva Weil For more information about this series, please visit: studies/series/RSARS

The Baghdadi Jews in India Maintaining Communities, Negotiating Identities and Creating Super-­Diversity

Edited by Shalva Weil

First published 2019 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2019 selection and editorial matter, Shalva Weil; individual chapters, the contributors The right of Shalva Weil to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing-­in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-­in-Publication Data A catalog record has been requested for this book ISBN: 978-0-367-20325-2 (hbk) ISBN: 978-0-367-19787-2 (ebk) Typeset in Times New Roman by Wearset Ltd, Boldon, Tyne and Wear

This book is dedicated to General J.F.R. Jacob (1921–2016), an Indian war hero of Baghdadi Jewish origin, who negotiated the surrender of Pakistani forces in Dhaka in 1971 leading to the establishment of Bangladesh as an independent nation. General Jacob (or “Jack” or “Jake”, as he liked to call himself ), a friend of this editor, was also influential in Indian politics. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 1990s and served as Governor of Goa, Daman and Diu (1998–1999), and as Governor of Haryana and Punjab (1999–2003). Throughout, General J.F.R. Jacob was both loyal to India, a proud Jew and a fierce supporter of Israel. General Jacob will remain part of Indian and Jewish history for many generations to come. The Editor gratefully acknowledges the generous financial assistance in the publication of this volume provided by Abraham D. Sofaer and Marian Scheuer Sofaer, Palo Alto, United States of America and Isaac Sofaer, born in Bombay, currently resident in Bangkok, Thailand.

Figure 0.1 Frontispiece. General J.F.R. Jacob (1924–2016), hero of the Indo-Pakistan War 1971, and Governor of Goa and Punjab, in his New Delhi home (courtesy Sanjeet Chowdhury).


List of figures Notes on contributors Acknowledgement

ix xi xiv

Part I

Sociological and historical perspectives on the Baghdadi Jews under the Raj


  1 Super-­diversity among the Baghdadi Jews of India


S halva  W eil

  2 Negotiating identity in a changing world: from British colonialism to Indian independence


J oan G . R oland

Part II

Diversified religious life


  3 The Baghdadi synagogues of India: their design roots, aesthetic and history


J ay A . W aron k er

  4 Music traditions in the Baghdadi Jewish communities of Bombay and Poona: continuity, new horizons S ara M anasseh


viii   Contents Part III

The Baghdadis of Maharashtra: formal and informal education


  5 Jewish schools, their entrepreneurs and their educational landscape in Bombay


S haul  S apir

  6 Jewish sports and sectarianism in pre-­independence Bombay


N athan M arcus

Part IV

The Baghdadis of Bengal: formal and informal education


  7 Muslim students in the Jewish Girls’ School, Kolkata: a changed legacy


J ael S illiman

  8 Sport, gender and socialization: the experience of Jewish and Parsee women in colonial and post-­colonial Bengal


S uparna G hosh B hattacharya

Part V

Print and digital dissemination


  9 Jewish press in India in Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic as an indispensable source for the history of Iraqi Jews in the nineteenth century


Z vi Y ehuda

10 Archival cartographies: multi-­layering Calcutta’s Baghdadi Jewish histories


J ael S illiman




  0.1 Frontispiece. General J.F.R. Jacob (1924–2016), hero of the Indo-­Pakistan War 1971, and Governor of Goa and Punjab, in his New Delhi home   1.1 David Sassoon Library and Reading Room founded 1847, Bombay, 2018   1.2 Yonah ben Isaac ben Mordechai ben Yom Tov in Arabic dress, with Meyer on lap and Alec at side, two grandchildren from his son Jacob, Calcutta, 1910    1.3 Tabernacle sculpture by Calcutta-­born, London-­based artist Gerry Judah   2.1 American servicemen, Maghen David Synagogue, Calcutta, Simchat Torah (Festival of “Rejoicing of The Law”) 1944   3.1 Ohel David synagogue exterior, Pune   3.2 Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai   3.3 Kippot (skullcaps) offered to visitors, Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, February 2018   4.1 Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles) celebrated by Mozelle and Yahya Hemi and family in the sukkâh (tabernacle) erected in their bungalow garden, Bombay, 1953    4.2 Family of Ḥazzân (Cantor) Mordecai Shalom b. Ezra (d. 1919), Poona, 1932    4.3 Wedding portrait of George Sopher and Rachel Ani, Bombay, July 1948   4.4 Habonim picnic, Bombay, 1962   5.1 Sir Jacob Sassoon High School, February 2018   6.1 Jewish Advocate, April 1941. Waterpolo Quadrangular between “Zionists” (sic) and Parsis, Bombay, 1941   7.1 Jewish Girls’ School Carnival, Kolkata, December 2018   7.2 The Geniza (storage area for worn-­out holy books and papers prior to burial) in Narkeldanga Cemetery, Calcutta, 2015   8.1 Restored Beth El Synagogue interior, Kolkata, December 2017    9.1 The Jewish Gazette (Pēraḥ), Calcutta, 9 September 1881

vi 6 10 17 27 43 49 50 61 63 69 70 87 101 119 122 128 156

x   Figures 10.1 Esther Victoria Abraham (screen name Pramila) (1916–2006), Bollywood actress, Miss India in 1947 10.2 Benji Jacob and Sas Jacob with friend from the Gubbay Family Albums (early twentieth century) 10.3 Hannah Sen (1894–1957) and Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964)

169 171 174


Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya is former Head of the Department of History and Assistant Professor in History at Loreto College Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Her research interests include sports studies, women studies and popular culture, particularly rural culture, customs and traditions. She was awarded her PhD on “Women of Bengal in Sports” in 2008 by Jadavpur University. She has published in a few national and international journals and books. Sara Manasseh, ethnomusicologist and performer of Iraqi-­Jewish music, was born in Bombay, and moved to London in 1966. Her family was originally from Baghdad and she is a direct descendant of David Sassoon who arrived in Bombay in 1832. She is the founder-­director of the ensemble Rivers of Babylon. Sara Manasseh’s publications include the CD Shir Hodu: Jewish Song from Bombay of the ’30s, the book (with CD) Shbaḥoth – Songs of Praise in the Babylonian Jewish Tradition: From Baghdad to Bombay and London and the Rivers of Babylon CD From Her Father’s House: Iraqi Jewish and Arabic Song. Nathan Marcus earned a BA in History and Economics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a doctorate in Modern European History from New York University. His dissertation focused on the financial history of Austria in the 1920s. Following a Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence, Nathan Marcus began teaching Modern European and Economic History at the Higher School for Economics in St Petersburg, Russia. Today, he is a senior lecturer at Ben-­Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. Joan G. Roland received her PhD in Middle Eastern History from Columbia University and is Professor of History at Pace University in NYC, where she chaired the department for many years. She has been researching the Jews of India since she received a Fulbright Grant in 1977. Her book, Jews in British India: Identity in a Colonial Era, was published in a second edition under the title of The Jewish Communities of India. She has authored numerous chapters and articles on the experiences of Indian Jews, especially the Baghdadis and Bene Israel, in India, Israel and the United States.

xii   Contributors Shaul Sapir has been teaching Historical Geography at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem since 1975 and at the David Yellin Teachers’ College, Jerusalem, where he headed the Department of Geography for several years. On his sabbaticals, he lectured at University College, London. He has published numerous articles on a wide range of subjects, mainly focusing on Jerusalem through the ages, and on the Land of Israel during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Shaul Sapir is author of Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage, in which he tells the story of the Baghdadi Jewish community in Bombay and their unique contribution to the urban landscape of the city during the British Raj. Jael Silliman was tenured Associate Professor of Women Studies at the University of Iowa (1996–2002) and a Program Officer for Reproductive Rights and Women’s Rights at the Ford Foundation in New York (2003–2009). Currently an independent scholar and writer documenting her community, the Baghdadi Jews of Calcutta, she has also curated Her books include Jewish Portraits, Indian Frames: Women’s Narratives from a Diaspora of Hope. She was lead author for Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organising for Reproductive Justice, has written two novels – The Man with Many Hats and The Teak Almirah – and authored Where Gods Reside: Kolkata’s Sacred Places. Jay A. Waronker was educated at University of Michigan, Harvard and Cornell. After working with Robert A.M. Stern Architects, Jay A. Waronker established an office. He has served on the architecture faculty at Kennesaw State University, been a visiting professor at Georgia Tech and Hobart-­ William Smith Colleges, and taught at Duksung University-­Seoul, N. China University of Technology-­Beijing, University of Free State-­South Africa, University of Adelaide-­Australia and Gediminas Technical University-­ Lithuania. He has painted watercolours of Indian synagogues, exhibited at Indira Gandhi Centre for Arts-­New Delhi, Kennesaw State University-­Atlanta and SUNY-­Canton. His publications include chapters in Synagogues of India: Architecture, History, and Communities and India’s Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art, and Life-­Cycle. Shalva Weil, Senior Researcher at RIFIE (Research Institute for Innovation in Education), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Research Fellow in the Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies at UNISA (University of South Africa), is a world authority on the Jews of India. In 2017, she was GIAN Distinguished Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi. She edited India’s Jewish Heritage, and co-­edited Indo-­Judaic Studies in the Twenty-­First Century and Karmic Passages. She has published 100 articles, chapters and encyclopedia entries on the Baghdadi Jews, Bene Israel, Cochin Jews and Judaizing Indian groups. Shalva Weil is on the academic board of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center and is founding Chairperson of the Israel-­India Friendship Association.

Contributors   xiii Zvi Yehuda, PhD (Jerusalem, 1982) is the director of the Research Institute of Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, Israel, and the editor of its publications. He is also responsible for the research in the Babylonian Jewry Museum. He has authored or edited more than 20 volumes (including The New Babylonian Diaspora), and published numerous articles and five documented films.


I would like to thank my four children, Ilana, Shalom, Eldad and Gilad, and their families, for their everlasting support. Shalva Weil Jerusalem

Part I

Sociological and historical perspectives on the Baghdadi Jews under the Raj

1 Super-­diversity among the Baghdadi Jews of India Shalva Weil

Super-­diversity in all its manifestations “Super-­diversity” has been proposed by Steven Vertovec (Vertovec 2007) as a concept and theoretical tool that enables us to envisage our ever-­evolving globalized social reality by accentuating the enormous amount of diversity that exists within different groups in societies around the world. Vertovec argues that super-­diversity in Britain “is distinguished by a dynamic interplay of variables among an increased number of new, small and scattered, multiple-­origin, transnationally connected, socio-­economically differentiated and legally stratified immigrants who have arrived over the last decade” (2007). The concept refers to increased diversity not only between immigrant and ethnic minority groups, but also within them. Super-­diversity is usually associated with the increasing ethnic and cultural complexity of Western European societies, and therefore associated with the rise of so-­called majority-­minority cities, such as Amsterdam, Brussels and London. The concept, I would argue, may be equally useful as a heuristic tool for understanding non-­Western citiscapes, like Mumbai, Kolkata and Pune, where the “Baghdadi” Jews once thrived. Indeed, in his later works, Vertovec has adapted super-­diversity to socio-­spatial urban patterns in different types of cities, such as New York, Johannesburg and Singapore (Vertovec 2015), and recently, in a review of 325 articles on super-­ diversity, has examined the concept and how it has been interpreted in various ways (Vertovec 2019). The Indian “Baghdadis”, as they are colloquially called, did not all originate in Baghdad.1 Members of this community comprised Iraqi Jews from different centres, and other Arabic, Afghani and Persian-­speaking Jews, who settled in India largely from the middle of the nineteenth century. These diverse and scattered immigrants from different places in the world, who are transnationally connected and differentiated socio-­economically and legally, akin to those pinpointed by Vertovec in Great Britain in the past decade (Vertovec 2007), existed for well over 100 years in Indian and other non-­Western cities. These types of communities have often been overlooked in discussions and criticisms of the notion of super-­diversity, which seek to portray the complexity as well as the diversification of migration trajectories and variance in human capital

4   Shalva Weil (Meissner and Vertovec 2015), but sometimes miss historically complex and unique intertwined communities in varying citiscapes.

Demography and geography The vast majority of India’s 1.4 billion population are Hindus; 13.4 per cent are Muslims, 80 per cent of whom are Sunni Muslims; 2.5 per cent are Christian; and less than 0.0004 per cent are Jews. The majority of the 3,000 Jews remaining in India today live in Maharashtra, namely in Mumbai, the Konkan villages and Pune. There are small remnants of Jewish communities in Ahmedabad, New Delhi and Calcutta; only five Jews remain in “Jew Town” in Mattancherry, Cochin, and a dozen or so more Malabar Jews are scattered around Kerala. Even in their heyday before 1950, Indian Jews from all three Jewish groups – Cochin Jews, Bene Israel and Baghdadis – only numbered 28,000 souls. They neither suffered from anti-­Semitism at the hands of their fellow countrymen – Hindu, Christian, Parsee or other – nor experienced ethnic tensions with Indian Moslems. Somehow, they created and maintained unique Indo-­Judaic customs, which they enacted in the multi-­religious and complex society of India (Weil 2018). The Baghdadi Jews never numbered more than 8,000 souls; today, just 70 remain in all of India. In recent years, Judaizing groups such as the Bnei Menashe in the states of Mizoram and Manipur, and Bnei Ephraim in Andra Pradesh, have emerged. Several thousand of the Bnei Menashe have managed to come on aliya (literally “go up”, i.e. to immigrate) to Israel after converting to Judaism, while thousands would like to join their family members. Based on a narrative that they are lost Israelites who travelled through China and ended up in the Burmese and Indian north-­eastern highlands, members of different tribes, such as the Gangte, Kuki and Mizos, have succeeded in gaining support in some circles in Israel (Weil 2004). At present, only one member of the Andra Pradesh group of Bnei Ephraim is residing in Israel.2 The Baghdadi Jews of India are well-­known in India and abroad, despite their small numbers. These Jews were Arabic-­speaking and originated not only in the city of Baghdad, but also in other Jewish centres in Iraq such as Basra and Mosul, as well as in Syria, and Aden. At different historical periods, other Jews from Persia (and particularly Meshed), Bukhara and Afghanistan joined them and became part of the community. Before, during and after the Second World War, individual European Jews became incorporated into the “Baghdadi” communities. The super-­diversity of this tiny transnational community in terms of internal stratification, global connections and multiple origins coalescing into even smaller communities and playing out with economic complexity, has sometimes been overlooked by scholars. In pre-­independence India, the Baghdadis established small Jewish communities in today’s Pakistan (Weil 2010) and Bangladesh (Weil 2012). In post-­independence India, they were located in three major Indian cityscapes: Calcutta (today Kolkata), Bombay (today Mumbai) and Poona (today Pune) (Weil 2010). Edifices and monuments in these three cities

Super-diversity among the Baghdadi Jews   5 still capture the Baghdadis’ enormous contribution to India and their impact on the development of the country. After 1947 and the withdrawal of the British from India, with whom the Baghdadi Jews had associated as non-­native Indians, many of the Baghdadis decided to emigrate to English-­speaking countries, such as England, Australia, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States, and to Israel. Some could not bear the difficult conditions in Israel at the beginning of its formation as a state, established only a year after India in 1948, and re-­emigrated to English-­speaking countries to reunify with kin and friends. Most Baghdadis intermarried with other Jews of different origins, although Baghdadi congregations with special rites and liturgies lived on.

History3 Maharashtra Bombay The first Jew to arrive in India from Baghdad was Joseph Semah in 1730. He landed in the port city of Surat in Gujarat, 160 miles north of Bombay, where he built a synagogue and cemetery.4 Semah extended his commercial enterprises to Bombay, where he and some other Baghdadis eventually settled (Roland 1989). Bombay had become the British East India Company’s headquarters in 1674 (Farrington 2002:64) and was just beginning to develop as a serious commercial centre. By the nineteenth century, Bombay had become a refuge for Arabic-­speaking Jews fleeing persecution at the hands of Dawud Pasha, the last Mamluk5 governor of Iraq, who reigned from 1816 to 1831. During this period, Iraq was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire. In Bombay, the advent of David Sassoon and his family in 1832 marked a new era in the economic development of that city. Sassoon, born in Baghdad in 1792, had escaped from Basra in 1829 to Bushire on the Persian Gulf, and was followed by hundreds of Jews from different cities in the Ottoman empire, who were seeking prosperity and security. David Sassoon’s first residence in Bombay was at 9 Tamarind Street6 within the precincts of the city.7 He soon moved to the Byculla neighbourhood, residing in the bungalow “Sans Souci”, a former palace named Shin Sangoo (today Massina Hospital). Sassoon managed his international enterprises from Bombay, including trade in cotton, jute and, most significantly, opium. His commercial intuition and prowess, as well as the scope of his business enterprises, are legendary. Since David Sassoon was an orthodox Jew and did not travel on the Sabbath, he quickly set about to establish his own network of synagogues to be led according to the Iraqi Jewish rites with which he was familiar. At first, he hosted a prayer hall in his home. In 1857, he purchased the land and in 1861 he built the

6   Shalva Weil

Figure 1.1 David Sassoon Library and Reading Room founded 1847, Bombay, 2018 (courtesy Shalva Weil).

Magen David (Defender of David) Synagogue in Byculla for members of his community, who streamed in to Bombay as they fled persecution in their homelands. He offered employment to scores of less wealthy Baghdadis, as well as Bene Israel, who had moved from the Konkan villages and settled in Bombay, and they all worked in the mills he had established (Weil 2014a). David Sassoon

Super-diversity among the Baghdadi Jews   7 was known by Jews and non-­Jews alike as a philanthropist. He set up the David Sassoon Benevolent Institution, where, according to Jackson (1989:35), pupils were taught to sing “God Save the Queen” in Hebrew, English and Arabic. In 1857, he built the David Sassoon Mechanics Institute, which became the David Sassoon Library in 1870, and contains a statue of its namesake. He also established or financed many other important public institutions and edifices, including the Sassoon clocktower in Byculla in 1864, the entrance to Sassoon Docks at Colaba in 1875, the David Sassoon Industrial and Reformatory Institution for Juvenile Offenders, David Sassoon Elderly and Destitute Persons Home or the David Sassoon Infirm Asylum (1863) and the statue of the Prince Consort complete with Hebrew inscription, which used to be in the front garden of the Victoria and Albert Museum (built in 1861; today the Bhau Daji Lad Museum) (Lentin 2009). David Sassoon died in 1864, and his children took over many of his enterprises. In 1884, his grandson Jacob Sassoon built the Keneseth Eliyahoo (Congregation of Elijah) Synagogue in the Fort area, which was renovated in 2019, where many Baghdadis then lived, in memory of one of David Sassoon’s sons and his father, Elias (Eliyahoo) Sassoon. In the twentieth century, Sir Victor Sassoon (1881–1961) took over much of the wealth of the Sassoon dynasty, known as the “Rothschilds of the East”. Victor was the grandson of Elias Sassoon, one of David Sassoon’s eight sons, who had branched out from the family firm David Sassoon and Sons in 1867 and established E.D. Sassoon & Co. in Bombay and Shanghai. Victor was the son of Edward Elias Sassoon, lived in China until the age of seven, and was later educated in England and read history at Trinity College, Cambridge. During the First World War he served in the RFC (Royal Flying Corps, now the RAF ). Victor inherited his father’s fortune, including 14 textile mills employing over 20,000 native workers, but he managed to squander most of it during his lifetime on horse-­racing, and high-­flying living. Meanwhile, prior and during the Second World War, the Bombay Baghdadi community increased with an influx of Persian, Bokharan and Afghan Jews. In addition, more Iraqi Jews, sensing deteriorating conditions in Iraq, and, in 1941, fleeing the Farhud (pogrom) against the Jews in Baghdad, joined their brethren in Bombay. During the Second World War, the community swelled further with an influx of European exiles escaping the terrible conditions in Europe (Weil 1999). Poona The Jewish community of Poona, c.100 miles south-­east of Bombay, developed during the nineteenth century, and was always smaller than its Bombay counterpart. Bene Israel soldiers had enlisted in the British army in India and served, along with Mahar untouchables, as non-­commissioned officers until 1893 (Basham 1985). During the nineteenth century, Poona became the summer capital of the British Governor of Bombay. In time, the city gradually emerged as a centre for Jewish life, though far smaller in numbers in comparison to Bombay.8

8   Shalva Weil David Sassoon, like the British, purchased a second home in Poona, where he spent the summer months, and many of his followers joined him. They held prayer meetings in the Sassoon residence, until David Sassoon initiated the building of a synagogue, which was called after him posthumously the Ohel David Synagogue. Completed in 1867, it is also known as Lal Dewal (Red Temple in Hindi, Maraṭhi) with a 27.5-metre-­high clocktower surmounted by a spire (Lentin 2009), making it one of Poona’s most distinctive landmarks to this day. The David Sassoon Infirm Asylum and the Sassoon General Hospital, inaugurated by David Sassoon, were open to all denominations. Abraham David Ezekiel, a relative of the Sassoons, established a Hebrew printing press, with translations of publications in Judeo-­Arabic, the dialect of the Baghdadis who arrived in India. In 1856, Bene Israel army pensioners settled in Poona, but they established their own community since they were not welcomed in the Baghdadi synagogue. In 1870, Ezekiel Samuel Talkar set up a publishing house for Hebrew books for the benefit of the estimated 200 Bene Israel in the city (Sinclair 1874:338, as quoted in Isenberg 1988:82, 190–191, fn.  7). Poona also integrated other Arabic, Persian and Europeans Jews during the twentieth century, as in Bombay, and especially before and during the Second World War. Bengal The first Jew to settle in India, Shlomo Cohen, was not really a Baghdadi from Baghdad, but he was the founder of what we call today the Baghdadi Jewish community (Musleah 1975). Cohen moved from Aleppo to Calcutta in 1798, and was joined by other merchantmen from Iraq, Syria, Persia, and other Jewish centres. He traded in spices, rosewater, opium, silks, Arabian horses and gems. His son-­in-law Moses Duek followed in his footsteps and was responsible for purchasing the land for two large synagogues: Beth El and Neveh Shalome. According to a census conducted by the East India Company by 1837, there were 307 Jews in Calcutta by this year (East India Company and Wild n.d.), although their numbers may have been double, since many of the traders did not take up permanent residence in Calcutta, managing, as they did, their enterprises from Basra, through India, and as far afield as Shanghai. The leaders of the community were very wealthy and included members of the Sassoon, the Ezra, Arakie and Gubbay families, and others. Many of these families supported other Baghdadis as dependants and workers in their multiple enterprises. During the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the second century, as many as eight Baghdadi synagogues operated simultaneously in Calcutta. The liturgy was in Hebrew, according to the Babylonian custom. In addition, several publishing houses translated holy texts into Hebrew and local vernacular, and published works in Judeo-­Arabic. In particular, collections of piyyutim (liturgical poems) in Hebrew for different holidays and ritual occasions were published in different publishing houses in Calcutta for the use of the Baghdadi Jews in all three communities in India, and abroad.

Super-diversity among the Baghdadi Jews   9 By the 1940s, there were over 4,000 Jews in the city, comprising both Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews, as well as a few Jews from Cochin and Bene Israel from Bombay. The community swelled during and after the Second World War as European and American Jewish soldiers streamed into the city; some married local Jewish girls. The Jewish community was concentrated around Canning Street and Royd Street, where a number of Jewish institutions had been established, including three synagogues, the Jewish Girls’ School, the Jewish Ezra hospital, as well as numerous charitable institutions such as the Jewish Women’s League.

Indian independence, Zionism and the Baghdadi dispersion The quick shift from an Arabic way of life upon arrival in India to a European one under the Raj was reflected in the Baghdadis’ rapidly changing dress to European garb. The Jews of the Raj led a glorious life, complete with servants, summer houses, clubs and race horses, the historical illusion only to be shattered by growing Indian nationalism. Almost without exception, the Baghdadi community made no bones about their affiliation with the British and their disassociation with the Indian nationalist movement. However, once they were excluded from nomination in European electoral rolls in the 1930s, individual Baghdadi Jews began to side with the Indian majority. More members of the Baghdadi Jewish community than previously noted were involved in Indian political and social issues, aligning with both the Congress and the Communist Party of India; a few even held leadership roles, like D.J. Cohen (1883–1959) of Calcutta. Concurrent with the rise of Indian nationalism, Zionism entered the everyday lives of the Baghdadi Jews at a strategic time, and offered an alternative ideology and an alternative destination. Zionist youth groups were set up in all three Baghdadi cities, and Zionist women’s groups and men’s sports groups kept the flame alive. With the advent of Indian Independence in 1947, the Baghdadi community in India planned its move. Regulations issued by the new Indian government controlled trade and restricted imports and exports, which were the very essence of Baghdadi economic existence in India. The establishment of the state of Israel in the following year provided an attractive option. Many Baghdadi Jews moved to Israel, but life was hard there in the early days of the state (Mordecai 2016), and only a couple of thousand actually stayed. From there, they often moved to other English-­speaking countries, where their kin had settled and where they felt more at home, such as England, Australia, Canada and the United States. The super-­diversity of all three Baghdadi Jewish communities in India, two in Maharashtra and one in Bengal, confirm Vertovec’s concept of complexity surpassing conventional descriptions of small immigrant and transnational groups (2007). The brief description of the Baghdadis presented here shows that their society was internally heterogeneous, as well as being socio-­economically differentiated. Members were from multiple origins and migrated to multiple sites.

Figure 1.2 Yonah ben Isaac ben Mordechai ben Yom Tov in Arabic dress, with Meyer on lap and Alec at side, two grandchildren from his son Jacob, Calcutta, 1910 (courtesy his great grandson Edmund Jonah).

Super-diversity among the Baghdadi Jews   11 This does not negate the emergence of an “imagined” entity of Baghdadi-­ness in diasporic locations, which coalesced in new host societies. But it does present a different way of viewing transnationally connected groups, traditionally described as “diasporas” with little understanding of what constituted the “homeland”.

Literature on the Baghdadi Jews in India Literature abounds on and by the Baghdadi Jews in India. Though powerful in India and well-­known in elite circles, though well-­educated and scholarly, paradoxically, few academic books exist on the Baghdadi Jews per se. Forerunners provide sketches of the community in its heyday in more historical perspective (Isaac 1917; Abraham, n.d.). Quasi-­academic chapters and books include Ray on Jewish heritage in Calcutta (2001), Lentin on the Baghdadi presence in Bombay (2009:22–35), Cooper and Cooper on the Baghdadi life-­cycle (2009:100–109) and Sapir on the Bombay urban heritage (2013). Focusing on Bombay, Manasseh’s book, Shbahoth – Songs of Praise in the Babylonian Jewish Tradition (2012) is indeed scholarly, but restricted to the academic field of ethno-­ musicology. It documents Shbahoth, namely paraliturgical hymns, sung by Iraqi Jews on all ritual occasions. In the book, Manasseh selects 31 shbahoth from a known repertoire of 350 and presents them with original Hebrew texts (but also some Aramaic and Judeo-­Arabic texts), transliterations indicating the Babylonian Jewish pronunciation in Hebrew, English translations and musical notations for each song (Weil 2013). The vast majority of the literature on the Baghdadi Jews in India is written by the Baghdadi Jews themselves in the form of memoirs, personal histories and cookbooks, but rarely in the form of academic literature. Often, the books are self-­published. There is even a 2004 London play entitled Calcutta Kosher, which opened at Southwark Playhouse before a UK tour including Huddersfield, Nottingham, Birmingham, Bradford, Cambridge and Manchester. The play, written by Calcutta-­born writer Shelley Silas, examines how family and culture, time and distance, influence one’s sense of identity. In the play, two sisters return to the crumbling Calcutta home of their childhood to join their ageing mother Mozelle. The majority of the literature originates among Baghdadi Jews who had lived in Calcutta, but recently Bombay Baghdadis have entered the arena. A pioneer in the family memoirs genre is E.D. Ezra of London, who provides fascinating insights into his childhood and those of his ancestors in Calcutta (Ezra 1986). His book is accompanied by spicy stories and useful genealogies of the community. The Jews of the Raj (Hyman 1995), written by an ex-­Calcutta resident, who had moved to London, recounts the summer camps in Darjeeling, the tiffin boxes and the servants. The book actually represents a group endeavour with 80 informants who provided intimate details of their families’ lives in Calcutta. Hyman admits that she played a dual role: on the one hand, she acted as coordinator and commentator, and as such stood outside the community; on the other

12   Shalva Weil hand, sections of the book are autobiographical. The book does not purport to rely on a research sample and therefore does not portray the lives of the poor, of whom there were many. As Timberg points out: “The Jewish poor remained outside the circle of Anglicization and confined to its traditional area” (Timberg 1986:34). The author of Jews of the Raj had previously published a book on Indian-­ Jewish Cooking (Hyman 1993). Cuisine appears to be the focal point of nostalgia through which many Baghdadis recall their family and community get-­togethers. Another book entitled Baghdad to Bombay: In the Kitchens of My Cousins tells the story of the Bombay Baghdadis, who set up homes as far afield as Australia, Canada, the United States, England and Israel, but managed to maintain ties and culinary memories shared with extended family from all over the globe (Sofaer 2008). Some Baghdadis turned to novel writing in order to describe their past glorious life and at times inglorious scandals.9 A pioneering novel Hooghly Tales recounts in narrative form the author’s own childhood in Bentinck Street, Calcutta, complete with nostalgia for the servants (Solomon 1998). Recently, Jael Silliman has published two novels, with forays into autobiographical episodes: The Man with Many Hats (2013),10 and The Teak Almirah (2017) located in the twentieth century, in which visitors to Calcutta try to get in touch with their own Calcutta Jewish roots and secrets. Even Silliman’s academic book Jewish Portraits, Indian Frames (2001) recounts personal family history interweaving it with community annals. The originality in this book is the feminist narrative and the attempt to uncover history matrilineally. By establishing later the Jewish Calcutta Digital Archive (Recalling Jewish Calcutta 2018), Silliman felt the urge to record for posterity the curious history and day-­to-day life of this remarkable tiny yet diverse community, which impacted India in such a relatively short time. This book, the first of its kind, is a collection of articles on different aspects of Baghdadi super-­diversity under the Raj. It relies largely on lectures presented at the First International Symposium on Baghdadi Jews, which took place on 12 July 2016 at the Babylonian Heritage Museum in Or Yehuda, Israel, and was attended by 150 people of Baghdadi Indian origin, who reside not only in Israel, but also in India, Australia, Canada, the United States and Great Britain. Some presentations from the conference were not included in this volume, while a few others were added.

The volume The chapters published in this volume not only focus on different communities and institutions, but also draw on a range of methodologies, spanning historical research, architectural insights, examination of visuals, sociological understanding and documentary analysis from a variety of planning, personal and public records. Clearly, there is wide scope for further research on the Baghdadis in India, but particularly pertinent for future scholars is original research on the

Super-diversity among the Baghdadi Jews   13 way of life of Baghdadis in their current countries of residence; there is also room for employing alternative methodologies and engaging additional disciplines. After a detailed overview, the volume is divided into five distinct parts. The first part provides background and perspective on interactions under the Raj. The second part gives a broad survey of synagogues that formed the basis of religious and community life. The third and fourth parts examine formal and informal educational institutions in two distinct geographical locations: Maharashtra (Bombay and Poona) and Bengal (Calcutta). The fifth part discusses the dissemination of Baghdadi Jewish identity. Part I: Historical perspectives on the Baghdadi Jews under the Raj The book opens with an historical overview by Joan Roland, who develops a theme she had taken up in the 1990s (Roland 1989) of the fluctuating identities of the Baghdadi Jews in colonial times. The super-­diversity and flexibility of the Baghdadi Jews became apparent as they fled Iraq. As soon as they had landed in India, they began to shed Arabic culture and to identify with the British and Europeans; simultaneously, they disassociated themselves from native Indians, including native Indian Jews. Having arrived as subjects of the Ottoman Empire, the Baghdadis opted to obtain naturalization as British citizens, and attempted to obtain status in India as Europeans. They eventually failed to be included as Europeans in the Indian electoral rolls in the 1930s, and this was one of many reasons for them to think of re-­migration. During the Second World War, the diversity of the Baghdadi communities in India intensified. Their numbers swelled as European and American soldiers were incorporated into their ranks, along with Bukharan, Persian and Afghani Jews, who had been expelled from their countries and had moved to India on their way to Palestine. There were also several thousand European refugees and exiles, who had arrived either before the Second World War, or had escaped during or after the War from the terrible agonies of Europe. Some of these married into the Baghdadi communities, becoming part and parcel of their internal diversity. Part II: Diversified religious life Communal life was centred on the synagogue. Architect Jay Waronker analyses all the Baghdadi synagogues in India and points out their unique features. While there is no single distinct Baghdadi architectural aesthetic, the Baghdadi synagogues were influenced both by current architectural fashion and sociological issues, which demonstrated to the outside world with whom they identified. The church-­like spire of the Ohel David synagogue in Pune is the best example of these trends. Despite the diversity, distinct communities of Baghdadis in India, such as the Baghdadis in Bombay and Poona, managed to create and maintain some sort of distinctive religious tradition.

14   Shalva Weil Sara Manasseh documents the unique para-­liturgical Shbahoth of the Baghdadi Jews in Bombay and Poona, which indeed set them apart from their Jewish (and non-­Jewish) neighbours, despite their internal super-­diversity. In the popular music field, Manasseh notes, there was cooperation between different types of Indian Jews, including Bene Israel and Bukharan and Persian instrumentalists, and also between Baghdadis and non-­Jews, and in particular with Parsees.11 Part III: The Baghdadis of Maharashtra: formal and informal education Shaul Sapir’s chapter describes the rich educational landscape of the Baghdadis in Bombay prior to Indian independence. The schools were funded by several members of the Sassoon dynasty, including Sir Jacob Sassoon, who left funds in his will in 1916 for Jewish education. Even the Bene Israel, who were not invited to the Baghdadi synagogues, were welcome in these schools. As early as 1864, David Sassoon had established the E.E.E. Sassoon High School in the compound of the Magen David Synagogue, alongside the Sir Jacob Sassoon High School. Baghdadi children also studied at Christian (Protestant, Jesuit and Roman Catholic) schools, that were generally considered higher class, or were nearer their upper middle-­class homes. They often sat for the Senior Cambridge examinations in the United Kingdom. Similarly, in Poona, some Baghdadi girls attended the St Mary’s School, which catered to the education of the daughters of officers of the British Indian Army. Religious education was supplemented at home or in the synagogue by elder family members. While formal education in Jewish schools was aimed at insulating the Baghdadi Jews from outside influences, in informal education, the rift between the Baghdadi Jews and the local Bene Israel community was evident. Nathan Marcus analyses the relations between these two groups for about a century from the beginning of the arrival of the Baghdadis in Bombay until Indian independence. In the early years, the Bene Israel living in the Byculla area of Bombay maintained their own sport clubs and activities, even though the neighbourhood was also populated by Baghdadis, but from the 1930s, members of both communities engaged in sports and leisure side-­by-side. The rise of Zionism, on the one hand, and the advent of European refugees from the Holocaust, on the other, contributed to breaking down social barriers between youth members of both communities, but all in all, sports events were sectarian matters: the Bene Israel and the Baghdadis had segregated cricket, boxing and other sports clubs. This segregation is even more surprising in that, outside the confines of the Jewish community, the Bene Israel competed with Europeans, and the Baghdadis played with Muslims and Hindus, who were generally of the same social class.

Super-diversity among the Baghdadi Jews   15 Part IV: The Baghdadis of Bengal: formal and informal education Jael Silliman traces the Jewish education for girls in Calcutta. In 1881, members of the Jewish community, concerned about the proselytization in mission schools, opened the Jewish Girls’ School (JGS) in the heart of a Jewish residential area on Ezra Street. While JGS maintained a more or less British curriculum, the school’s mission was to provide its students with a Jewish education. In 1929, under the direction of E.M.D. Cohen, a three-­floor building was constructed to house the school on Pollock Street, opposite the Beth El Synagogue. The JGS flourished under the leadership of Miss Ramah Luddy, who served as principal from 1929 from 1964. However, by the 1950s many of the Baghdadis had departed from Calcutta and the school emptied out of Jewish pupils. In informal education, Jewish girls, along with their Parsee counterparts, excelled in sport, but in post-­independence India, the Jewish and Parsee communities were increasingly marginalized and the performance of girls in sporting competitions deteriorated due to dwindling numbers in both communities. Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya examines sports among Baghdadis and Parsee girls in Calcutta through a feminist and comparative lens. She shows that despite the parallel status of the Parsee and Baghdadi communities and their identification with the British, the local Jewish girls from Calcutta had segregated social and sports clubs for fear of assimilation with members of other groups. As in Bombay, the Zionist movement contributed towards participation in sports, although this was not its primary objective. On an individual level, Baghdadi and Parsee women enjoyed indoor games like cards and backgammon and even boxing; the elite women played Mahjong together, a game introduced from China during the era of the opium trade, in which both the Parsees and the Baghdadis were involved. Part V: Print and digital dissemination Since the Ottoman authorities refused to allow the publication of a Jewish newspaper in Baghdad, and there was no freedom of expression in Iraq, it was journals published in India that served as the means of creativity and communication for Baghdadi Jews living in Iraq, and the Far East during the second half of the nineteenth century. Published in Bombay and Calcutta in Judeo-­Arabic, Zvi Yehuda shows that newspapers provided information on every subject: education (traditional and modern), economics (poverty, crafts and commerce), religion (conversion to Islam, observance of Sabbath, synagogues), spiritual and lay leadership, community organization and institutions, social contacts with Muslims, crimes, disasters, and more. In the current era, a digital archive pioneered by Jael Silliman in 2013, disseminates knowledge about the Baghdadis in Calcutta, in much the same way that printed journals did a century ago. Members of the Calcutta community living in the diaspora contributed family documents, photographs, audio materials and texts to the digital archive Recalling Jewish Calcutta. Students from

16   Shalva Weil Jadavpur University filmed and recorded remaining glimpses of the surviving Calcutta community. In the chapter “Archival Cartographies”, which links the past to the present and future, Silliman traces the multi-­layering of Calcutta’s Jewish history, which exemplifies its super-­diversity.

Conclusion Few Baghdadi Jews remain in India: their remaining legacies are carved in stone. The Ohel David Synagogue in Pune testifies to an imperial presence no longer appropriate. Numerous edifices in Mumbai remind the passer-­by of the grandeur of one of the wealthiest Baghdadi families with the name Sassoon still legible. Some synagogues still stand, while many are closing or have closed their doors, due to depletion of the population. In today’s Mumbai, the two extant Jewish schools are populated by non-­Jewish, primarily Muslim Indians, but still funded by Jewish trust funds. Similarly, in Calcutta, the vast majority of students in the Jewish Girls’ School are Muslim, first admitted in 1953 in post-­independence India. Jews and Muslims enjoyed deep friendships, a fact which challenges current stereotypes. Muslims, as well as Hindus, devotedly tend to the cemeteries of the long-­gone Jews. The traditions of the Baghdadi Jews in India have almost vanished, but the legacy of the lives of this super-­diverse group in India live on in stories, memories and commemorative celebrations. In Mumbai, the Sassoon Library has undergone a face lift. On 7 February 2019, the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in the Fort area celebrated the reopening of the restored synagogue with the participation of Baghdadi Jews from the world over; there is talk of establishing a Jewish museum on the premises. This year, the two magnificent Calcutta synagogues, Beth El and Maghen David, were reopened after extensive restoration; regular prayers are rarely held these days, due to lack of a minyan (quorum). In all Baghdadi Jewish locations, tourists are increasing. Some of these are elderly members of once-­thriving Baghdadi communities. Others are children and grandchildren of past community members, assimilated offspring or intermarried descendants. New generations of people in different continents in the world are nostalgic for Baghdadi legacies, as far afield as the United Kingdom and Australia. Calcutta-­ born artist Gerry Judah, based in London, has created a “Tabernacle” sculpture influenced by deep past memories of a Baghdadi sukka (tabernacle). These innovative patterns of nostalgia and preservation of identity call for a shift of focus from fixed entities like “ethnic groups” to a multidimensional lens in which attention is paid to the dynamic interplay between different characteristics of individual members with some affiliation to an ethnic group and the fluid relationships between them. As Crul points out, this approach challenges current assimilation theories (2016). It also calls into question the claims associated with multiculturalism, which seemed to hold as a leading concept until the late 1990s and 2000s (Vertovec 2010). Super-­diversity is a term intended to underline a level and kind of complexity surpassing pluralism and multiculturalism previously experienced in one society.

Super-diversity among the Baghdadi Jews   17

Figure 1.3 Tabernacle sculpture by Calcutta-born, London-based artist Gerry Judah (courtesy Gerry Judah).

It is clear, however, that it can be interpreted variously, depending upon the nature of the migration and its trajectories, and that it can be reassessed methodologically (Vertovec 2019). It is far more useful than the simple dichotomy diaspora-­homeland used in the past to depict Baghdadi Jews, and it appears to override simple investigations into diversity. As Vertovec has recently stated: Indeed, I believe … the search for better ways to describe and analyze new social patterns, forms and identities arising from migration-­driven diversification – is perhaps the most driving reason for expanding interests and uses, however varied, surrounding the concept of super-­diversity. (Vertovec 2019:125) Over the past 200 years, new and increasingly complex social formations have cropped up among the Baghdadi Jews from Iraq or Syria, through India to the West. These are marked by dynamic interplays of variables which include cultural values, subtle differences in religious traditions, regional and local affiliations, and differing migration channels. Today, this small minority group, which integrated so many ties and absorbed so many different cultures, has almost disappeared from India. However, it is undergoing an imagined revival, based on the maintenance of diasporic communities, the negotiation of multiple identities and the creation of super-­diversity with all its inherent complexities.

18   Shalva Weil

Notes   1 The “Baghdadis” in India have also been called “Iraqis”. Manasseh (2012) refers to members of the group as “Baghdadian”, and sometimes “Babylonians”, since they followed Babylonian Jewish customs. However, the usual convention is to call them “Baghdadis”.   2 For more information on the Bnei Ephraim, see Egorova and Perwez (2013).   3 For more information on the Baghdadi Jews in India and their settlements, see Weil (2010).   4 The synagogue is now demolished but the cemetery can still be found on the Katargam-­Amroli main road. In Manasseh’s visit to Surat in 2014, the “Arabian” Jewish cemetery was grassed over with a new lawn and a K Star building development had been erected surrounded by high walls.   5 The Mamluks, who were freed slaves who had converted to Islam, succeeded in asserting autonomy over Iraq from the Sultan from 1704 up to 1831.   6 The residence is today non-­existent.   7 The Fort walls which marked the city limits were destroyed in 1862.   8 In 1945, the Jewish population of Bombay was 8,620, while the Poona Jewish population consisted of 621 Bene Israel and 184 Baghdadi Jews, a total of 805 persons (Reissner 1950:357).   9 Gay Courter wrote Flowers in the Blood (1990) about a sex- and opium-­addicted nineteenth-­century Calcutta Jewess; however, to the best of my knowledge, Courter is not from a Baghdadi family. 10 For a review of this book, see Weil (2014b). 11 “Parsees” refers to the colonial period. Today, one spells this term ‘Parsis’.

References Abraham, I.S., n.d., Origin and history of the Calcutta Jews, N.S. Levi, Bombay. Basham, A.M.R., 1985, “Army service and social mobility: The Mahars of the Bombay Presidency, with comparisons with the Bene Israel and Black Americans”, PhD thesis, University of British Columbia. Cooper, J. and Cooper, J., 2009, “The life-­cycle of the Baghdadi Jews of India”, in S. Weil (ed.), India’s Jewish heritage: Ritual, art and life-­cycle, 2nd edn, pp. 100–109, Marg Publications, Mumbai. Courter, G., 1990, Flowers in the blood. Dutton Books, New York. Crul, M., 2016, “Super-­diversity vs. assimilation: How complex diversity in majority-­ minority cities challenges the assumption of assimilation”, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42(1), 54–68. East India Company and Wild, A., n.d., “Map of Jewish Calcutta: Census figures for Calcutta, 1837”, viewed 13 December 2017 from show/21-map-­of-jewish-­calcutta/census-­figures-for-­calcutta-1. Egorova, Y. and Perwez, S., 2013, The Jews of Andhra Pradesh: Contesting caste and religion in South India, Oxford University Press, New York. Ezra, E.D., 1986, Turning back the pages: A chronicle of Calcutta Jewry, vols. I and II, Brookside Press, London. Farrington, A., 2002, Trading places: The East India Company and Asia 1600–1834, British Library, London. Hyman, M., 1993, Indian Jewish cooking, Hyman Publishers, London. Hyman, M., 1995, Jews of the Raj, Hyman Publishers, London.

Super-diversity among the Baghdadi Jews   19 Isaac, I.A., 1917, A short account of the Calcutta Jews, Telegraph Association Press, Calcutta. Isenberg, S., 1988, India’s Bene Israel: A comprehensive inquiry, Popular Prakashan, Bombay and Judah L. Magnes Museum, Berkeley, CA. Jackson, S., 1989, The Sassoons, William Heinemann Ltd, London. Lentin, S., 2009, “The Jewish presence in Bombay”, in S. Weil (ed.), India’s Jewish heritage: Ritual, art and life-­cycle, 2nd edn, pp. 22–35, Marg Publications, Mumbai. Manasseh, S., 2012, Shbahoth – Songs of praise in Babylonian Jewish tradition: From Baghdad to Bombay and London, Ashgate, Surrey, UK and Burlington, VT. Meissner, F. and Vertovec, S., 2015, “Comparing super-­diversity”, Ethnic and Racial Studies 38(4), 541–555. Mordecai, R., 2016, Remembering who I am, Ligare, Sydney. Musleah, E.N., 1975, On the banks of the Ganga: The sojourn of the Jews in Calcutta, Christopher Publishing House, North Quincy, MA. Ray, D., 2001, The Jewish heritage of Calcutta, Minerva, Calcutta. Recalling Jewish Calcutta, 2018, “Recalling Jewish Calcutta: Memories of the Jewish community in Calcutta”, viewed 13 December 2018 from Reissner, H.G., 1950, “Indian-­Jewish Statistics (1837–1941)”, Jewish Social Studies 12(4): 349–366. Roland, J., 1989, Jews in British India: Identity in a colonial era, University Press of New England, Hanover, NH and London. Sapir, S., 2013, Bombay: Exploring the Jewish urban heritage, Sapir, Bombay. Silliman, J., 2001, Jewish portraits, Indian frames: Women’s narratives from a diaspora of hope, Seagull Books, Calcutta. Silliman, J., 2013, The man with many hats, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors Pvt. Ltd, Kolkata and New Delhi. Silliman, J., 2017, The teak almirah, Milestone Books, Kolkata. Sofaer, P., 2008, Baghdad to Bombay: In the kitchens of my cousins, Paper Jam, Eastsound, WA, USA. Solomon, S., 1998, Hooghly tales: Stories of growing up in Calcutta under the Raj, David Ashley, London. Timberg, T.A., 1986, “The Jews of Calcutta”, in T. Timberg (ed.), Jews in India, pp. 28–47, Vikas, New Delhi. Vertovec, S., 2007, “Super-­diversity and its implications”, Ethnic and Racial Studies 30(6), 1024–1054. Vertovec, S., 2010, “Toward post-­multiculturalism? Changing communities, conditions and contexts of diversity”, International Social Science Journal 199, 83–95. doi:10. 1111/j.1468-2451.2010.01749.x. Vertovec, S., ed., 2015, Diversities old and new: Migration and socio-­spatial patterns in New York, Singapore and Johannesburg, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan. Vertovec, S., 2019, “Talking around super-­diversity”, Ethnic and Racial Studies 42, 125–139. Weil, S., 1999, “From persecution to freedom: Central European Jewish refugees and their Jewish host communities in India”, in Anil Bhatti and Johannes H. Voigt (eds), Jewish exile in India 1933–1945, pp. 64–84, Manohar and Max Mueller Bhavan, New Delhi. Weil, S., 2004, “Lost Israelites from North-­East India: Re-­traditionalisation and conversion among the Shinlung from the Indo-­Burmese borderlands”, The Anthropologist 6(3), 219–233.

20   Shalva Weil Weil, S., 2010, “Bombay”, “Calcutta”, “India” and “Pakistan”, in N.A. Stillman (ed.), Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic world, Brill, Leiden. http://referenceworks.brillon­of-jews-­in-the-­ islamic-world&search-­go=Search. Weil, S., 2012, “The unknown Jews of Bangladesh: Fragments of an elusive community”, Asian Jewish Life, 8, 16–18. Sept2012/AJL_Feature_Unknown-­Jews-Bangladesh.html. Weil, S., 2013, “Review of Shbahoth – Songs of praise in Babylonian Jewish tradition: From Baghdad to Bombay and London by Sara Manasseh (Surrey, England and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012)”, Journal of Indo Judaic Studies 13, 119–120. Weil, S., 2014a, “The legacy of David Sassoon: Building a community bridge”, Asian Jewish Life 14, 4–6. AJL-­Issue14-Allinone.pdf. Weil, S., 2014b, “Review of The man with many hats by Jael Silliman (Kolkata and New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2013)”, Journal of Indo Judaic Studies, 14, 144–145. Weil, S., 2018, “Indian Judaic tradition”, in Sushil Mittal and Gene Thursby (eds), Religions in South Asia, new edn, pp. 186–205, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, New York and London.

2 Negotiating identity in a changing world From British colonialism to Indian independence Joan G. Roland Arriving with the British and ultimately departing with them, the Baghdadi Jewish community of India provides an unusual opportunity for examining issues of identity, ethnicity and marginality. The Baghdadi Jews have been described as an “imagined community”, fitting into Benedict Anderson’s concept of a community that is bound not to a territory, but to an ideal which, as Silliman has pointed out, was linked by history, kinship, business, travel and attachment to religious centres. The Indian community was dependent on friends and relatives in Iraq, Burma, Singapore, China, and later Australia for social, religious and financial support.1 Like the Armenians, they were a middleman minority in the British Empire.

Relationships with other communities By the 1830s, at the time of the arrival of David Sassoon, there were approximately 20–30 families of “Arab Jews” out of a total Bombay Jewish population of 2,246. Most of the rest were Bene Israel, who welcomed the Baghdadis when they first arrived in Bombay, inviting them to attend services in their synagogues and bury their dead in the Bene Israel cemetery. The Bene Israel had just recently learned of many of the halachic (Jewish law) rules and Jewish traditions and the Baghdadis tried to help them in their efforts to return to orthodoxy.2 Soon after, however, a rift developed, the Baghdadis apparently deciding that the Bene Israel were very different from them after all. In 1836, David Sassoon and nine other Arab Jews sent a petition to the Bombay authorities requesting that a partition wall be erected in the cemetery to divide the two groups. They pointed out that there were two distinct tribes of Jews in Bombay, “one having the customs of the natives of India and the other faithful to their Arabian fathers”. Both groups, they claimed, wanted the wall to divide the burial ground. The government did not grant the request.3 By 1870, as they became more prosperous and better known, the fair-­ complexioned Baghdadis were eager to be considered as Europeans and to assimilate, legally, politically and, to a lesser extent, socially, with the British. Silliman writes: “The Baghdadi Jews aligned with British rule by assimilating Western values and life-­styles in a colonial urban setting. This integration was a form of client cosmopolitanism fully acceptable to the British.”4

22   Joan G. Roland The elite, at least, began to shed their Arabic culture and became Anglicized. The Sassoons moved to England between 1865 and 1870, where they were eventually accepted into British society. In their attempt to identify with Europeans in India, it became necessary for the Baghdadis to show that they were not connected with any indigenous community. They felt the Bene Israel made it difficult for them to assimilate with whites, and therefore tried to force a distinction to be drawn between them and their “native” co-­religionists. The cleavage in India may also have grown in the third quarter of the nineteenth century because after the Mutiny, the idea of keeping Indians in their place emerged. The real racial antagonism between British and Indians developed as the Indians demanded more equal treatment, insisted on admission to the higher services, and organized political parties or political action. The racial arrogance of the British began to show itself openly. British and Europeans were at the apex of the social pyramid; Anglo-­Indians, Jews and Parsis were in the middle, and the “natives”, for the most part, were at the bottom. Silliman points out that class issues intersected the pyramid, so that some natives and a few members of other communities might be in the top tier.5 Samra has suggested that race was a crucial structuring feature in other British colonial societies, such as Burma, the Straits Settlements, Shanghai and Hong Kong, “where being white and being British were both signs of natural superiority which justified privileges not available to lesser, native communities”.6 Many Parsis in India, who played a role in industry and trade similar to that of the Baghdadis, felt similarly: they saw themselves as a “purely white race”, did not want to be called “natives” and sought a close connection with the British, who refused to accept them, also, as “their own kind”.7 Until 1885, perhaps because of the late arrival in India, their fairer skin and their assimilation of European standards of dress, language, social habits and education, Baghdadis were classified by the government as “Europeans”. Jewish schools in Bombay and Calcutta taught in English, the language of mobility. The Jacob Sassoon Free School in Bombay taught up to the matriculation (college entrance) level. In the early years, the Jewish schools in both cities were seen as charitable institutions for poor and destitute Jews. The well-­to-do Baghdadis in Bombay and Calcutta (and in Shanghai) sent their children elsewhere, often to Christian-­run schools where the education was thought to be better, even though they could not observe the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.8 The Jewish Girls’ School in Calcutta for a while was subject to the European Inspectorate. It is not surprising, therefore, that Baghdadis sought to be classified as Europeans for political purposes. They regarded their way of life as closer to that of the British, identified their interests with theirs and continued to express their loyalty to Britain. They also believed that their prosperity was a direct result of British rule. Thus the community in Calcutta was disturbed when they learned, in 1885, that their communal schools were no longer regarded as “European” institutions and that the Jews themselves had been reclassified as non-­ Europeans, while the Armenians were still accepted as Europeans. Language apparently was important: during the same period, the Inspectorate of European

Negotiating identity in a changing world   23 Schools in Calcutta complained in a report that the Baghdadi students in the newly founded Jewish Girls and Boys School were speaking Hindustani among themselves.9 Musleah has suggested that this reclassification might have happened because most Indian Jews – that is, the Bene Israel and Cochin Jews – physically resembled other Indians. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, as Europeanization had progressed considerably among the Baghdadis, the Indian identity of the Bene Israel had also increased. The Indian conditions of caste, colour and community influenced the distinctions between the two communities which were reflected in the clauses of the Baghdadi charity trusts established around the turn of the century by Sir Jacob Sassoon. Bene Israel were excluded expressly from the benefits of  the charity fund, burial ground and dispensary established for the Jews of Bombay.10

Participation in politics and public affairs Aside from voting, the Baghdadi Jews in India, on the whole, were not active in politics. They supported Britain during the 1857 revolt, took pride in participating in projects honouring the accession and visits to India of British monarchs, contributed to the erection of statues in their honour, and publicly displayed their loyalty in other ways. A few were knighted. Three were taken into the highly competitive Indian Civil Service, a couple participated in the Legislative Assembly and a few were active in public life. In Calcutta, Baghdadi Jews served as sheriffs, municipal councillors and honorary magistrates. In 1879, Elia David Joseph was appointed Sheriff of Calcutta, an honour later conferred on his two sons, one of whom, Joseph Elias Ezra, also served as Municipal councillor from 1886 to 1896. His other son, Sir David Ezra, was also Director of the Reserve Bank.11 In Bombay, in addition to serving as honorary magistrates, Baghdadi Jews played an even larger role in public life. The government of Bombay offered David Sassoon many public appointments, but he accepted only that of Justice of the Peace, in which capacity he arbitrated disputes between Jews. When Sassoon died in 1864, The Times of India wrote: “Bombay has lost one of its most energetic, wealthy, public-­spirited and benevolent citizens … in personal appearance, private character, and public life most remarkable.”12 His son, Abdullah/Albert, also a justice of the peace, was a member of the Bombay Legislative Council. Sassoon J. David served on the Council of the Governor-­ General of India, on the Imperial Legislative Council (the predecessor of the Legislative Assembly) and on the Bombay Municipal Corporation for 20 years, before becoming its head (equivalent of mayor) in 1921–1922. He was also very active in the Bombay Millowners Association. Another Baghdadi, Meyer Nissim, became the mayor in 1929.13 The Baghdadis continually made efforts to establish their status as Europeans. Their first request was for exemption from the operation of the Indian Arms Act of 1878, which prohibited Indians from carrying arms. Clause 13 exempted

24   Joan G. Roland Europeans, East Indians, Armenians and Americans – that is, non-­Indian minority communities. They were not successful. During the First World War some 2,600 Baghdadis in India were Ottoman subjects (and therefore potentially “enemy aliens”) and many struggled to get themselves naturalized as British. The British Government, however, saw no reason to do this. They did, however, exempt Baghdadi Jews from deportation. Baghdadi efforts intensified right after the First World War. In June 1919, the Baghdadis of Calcutta submitted a “memorial” to the government claiming that they fell under this classification. They stressed their loyalty to the government and British rule in India and argued that they should not be forced to submit to legislation intended for Indians when their lifestyle, habits, customs, traditions and aspirations were foreign to India. (This despite the fact that in a great many homes Hindustani was spoken.) They contended that racially their claims were as strong as, if not stronger than, those of Armenians, who came from Iran, and they stressed their Sephardic origin. The home department had already passed a resolution, however, to abolish all exemptions based on racial grounds and, in view of this policy, rejected the memorialists’ requests. In Shanghai, the vast assets of the Baghdadi Jews empowered them, especially the Sassoons, to play a prominent role in the administration of the International Settlement. Before 1918, it was vital for Baghdadi Jews, as “marginal Westerners” but usually Ottoman subjects, to have foreign protection in Shanghai in order to enjoy rights of extraterritoriality. Most Baghdadi Jews who worked for British firms in Shanghai and who had resided for a long time in India or in other British possessions were granted British protection. Toward the end of the First World War, Baghdadis who were Ottoman subjects working for British concerns in Shanghai found it difficult to be accorded British protection, although after the war, with Iraq coming under British Mandate, Baghdadi Jews with roots there retained British protection.14

Indian nationalism As Indian nationalism developed, the vast majority of Baghdadis were pro-­ British and (unlike the Bene Israel) had no ambivalence about their identity and their stand on nationalist and communal issues. As the movement grew, so did the fears of the Baghdadis, except for a few individuals, such as Maurice Japheth (1913–1976?, a journalist in Bombay who was attracted to the freedom movement.15 Their ties to the British and their efforts to be considered as Europeans determined their negative attitudes toward Indian nationalism as well as their relationships with their indigenous co-­religionists. In speaking of the Baghdadi Jewish trade diaspora in general, Silliman maintains that “while comfortable in their local settings, the Baghdadi Jews never identified with, or saw themselves as part of, the lands in which they lived”. Indeed, they worried about assimilation: they emphasized their foreign origin and religion to distinguish themselves from Hindus, Muslims and Christians. She suggests that ideas of nationality were peripheral to them: they were neither British nor Indian. They were loyal to

Negotiating identity in a changing world   25 their British overlords but did not identify with them, considering their Jewishness as their core identity. It was central to their understanding of who they were.16 Neither in Shanghai nor in India, with rare exceptions, were they admitted to the most exclusive clubs; most European clubs were for “Whites only”.17 And when they were admitted they might be sneered at behind their backs. In the mid-­1930s the British intervened in three important cases involving the Jewish communities. In the Baghdadi synagogue in Rangoon, Burma (Burma was administered by India then) a dispute arose over whether Bene Israel should have full ritual rights and be eligible to vote for synagogue trustees and to stand for election to that office. The case reached the High Court of India which ultimately decided that there was no substantial distinction between Baghdadis and Bene Israel in terms of observances and that the latter were therefore eligible to vote and to be appointed as trustees.18 Even hospital beds came into question when, in 1936, ten beds were reserved for Jews in a special pavilion of the Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy (J.J.) Hospital in Bombay, funded by the Sassoon J. David Fund. Sir Alwyn Ezra, the chief trustee of the fund, stated that the Bene Israel should not come under the category of Jews. The hospital advisory committee consulted the government on this matter. The State Public Services Commission of the Bombay government concluded that for all official purposes the Bene Israel community should be considered a part of the Jewish community and were therefore entitled to the benefits of the special accommodation to be offered for Jews in the hospital.19 The revisions of the Central Legislative Assembly and the Bengal Legislative Council electoral rolls between 1929 and 1935 prompted the Baghdadis of Calcutta, reluctant to be lumped together with “native” (that is, Bene Israel and “black” Cochin Jews) Jews or Indians, to seek inclusion in the European electorates for the Bengal Legislative Council. The European group was not confined to pure Britons but embraced all the “white races” domiciled in British India. The Jews fell into the non-­Mohammedan category, which was by far the largest and was primarily Hindu. The Calcutta Baghdadis again addressed petitions to the Government of India, insisting that the Jews, by being lumped together with Hindus, were at a disadvantage in exercising their rights as citizens. They had to vote for Indian candidates who, no matter which party they belonged to, possessed a political view that in many respects did not accord with the European view shared by the Jewish community. The Baghdadis, fighting against such marginality, urged the government to include the Jewish community within the exceptions in the European roll. By Jews they meant only Baghdadis, but there were very few Bene Israel in Calcutta anyway. (The Bene Israel never requested that they be included in the European rolls.) They claimed, as usual, that they were of European culture and since they were given full privileges in other parts of the British Empire, they should enjoy the same status in India. Perhaps it is no accident that these demands occurred in a period when the Baghdadis, sensing anti-­Semitism on the part of the English as they tried to move into aristocratic circles and functioned as direct competitors in business, were particularly anxious to have themselves recognized as Europeans for political purposes as

26   Joan G. Roland well as for social acceptance. Their struggle, however, came to naught. As they did in the J.J. Hospital and Rangoon synagogue cases, the British chose to define the Sephardic Jews of Calcutta not by their “culture” or colour, but by their religion, and a policy of dividing the Jews was out of the question.20 Thus the British acted consistently, refusing to distinguish between Baghdadi and other Indian Jews for purposes of electoral rolls and not permitting the Baghdadi Jews to make such distinctions in their institutions. One of the most active petitioners among the Calcutta Baghdadis was D.J. Cohen (1883–1959), who was not only an influential figure in Jewish communal institutions but also a leader in the civic life of the city in the fields of education and health. He was the only member of the community to hold a political appointment in Calcutta, having been elected to the Bengal Legislative Council in 1921 from the Calcutta South Central non-­Mohammedan constituency. Although he was defeated in 1923, he was then nominated to the Council by the governor in 1923 and 1926 and remained a member of the Council until 1947. He served as a Councillor of the Corporation of Calcutta from 1906 to 1948 as well as an honorary Presidency Magistrate from 1917 to 1948. In 1941 D.J. Cohen was awarded the Order of the British Empire for his public services.21 The failure to obtain their goal of inclusion on the European electoral rolls forced the Baghdadi Jews of Calcutta to rethink their position in the late 1930s. Perhaps they had erred in concentrating on European status, and should now work, in cooperation with the Bene Israel and Cochin Jews, on obtaining communal rights as Jews. The Government of India Act, with its communal preferences in the services, seemed to threaten their economic well-­being and the ever-­increasing strength of the Indian nationalists seemed to threaten their political interests. They still, on the whole, did not get involved in politics, but were certainly nervous about what an independent India might entail for them. Silliman has noted, however, that a few of the elite Jewish women who had married out of the community were leaders in Indian women’s associations, and even Indian nationalist movements, facing no discrimination.22 An important illustration of this would be the career of Hannah Sen (1894–1957), the daughter of a Baghdadi mother and a prominent Hindu lawyer who converted to Judaism. Earning a law degree in Calcutta and a Teacher’s Diploma in London, she made her mark as an educator. While in Britain she became closely associated with British women’s organizations and gave many speeches on the conditions and problems of Indian women, including one to British Members of Parliament. In 1929 she helped form the Indo-­British Mutual Welfare League to build on a “new orientation” in the attitude of some British women toward India, in which they overcame the spirit of “patronage” and were willing to learn, rather than just dictate.23 In 1932 she returned to India to help found the Lady Irwin College of Home Science in New Delhi. Under her leadership as principal until 1947, Lady Irwin was deeply involved in the Indian nationalist movement. Sen, inspired by Sarojini Naidu, a prominent Indian nationalist, played a leading role in the Congress party. She was a major promoter of women’s and children’s rights and during the partition riots, she sheltered both Muslim and Sikh girls in

Negotiating identity in a changing world   27 the hostel from angry mobs. Social affairs remained a primary focus for Sen: she worked with the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation, dealing with women and children who were displaced as a result of Partition, and represented India at international conferences of UNESCO and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and other NGOs.24 She was also president of the All-­India Women’s Conference in 1951–1952 and a member of the first Rajya Subha (the upper house of Parliament) from 1952 to 1957.

The war years and after The war years sharpened the Baghdadis’ awareness of the suffering of Jews in Europe. The need for Indian Jews to stand together to interpret the Jewish position to the Indian community at large contributed to an increased sense of unity. Public meetings attended by members of all the Jewish communities were held in Bombay and Poona, with Baghdadi and Bene Israel leaders sharing the platforms. They urged their co-­religionists to help Britain by enlisting in the Civic Guards and the Army and by collecting funds. The Baghdadi Jews, whose loyalty to Britain was never questioned, emerged with a higher profile in these

Figure 2.1 American servicemen, Maghen David Synagogue, Calcutta, Simchat Torah (Festival of “Rejoicing of The Law”) 1944. In centre Chaplain David Seligson. From album of American soldier Leonard (Lenny) Leight, who married Ramoo Luddy of Calcutta (facilitated by Ramah Ilana Sondak, courtesy Deborah Acosta Leight).

28   Joan G. Roland years. The upper classes, particularly the Sassoons, Ezras and their ilk, contributed generously to the British war effort and the absorption of over 2,000 Central European Jewish refugees who arrived in India. After the war, in Calcutta, J.R. Jacob, a partner in B.N. Elias and Company, and others, advocated uniting the various communal organizations into one organization that could speak for the Jews of Calcutta. The Jewish Association of Calcutta was formed in 1945 with D.J. Cohen as president. Particularly after partition, the association wanted to unite all the Jewish communities in an All-­ India Council to formulate a plan and position for the community towards their future in India. David Haskell Cohen (see below) wrote in The Eastern Hebrew in May 1947: Indian Jewry must unite so that it can be represented on the Indian Government, can assure the safeguarding of the rights of Jews in India and help Jews to play the part they should in India, as Indians, and not as foreigners.25 Bernard V. Jacob, a grandson of B.N. Elias, took the lead in meeting with representatives of Bombay and Cochin early in 1948. He proposed that the All-­India Council be not a close federation but a loose body “permanently available for quick consultation and decision on national and international issues affecting us”.26 The agenda for the first meeting would be the position of Jews vis-­à-vis the Constituent Assembly that was drafting the Indian Constitution. The Bombay and Cochin organizations never committed themselves and the Council never came into being.27 Musleah argues that the non-­existence of the Council did not affect Indian Jewry adversely, pointing out that the Indian National Congress, in its Karachi session in 1931, had framed a constitution for a free and independent India, which promised that every citizen would enjoy freedom of conscience and the right to profess and practise his religion, would be equal before the law and would encounter no disability by reason of religion, caste, creed or sex in regard to public employment, office of power or honour and the exercise of any trade or calling.28 Although the Jewish Association of Calcutta still wanted Jewish representation on the Advisory Committee of Minorities of the Constituent Assembly to clarify the position of the Jews of India, the community voted the motion down. Musleah observes that the “long-­standing distaste for participation in politics showed itself again”.29 One Calcutta Baghdadi in this period who did not shy away from politics was David Haskell Cohen (b.1925). Profoundly impacted by the Bengal Famine of 1943 and the Great Calcutta Killing of 1946, he and other young Jewish men, disturbed by the enormous poverty they saw around them, and wishing to “create a better world”, became active members of the Communist Party of India.30 After the war, pamphlets, books and newspapers conveying the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin were widely available in inexpensive formats and the concepts of freedom and revolution attracted a lot of attention. In 1947–1949 Cohen, then in London, worked with the Communist Party there.31 Returning to Calcutta at a time when the Communist Party of India had been declared illegal,

Negotiating identity in a changing world   29 he edited Unity, a monthly party magazine that sought to unite its leadership and its ranks through the arts. At one point in 1950 he was arrested but set free when the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s declaration two years earlier that the Communist Party was illegal was itself illegal.32 Cohen later moved to New Delhi, where he worked full-­time at the central Party headquarters on the editorial staff of the weekly theoretical journal New Age and represented the Party in many venues around the world. He was also a correspondent for French and Italian Communist papers.33 As a Communist journalist he was invited to visit the Soviet Union and Poland in 1956. The trip, however, awakened him to the stark contrasts between the practice and corruption of Communism which he witnessed, and its ideology in which he had believed for so many years. He wrote an article entitled “ ‘Tactics’ or Truth?” for the New Age which he referred to as “a cry of pain because the Communists of whom I had such high hopes as a youth did not have standards or ethics as high as those expected of the children of the Torah!”34 He condemned unethical acts and the cynicism of leaders who “sneered at art and literature”. After the article was published, he handed in to the general secretary’s office “a formal letter of resignation, the first time, I believe, that such a letter had been written. I then turned my back on the organization.”35 The Chinese Communists and the Poles translated and published the article. After Cohen left the party, and experiencing some misgivings about abandoning his mission “of alleviating the lot of the poorest”, he worked for Indian Express, India’s largest selling newspaper, as news editor in Bombay but lost his job after refusing an invitation from the American embassy to go back into the Communist Party as an American agent. Cohen implied that the Americans had pressured the proprietors of the paper to fire him.36 He eventually settled in London in 1958. Perhaps the best known Calcutta Baghdadi personality during and after the war years was General J.F.R. (known as Jack or Jake) Jacob (1924–2016), the hero of the Indo-­Pakistan War of 1971 which resulted in the establishment of Bangladesh as an independent nation. Motivated by reports of the Holocaust, he had enlisted in the British army, at the age of 19, in 1942. After the Second World War, he graduated from artillery schools in England and the United States, and returned to India after partition and joined the Indian Army. He was the chief of staff of the army’s Eastern Command. After retiring from the military he joined the Bharatiya Janata party and served as Governor of the Indian states of Goa and Punjab.37 The Partition of India in 1947 and the resulting Indian independence was, as Silliman puts it, a moment of crisis for the Baghdadi Jewish community. Baghdadi Jews had to redefine themselves as individuals and as a community in relation to the newly forming state. Questions of their ethnic and communal identity became urgent, and they could no longer define themselves in terms of their Jewishness alone.38

30   Joan G. Roland And yet, independence was celebrated by Calcutta Jewry. The Jewish Association of Calcutta sent messages of congratulations to the new Indian and Pakistan Governments. In the message to the Indian Government, it wrote: As a minority community we are heartened by and anchor our trust in the repeated assurances by the country’s leaders of proper safeguards for all minorities based on fair treatment, equal rights and opportunities for all citizens of the new Indian Union.39 Some, especially younger people, now realized that one could be both Indian and Jewish at the same time. When the constitution of India was adopted on 26 January 1950, inaugurating India as a republic, the Jews participated in celebratory ceremonies. They declared their allegiance to India, participated in Indian elections and most accepted Indian citizenship (although many later opted for British nationality), even though they felt their economic future was uncertain.40 The emergence of the State of Israel a year later meant that ethnic and identity issues were going to be even more common. As it turned out, most Baghdadis seemed destined to leave once the British did. Many Baghdadis doubted that they would be comfortable in the new India. It is also possible that what they witnessed, particularly in Calcutta, in terms of communal riots during the partition period made them uneasy about living in an independent India.41 Economic regulations issued by the Indian government restricted imports and controlled the export of foreign exchange, seriously hampering the business of many wealthy Baghdadis, who had been dealing in import and export of luxury items as well as that of the small entrepreneurs. Their attachment to Britain also hurt them; although the Indian government did not discriminate against them, communities that had not been very enthusiastic in the fight for independence felt uncomfortable. In these respects, they were similar to the Anglo-­Indians, who were departing in large numbers. When the Middle East political situation led to the Arab boycott in the 1950s, it became very difficult for Baghdadi Jews to continue their trade with Arab countries, particularly with Egypt and Iraq. Jews had to take in Indian partners and use Indian names. Some Jews feared they would have to adopt Indian ways and language.42 Less affluent Baghdadis who had relatives abroad or could find a source of livelihood in the West departed, with only a small percentage going to Israel. It is interesting to note that, despite the fact that the concept of “Jewish” was such an important part of their identity, relatively few Baghdadis did go to Israel. With family, connections, funds and job opportunities abroad, the upper classes were free to migrate to Western countries such as England (where Baghdadis from all over Asia settled in Golders Green in London), Canada, the United States and to Australia. Silliman argues that although they were neither British nor Indian,  the favoured economic and race status of Calcutta Jews in the British Empire, together with their familiarity with local culture and politics, placed

Negotiating identity in a changing world   31 them in a strong position to exercise political choices in the postcolonial period. They were able to realign and relocate themselves in India and overseas with the ending of British rule.43 Ironically, those Baghdadis who attempted to go to Australia also found themselves confronting racial issues and discrimination. Their story, as analysed by Myer Samra, provides an interesting counterpoint to their Indian experience.44 The racial attitudes that the British had manifested in India became official policy in Australia in 1901, when the White Australia Policy was implemented.45 Silliman has suggested that the racial categorization of Jews was ambiguous; definitions of “Whiteness”, “British subject”, “British citizen” and even Jewish status changed to meet the “imperial political and racial agendas in imperial England and Australia”, and that this very ambiguity may have given Baghdadi Jews great mobility.46

Conclusion The same British presence that had encouraged the Baghdadis to come to India in the first place also posed a potential threat. They did not consider themselves “natives” nor did they intend to assimilate or to identify with the local population. Silliman has shown how their Judaeo-­Arabic identity evolved into a Judaeo-­British one in a process of transculturation in which their Jewish identity remained constant and primary.47 The Calcutta Jews, in particular, always gave the same arguments: they were different from other Indians, and from other Indian Jews as well, and they shared European culture and customs and wanted to be treated like Jews elsewhere in the British Empire, not like Indians. Thus, the Baghdadis in India shaped their identities in a way that would give them a privileged position in the colonial society; they adapted to British lifestyles and values and resisted assimilation to the Indian host society, although they had close friendships with members of other communities.48 The Indian Baghdadis’ desire to be considered as Europeans determined their negative attitudes toward Indian nationalism as well as their relationships with their indigenous co-­religionists. Betta has argued that the Baghdadi Jews in Shanghai displayed a similar, cross-­cultural response to the Chinese host environment: she contends that like their counterparts in India, the Baghdadi Jews in Shanghai rejected adaptation to the native milieu while seeking partial acculturation within British society, among whom they occupied a fringe position. As a Baghdadi representative in Australia said as he recounted his audience with the secretary of the immigration department, “we were trying to push the idea that we were a floating society, not identified with the local population. Just as a Briton born in Burma is still British, so a Jew born in the East remains a Jew.”49 And yet, carrying British passports, the Baghdadi Jews lived “as though their future belonged in Europe even though their past was Middle Eastern and

32   Joan G. Roland their present Asian”.50 By the twenty-­first century, ironically, it was clear that their future also remained in the Middle East (Israel), as well as in the western world. Today, we would call the Baghdadi Jews a transnational community.

Notes   1 Jael Silliman, Jewish Portraits, Indian Frames: Women’s Narratives from a Diaspora of Hope (Hanover, NH and London: Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England, 2001), pp. 13, 15, 59–60, 172; see Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1991).   2 Walter J. Fischel, “Bombay in Jewish History in the Light of New Documents from the Indian Archives”, Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, 38–39 (1972), pp.  132–135, note 36; Haeem Samuel Kehimkar, The History of the Bene Israel of India (Tel Aviv: Dayag, 1937), pp. 94–96; Shirley B. Isenberg, India’s Bene Israel: A Comprehensive Inquiry (Bombay: Popular Prakashan; Berkeley, CA: Judah L. Magnes Museum, 1988), p. 100.   3 Fischel, “Bombay”, pp. 132–133.   4 Jael Silliman, “The Everyday Practice of Acceptance: The Baghdadi Jews in Calcutta’s Cosmopolitan Landscape (1930s–1970s)”, Journal of Indo-­Judaic Studies, 15 (2016), p. 71.   5 Silliman, Jewish Portraits, p. 78.   6 Myer Samra, “The Immigration of Iraqi Jews into ‘White Australia’: 1901–1973”, in Y. Avishur and S. Yehuda, eds, Studies in the History and Culture of the Jews in Babylonia: Proceedings of Second International Congress for Babylonian Jewish Research (June, 1998) (Or-­Yehuda, Israel: Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center Research Institute of Babylonian Jewry, 2002), p. 163.   7 Eckehard Kulke, The Parsis in India (New Delhi: Vikas, 1978), pp. 138–140; see also T.M. Luhrmann, The Good Parsi: The Fate of a Colonial Elite in a Postcolonial Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996). Silliman points out that in Calcutta, Jews were generally associated with Anglo-­Indians and Europeans culturally, while Parsis were considered more Indian due to language and women’s dress. Silliman, “Everyday Practice”, p. 79.   8 Albert Ellis, Interview, 3 January 1978; see also Maisie Meyer, “The Sephardi Jewish Community of Shanghai and the Question of Identity”, in Roman Malek, ed., From Kaifeng … to Shanghai: Jews in China (Sankt Augustin, Germany: Monumenta Serica Institute and the China-­Zentrum, 2000), p. 366.   9 Ezekiel Musleah, On the Banks of the Ganga: The Sojourn of Jews in Calcutta (North Quincy, MA: Christopher Publishing House, 1975), p. 281. 10 Joan G. Roland, The Jewish Communities of India: Identity in a Colonial Era (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1998), p. 72. 11 “David Joseph Ezra”, Recalling Jewish Calcutta,, exhibit 03 Notable Members of the Community. Accessed 28 February 2017. 12 Quoted in Cecil Roth, The Sassoon Dynasty (London: Robert Hale, 1941), p. 68. 13 Roland, pp. 56–57. 14 Chiara Betta, Silas Aaron Hardoon (1851–1931): Marginality and Adaptation in Shanghai (London: University of London, 1997), pp.  36–42. See also Chiara Betta, “Marginal Westerners in Shanghai: The Baghdadi Jewish Community 1845–1931”, in Robert Bickers and Christian Henriot, eds, New Frontiers: Imperialism’s New Communities in East Asia (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000), pp. 38–54. See Roland, pp. 61–63. 15 Roland, p. 106. 16 Silliman, “Crossing Borders, Maintaining Boundaries: The Life and Times of Farha, a Woman of the Baghdadi Jewish Diaspora”, Journal of Indo-­Judaic Studies, 1 (1998),

Negotiating identity in a changing world   33 pp.  62, 69; see also Silliman, Jewish Portraits, pp.  18, 78, 168 and Sally Solomon, Hooghly Tales (London: David Ashley Publishing, 1998), pp. 119–121. 17 Betta, Hardoon, pp. 33–36; Silliman, Jewish Portraits, pp. 74–75. 18 Judgment in High Court of Judicature at Rangoon and Original Civil Jurisdiction, 9 April 1935. Civil Regular No. 85 of 1934. J.M. Ezekiel and one vs C.S. Joseph and others. Printed in All India Law Reports, Rangoon section, 1935, pp. 6–8, 331; Evidence, pp. 8, 64. Jewish Tribune, II:1 (1934), p. 5. On the Jews of Burma, see Ruth F. Cernea, “Promised Lands and Domestic Arguments: The Conditions of Jewish Identity in Burma”, in Nathan Katz, ed., Studies in Indian Jewish Identity (New Delhi: Manohar, 1995), pp. 153–172. 19 Sassoon J. David Trust Deed, 28 June 1922, clause 13a. Although Sir Alwyn Ezra’s name does not appear in the government file on the case, it is the general consensus of the Bene Israel community that he, a Baghdadi Jew, was the one who raised the issue. Even Mr Reginald Mathalone, the trustee of the Sassoon J. David Fund in the 1970s, did not deny Sir Alwyn’s role in the affair (Interview, 28 November 1977). See also Letter from S.S. Vazifdar to Surgeon General with Government of Bombay, 14 August 1936; letter from Abraham S. Erulkar to Vazifdar, 6 August 1936, Government of Maharastran Archives, Elphinstone College, Bombay General Department, Mumbai, no. 1630/33 B. The Trust deed of The Sassoon J. David Fund, unlike those of the Sir Jacob Sassoon Trusts, had never distinguished between categories of Jews. 20 See Roland, pp. 116–124; Silliman, Jewish Portraits, p. 18. 21 “D.J. Cohen”, Recalling Jewish Calcutta,, exhibit 03 Notable Members of the Community. Accessed 28 February 2017. His brothers, Isaac and Immanuel, were also appointed as magistrates. Immanuel was also a councillor of the Corporation of Calcutta for 40 years, from 1903 to 1924 and from 1930 to 1949. See Esmond David Ezra, Turning Back the Pages: A Chronicle of Calcutta Jewry (London: Brookside Press, 1986), Vol. 1, pp. 305–307, 312–313. 22 Silliman, Jewish Portraits, pp. 76, 96 n.30, 135 n.5. 23 Mrinalini Sinha, “Suffragism and Internationalism: The Enfranchisement of British and Indian Women Under an Imperial State”, in Ian Christopher Fletcher et al., eds, From Women’s Suffrage in the British Empire: Citizenship, Nation, and Race (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 233. 24 “Hannah Sen and her Legacy”, Recalling Jewish Calcutta, items/show/1108. See also Joan Roland and Tamar Marge Gubbay, “Baghdadi Jewish Women in India”, in Jewish Women’s Archive, baghdadi-­jewish-women-­in-india. Accessed 31 March 2017. 25 Musleah, p. 446. 26 Musleah, p. 447. 27 David Haskell Cohen, Angels, Snakes, and Ladders: Memoirs of a Jew from British India (Netivot, Israel: Yonaty, 2000), p. 81; Musleah, p. 447. 28 Musleah, p. 447. 29 Ibid. 30 I have not been able to identify any other Jewish members in this period. 31 Cohen, Angels, pp. 4–5, 61, 79–80, 88–90, 108–114, 245. 32 Cohen, Angels, pp. 139–143. 33 Cohen, Angels, pp. 161–171. 34 David Cohen, “ ‘Tactics’ or Truth”, New Age, Vol. V, 12 December 1956, pp. 57–63; Cohen, Angels, p. 234. 35 Cohen, Angels, p. 235. And see “David Haskell Cohen”, Recalling Jewish Calcutta, Accessed 28 February 2017. 36 Cohen, Angels, pp. 241–243. 37 J.F.R. Jacob, Recalling Jewish Calcutta, Accessed 28 February 2017. See also J.F.R. Jacob, Odyssey in War and Peace: An  Autobiography of Lt. General J.F.R. Jacob (New Delhi: Roli Books, 2011).

34   Joan G. Roland And  Madhuri Sondhi, “General with Admirable Qualities”,­ columnists/oped/general-­with-admirable-­qualities.html. Accessed 25 March 2017. 38 Silliman, Jewish Portraits, p. 20. 39 Musleah, pp. 447–448. 40 Silliman, Jewish Portraits, pp. 80–81, 117–118, 120, 123, 126–128; Musleah, p. 449. 41 Mavis Hyman, Jews of the Raj (London: Hyman, 1995), p. 226 and see ch. 14. 42 Musleah, pp. 416, 449–450. 43 Silliman, Jewish Portraits, p. 176 and see Hyman, pp. 204–208. 44 Samra, passim, and Silliman, Jewish Portraits, pp. 81–82. 45 Samra, pp. 163–166 and Silliman, Jewish Portraits, pp. 81–82. 46 Samra, pp. 164–165 and Silliman, Jewish Portraits, p. 87. 47 Silliman, Jewish Portraits, pp. 48, 50. 48 See Silliman, “Everyday Practice”, passim. 49 Quoted in Samra, p. 180. 50 Cernea, p. 40.

References Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined Communities. London: Verso. Betta, C. (1997). Silas Aaron Hardoon (1851–1931): Marginality and Adaptation in Shanghai. London: University of London. Betta, C. (2000). Marginal Westerners in Shanghai: The Baghdadi Jewish Community 1845–1931. In R. Bickers and C. Henriot, eds, New Frontiers: Imperialism’s New Communities in East Asia. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 38–54. Cernea, R. (1995). Promised Lands and Domestic Arguments: The Conditions of Jewish Identity in Burma. In N. Katz, ed., Studies in Indian Jewish Identity. New Delhi: Manohar, pp. 153–172. Cohen, D.H. (1956). “Tactics” or Truth. New Age, 5(12), pp. 57–63. Cohen, D.H. (2000). Angels, Snakes, and Ladders: Memoirs of a Jew from British India. Netivot, Israel: Yonaty,  “D.J. Cohen”. In Notable Members of the Community, exhibit 03 Recalling Jewish Calcutta, digital archive available at [Accessed 28 February 2017]. “David Haskell Cohen”. In Recalling Jewish Calcutta, digital archive available at www. [Accessed 28 February 2017]. “David Joseph Ezra”. In Notable Members of the Community, exhibit 03 Recalling Jewish Calcutta, digital archive available at [Accessed 28 February 2017]. Erulkar, A. to S.S. Vazifdar (6 August 1936). Government of Maharastran Archives. Elphinstone College, Bombay General Department, Mumbai, no. 1630/33 B. Ezra, E. (1986). Turning Back the Pages: A Chronicle of Calcutta Jewry. London: Brookside Press, Vol. 1. Fischel, W. (1972). Bombay in Jewish History in the Light of New Documents from the Indian Archives. In Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research (38–39), pp. 119–144. “Hannah Sen and Her Legacy”. In Recalling Jewish Calcutta, digital archive available at [Accessed 5 March 2017]. Hyman, M. (1995). Jews of the Raj. London: Hyman. Isenberg, S. (1988). India’s Bene Israel: A Comprehensive Inquiry. Bombay: Popular Prakashan; Berkeley, CA: Judah L. Magnes Museum.

Negotiating identity in a changing world   35 Jacob, J.F.R. (2011). Odyssey in War and Peace: An Autobiography of Lt. General J.F.R. Jacob. New Delhi: Roli Books. “JFR Jacob”. In Recalling Jewish Calcutta, digital archive available at www.Jewish [Accessed 28 February 2017]. J.M. Ezekiel and one vs C.S. Joseph and others (1935). Judgment in High Court of Judicature at Rangoon and Original Civil Jurisdiction, 9 April 1935. Civil Regular No. 85 of 1934. Printed in All India Law Reports, Rangoon section, 1935, pp.  6–8, 331; Evidence, pp. 8, 64. Kehimkar, H. (1937). The History of the Bene Israel of India. Tel Aviv: Dayag. Kulke, E. (1978). The Parsis in India. New Delhi: Vikas. Luhrmann, T. (1996). The Good Parsi: The Fate of a Colonial Elite in a Postcolonial Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Meyer, M. (2000). The Sephardi Jewish Community of Shanghai and the Question of Identity. In R. Malek, ed., From Kaifeng … to Shanghai: Jews in China. Sankt Augustin, Germany: Monumenta Serica Institute and the China-­Zentrum. Musleah, E. (1975). On the Banks of the Ganga: The Sojourn of Jews in Calcutta. North Quincy, MA: Christopher Publishing House. Roland, J. (1998). The Jewish Communities of India: Identity in a Colonial Era, 2nd edn. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. Roland, J. and Elias, A. (1978). Interview on Baghdadi trusts and schools. Roland, J. and Gubbay, T.M. (2009). Baghdadi Jewish Women in India. In Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Available at Jewish Women’s Archive at­jewish-women-­in-india [Accessed 31 March 2017]. Roland, J. and Mathalone, R. (1977). Interview on Baghdadi trusts and J.J. Hospital case. Roth, C. (1941). The Sassoon Dynasty. London: Robert Hale. Samra, M. (2002). The Immigration of Iraqi Jews into “White Australia”: 1901–1973. In Y. Avishur and S. Yehuda, eds, Studies in the History and Culture of the Jews in Babylonia: Proceedings of Second International Congress for Babylonian Jewish Research, (June, 1998). Or-­Yehuda, Israel: Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center Research Institute of Babylonian Jewry, pp. 163–183. Sassoon J. David Trust Deed. (1922). Jacob Sassoon Charity Trusts. Ballard Estate, Mumbai. Silliman, J. (1998). Crossing Borders, Maintaining Boundaries: The Life and Times of Farha, a Woman of the Baghdadi Jewish Diaspora. Journal of Indo-­Judaic Studies, 1, pp. 57–80. Silliman, J. (2001). Jewish Portraits, Indian Frames: Women’s Narratives from a Diaspora of Hope. Hanover, NH and London: Brandeis University Press/University Press of New England. Silliman, J. (2016). The Everyday Practice of Acceptance: The Baghdadi Jews in Calcutta’s Cosmopolitan Landscape (1930s–1970s). Journal of Indo-­Judaic Studies, 15, pp. 71–89. Sinha, M. (2000). Suffragism and Internationalism: The Enfranchisement of British and Indian Women Under an Imperial State. In I. Fletcher, L. Mayhall and P. Levine, eds, From Women’s Suffrage in the British Empire: Citizenship, Nation, and Race. London: Routledge, pp. 224–238. Solomon, S. (1998). Hooghly Tales. London: David Ashley Publishing.

36   Joan G. Roland Sondhi, M. (2016). General with Admirable Qualities. The Pioneer [online] 18 February 2016, p. 1. Available at­with-admirable-­ qualities.html [Accessed 25 March 2017]. Vazifdar, S. to Surgeon General with Government of Bombay. (14 August 1936). Government of Maharastran Archives. Elphinstone College, Bombay General Department, Mumbai, no. 1630/33 B.

Part II

Diversified religious life

3 The Baghdadi synagogues of India Their design roots, aesthetic and history Jay A. Waronker Baghdadi synagogue architecture in Indian context For over a century and a half, India has been home to synagogues built to serve congregations of its Baghdadi Jewish community. This chapter focuses on this specific building typology within the framework of the country’s and the community’s history, identity, development and sense of place. Today there are six extant Baghdadi synagogues in India (two built in Kolkata no longer survive), and they were all constructed during a relatively short span of time from 1856 to 1912. They can be found in Mumbai and Pune in the state of Maharashtra, and at Kolkata in West Bengal state.1 The three primary queries to be examined in the context of these Jewish houses of prayer are why they as tangible objects appeared the way they do, what were their distinct architectural and cultural influences, and how did they become mediums for elucidating the conditions of a people. So too will the architecture of each Indian Baghdadi synagogues be described and explained alongside congregational overviews. While some of India’s Baghdadi synagogues have been included in published work on the overall history of the community or the synagogue genre, space allocated to them has been limited if not minute (Sapir 2014). Since these Baghdadi buildings collectively hold a singular place in the annals of Indian as well as Jewish and architectural histories, what is described here represents an attempt to fill a gap in existing literature about India’s Baghdadi community’s Diasporic synagogue architecture. This chapter also calls attention to a vanishing tradition in that six structures consecrated as synagogues and for many years ably serving their respective congregations have managed to survive on valuable land in the centres of large if not enormous expanding cities – two in Mumbai, one in Pune and three in Kolkata. This is the case despite the overwhelming shrinkage in the Jewish population of these places beginning in the mid-­1950s as a result of social and political changes in India. With this came the precipitous decline in usage and even relevance of the large Baghdadi synagogues.2 Although the once-­vibrant community, its descendants now scattered around the world primarily in Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States, cannot be regenerated, some of their Jewish houses of prayer, buildings now under the care or watchful eyes of

40   Jay A. Waronker remaining miniscule congregations, are today being recognized as invaluable markers. They stand as a part of India’s and specifically their respective cities’ impressive repertoire of civic architecture. So too are these synagogues testament to their locations’ long-­standing tradition of religious and ethnic diversity and tolerance. Three principal factors helped shape and define the architecture of the Baghdadi synagogues in India. The first of these influences acknowledges that synagogues have rarely if ever conformed to stylistic rules anywhere in the world or, as a building type, been resolved in unique or identifiable terms. Why comprehensive synagogue design rules or parameters have never been established is due in part that Judaism has never had a central authority, governing body or dedicated text to direct precise construction, organizational and aesthetic parameters, and that Jews for ages have been a particularly dispersed and consistently small group, living among more dominant communities, who were affected by multiple traditions and influences. As Jews dispersed, and once they began building synagogues, a lack of specific design canons resulted in a considerable assortment of results. Unlike conditions with other faiths when a major event, form giver or visionary figure categorically shaped its religious architecture – the plan of the ancient Roman basilica adapted to Early Christian churches, the French Abbot Sugar setting the tone for the creation of the Gothic cathedral, the Counter Reformation giving rise to decoratively rich Baroque church architecture first in Italy and then elsewhere, the centralized dome plan associated with Eastern Orthodox churches that are often dim and gilded, the influence of the Emperor Asoka in India in establishing Buddhist monuments that includes the stupa containing religious relics, the preponderance and expression of the sculpted shikhara (superstructure tower) in Hindu temples in India, the pivotal influence of Koca Mimar Sinan Aga Sinan of the Ottoman Empire and the repetition of the minaret, qibla wall with its mihrab towards Mecca, courtyard washing space and the hypostyle arrangement with mosques, and the Second Vatican Conference of the 1960s attempting to redefine Catholic church spaces as examples – in Judaism there has never been equivalents in the architectural genesis and development of the synagogue. Select design precedents and guidelines, some vague and others more directed, were nevertheless established over time. Inspiration from recorded design details of the ancient Court of the Tabernacle and Temples in Jerusalem,3 placement of the elevated ark (hekhal) orientated to Jerusalem, inclusion of a raised podium (bimah/tebah) and separate seating areas for men and women in Orthodox synagogues during the prayer space are examples. Yet aside from the Court of the Tabernacle and Temples models, these inspirations can be considered more organizational versus aesthetic.4 Overall, synagogues have always been a particularly inexact building genre visually. With this came the gamut of possibilities and appearances architecturally and tectonically. Since there have always been few rules to follow liturgically, functionally and aesthetically with synagogues, the issue has long been what to build and how, if at all, to express qualities of the user. The synagogues built by the Baghdadi Jews of India are no exception to this ambiguity.

The Baghdadi synagogues of India   41 The second factor that moulded Indian Baghdadi synagogues involves the general history of architecture. Unlike many earlier periods of Western architectural history associated with both actual places in the West and areas of the globe where Western influence was pervasive, when a distinct, new and more avant-­ garde or doctrinaire type of architecture was pursued in its form making, engineering, construction or theoretical premise, the period from the late eighteenth through much of the nineteenth century may be described as an age of uncertainty and vagueness. It can be labelled as an eclectic if not miscellany era without a dominant or prevalent style new to or in response to its time. What can be defined as a stylistic gap existed for more than a century from the Baroque and Rococo periods of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries to architecture produced as a result of the Industrial Revolution beginning during the middle of the nineteenth century. This Industrial Revolution architecture had a direct impact on the advent of modern architecture during the twentieth century, which was followed by current-­day digital-­age design and construction. It does not mean that there were not important or well-­designed buildings realized during revivalism of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but overall it was not a period of dramatic new trends or advancing the design envelope. This certainly was not the first time in history when old styles had been revivified and embraced. Historicism had been pursued before, and it continued afterwards. Yet during this period, revivalism was a main thing, and there was really no other overriding option.5 Bucking earlier periods when the challenge was to discover or direct the path of architecture in response to a spirit of the times, it was the absence of a novel design objective that best expressed the tenor of the epoch. This was a mostly conservative period, one of not moving forward but looking to the past with its broad choice of styles and traditions. The Baghdadi synagogues in India were collectively constructed during this time, and they embraced this architectural-­revival and traditionalist sensibility. The third factor influencing the identity of Baghdadi synagogues in India was sociological. The synagogues built by the Indian Baghdadi Jews, who as urbanities settled in Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune, are most often imposing if not pretentious structures compared to the more modest ones of India’s other Jewish communities: the considerably older, vernacular-­based synagogues of the Cochin Jews of Kerala, the stylistically eclectic houses of prayer of the Bene Israel of Maharashtra, and particularly the far more recent and more utilitarian buildings of the Bnei Menashe in the north-­eastern hill states of Manipur, Mizoram and Assam and the Bene Ephraim of Andhra Pradesh state. The Baghdadi synagogues are in pure or eclectic English or other European revival styles – Classical, Gothic, Renaissance or Baroque – as per the requests of leadership of the communities. Although their ethnicity was Near Eastern, the Baghdadi Jews, who considered themselves non-­indigenous Indians, sought a special status under the Raj. Having arrived in India in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries during British colonial rule, they neither considered themselves “natives” nor did they wish to fully assimilate with or conform wholly to ways of the local population, which to them included the Bene Israel living in their

42   Jay A. Waronker same cities. As a result, even though Baghdadi Jews in India generally had the latitude and means to design synagogues as they saw fit when they were a large and sustainable-­enough community to begin building synagogues by the mid-­ nineteenth century, and they seemed not to have to needed to conform to conditions forced on themselves due to social, economic, political or environmental circumstances during this process, their choice in erecting faithful Western-­ revival buildings in response to the English air of superiority over locals is the critical point. Though existing in harmony for decades within particularly multicultural and diversely religious settings that included Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Parsi and Jain religious buildings, Baghdadi synagogues – contrary to the lives of Baghdadi Jews themselves in that they had friends and business associates in a variety of other ethnic groups – can be interpreted as being less integral to their native Indian environments. Their synagogues were, instead, more a part of the visiting colonial – and with this Christian – setting even though the Baghdadi Jews were not colonizers but local subjects of the British crown. While constructing their houses of prayer, the Baghdadi Jews of India were not habitually influenced and inspired by indigenous architectural traditions and devices. When the time came to erect synagogues in the mid-­1800s, the relatively well-­off Indian Baghdadi Jews built stately and expensive ones with no intention of drawing from Indian or their own Near Eastern or extended Ottoman Empire precedents. Instead, the Baghdadis choose Greco-­Roman orders, church-­like spires, Renaissance arches, Baroque flourishes and Gothic details devised in Europe and revived in the nineteenth century as primary design components for their synagogues. When viewing these buildings, foreigners and nationals alike are regularly surprised by what they regard as their seemingly un-­Indian and sometimes Christian appearances. Yet in British colonial landscape, these buildings were in keeping with British-­derived tastes of the time. This reveals much about the social standing and aspirations of the Indian Baghdadi Jewish community. In building as they did, the Baghdadi Jews decided not to draw from religious and secular architectural traditions established from their roots or from the broader Indian context. Considering that much blending of traditions in India – Buddhist elements applied to early Hindu temples, vernacular Indian inspirations on Delhi Sultanate and Mughal tombs and other important buildings, native Indian, Islamic and European features applied to extravagant palaces and other architectural flourishes of the nawabs (rulers of princely Muslim territories), British traditions merged with a variety of indigenous influences for Raj designs in places such as New Delhi’s Rajpath, or local (including Hindu) and Portuguese/Dutch colonial influences on Cochin synagogues in Kerala – resulted in creative and poetic work, the fact Baghdadi Jews never attempted their own brand of architecture may not be altogether surprising, but nevertheless it is enlightening if not disappointing. Even though what was realized is often pleasing, an essentially unrestricted opportunity for the Indian Baghdadi Jews to explore and express a distinct synagogue aesthetic in autonomous, hybrid or other ways was never embraced and pursued.

The Baghdadi synagogues of India   43

Ohel David Synagogue, Pune A clear example of the three above-­stated factors that influenced the outcome of Baghdadi synagogues in India is Ohel David (Tent of David) Synagogue in Pune, one of the largest and most striking synagogues in India. Constructed from 1863 to 1867 on a central site in a hill station established by the British in central Maharashtra state, and before that the base of the peshwas (prime ministers) of the Maratha Empire, the synagogue is a historicist structure in the neo-­Gothic style that undoubtedly resembles a British church set on an expansive lawn in a prominent location in Pune Camp. While in nineteenth-­century Europe and America Jews built few Gothic-­ Revival synagogues given the style’s Christian association in those places, in India it was deemed a suitable architectural language distinct from native faiths.6 Since Raj churches in India were regularly designed in the Gothic-­Revival style, Baghdadi Jews in deference to the British so too choose this aesthetic. From the exterior, there is nothing to differentiate Ohel David from a colonial-­period church in India except for a sign at its entry gate (not original to the building) and inscription panels at its porte-­cochere and foyer. Indicated on these inscriptions, the construction of Ohel David Synagogue and its endowment were made possible exclusively by Sir David Sassoon, patriarch of the great Sassoon dynasty that made its mark in trading, commerce and shipping in India and the East during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He with other Sassoons

Figure 3.1 Ohel David Synagogue exterior, Pune (courtesy Jay A. Waronker).

44   Jay A. Waronker funded construction of many religious, civic and institutional buildings in the city and elsewhere in India, including Pune’s Sassoon Hospital of the late 1860s and Mumbai’s Baghdadi synagogues Keneseth Eliayhoo (Gathering of Elijah) of 1884 and Magen David (Shield of David) of 1861. Ohel David was designed according to the building’s inscription by the architect Henry Stain Clair Wilkins. Wilkins, a British army officer and Christian, served in the East India Company for years, and he was employed in the fields of architecture and engineering in the public works departments of British India. Wilkins designed a large and impressive sanctuary capable of accommodating a membership that, at its height, numbered over 100 families. Abutting the brick and locally quarried Deccan Traps stone main building is the synagogue’s most prominent feature: a 90 foot (27 metre) high clock tower constructed of the same building materials. This clock was manufactured in London specifically for Ohel David. The tower closely matches the design of the one at Sassoon Hospital in Pune, also designed by Wilkins. Ohel David sits on a triangular-­shaped site on busy Moledina Road at the intersection of the major thoroughfare Sadhu Vaswani Road to the north-­east and the narrower and less active Synagogue Street to the south-­west. The area came to be known as Pune Camp (or Cantonment), a military district established in 1918 to accommodate troops of the British Indian Army. The landmark synagogue has been known locally as Lal Deval, or Red Temple in the local Marathi language, in reference to the building’s exterior brick colour. Magen David is placed on a relatively large open parcel of land that is now surrounded by a high protective wall.7 Today this site offers a peaceful respite from a congested and noisy area of the city. The outside of the synagogue, an attractive yet conservative composition with its vertical-­accentuated proportions and steeply pitched tiled roof hidden in part by a stone balustrade, features repetitive pointed-­arched openings, elongated window pairings capped by a circular window that are encased by stone tracery, brick coursings and an accentuated entablature, columns with carved capitals, a wrap-­around porch and porte-­cochere, and various other details that are typical to the neo-­Gothic style. The prayer space of Ohel David Synagogue measures 90 by 50 feet (27 by 15 metres), and it is a tripartite symmetrical basilican plan with a wide central nave that terminates with hekhal apse. The nave is flanked by two narrower side aisles. The synagogue’s generous nave, also with its centrally placed tebah, is separated from the side aisles by a colonnade. Positioned above these aisles is the women’s gallery, which is made up of long and narrow spaces. In Orthodox Jewish convention, the men and women sat separately. Pointed arches, the white chunam walls, Gothic-­inspired orders with blue grey painted capitals and bases, tall wood windows with transoms containing stained glass set in a simple geometric pattern at both the ground and gallery level, a grey marble tiled floor, the raised tebah with wood newel posts/handrail and brass balusters, plaster medallions and trim work, and the wood guardrail engaged to thin wood columns at the gallery are prominent design features in the sanctuary. The painted wood-­ strip ceiling over the nave and side aisles of the sanctuary is flat, and hanging

The Baghdadi synagogues of India   45 from it are various period lighting fixtures. Filling the sanctuary, as in other Indian synagogues, are several freestanding long wood benches and chairs with woven-­cane seats and backs as well as upholstered seat cushions. Ohel David follows the pattern of other Baghdadi synagogues in India with its impressive and sizeable (yet not as large as other Baghdadi synagogues) hekhal, which is raised a few feet above the level of the sanctuary floor. The hekhal, positioned on the wall nearest to Jerusalem as per synagogue convention (in this case to the west), is set within a double-­height niche that is elaborately embellished with plaster decoration. Framing the hekhal at the sanctuary side is a neo-­Gothic pointed arch flanked by engaged pilasters, and they are also highly decorated with plaster reliefs. The Ohel David Synagogue compound also contains a now-­closed mikvah (ritual bath), caretaker and community apartments to the southern side of the synagogue property, and the Gothic-­Revival mausoleum of David Sassoon, also designed by Wilkins. This freestanding burial structure, constructed out of DeccanTraps stone with its steeply pitched roof, is located directly to the east of the synagogue building. Sassoon died in Pune on 7 November 1864 just over a year after the construction of Ohel David had begun. In recent years, due to security concerns, the synagogue has been guarded around the clock by the Pune police, and access to the building, via a gate at the north side of the synagogue property, is controlled. Despite these changes, the synagogue continues to remain open and vital. Nearly regular prayer and holiday services for a small group that struggles to form a minyan (quorum) are held here, conducted by congregational laymen or visiting rabbis. Tourists and other visitors can also arrange to be invited, and for these reasons the synagogue is more than ever an integral part of Pune’s Jewish identity.

Magen David Synagogue, Mumbai When Baghdadi Jews began settling in Mumbai during the early decades of the nineteenth century, they were welcomed to pray in existing Bene Israel (Children of Israel) synagogues in the city. Some choose to do so, while others opted to pray in a temporary space provided by David Sassoon at his private residence, Sans Souci, located in the Byculla section of Mumbai (Sapir 2014:69). By the 1850s, the Baghdadi community in Mumbai was large enough to organize their own congregations and construct synagogues. In 1857, a site at 340 Sir J.J. Road near the intersection with Sofia Zubair Road also in Byculla was procured by the congregation, and construction of the synagogue started that year. A marble inscription at the synagogue notes that on 6 December 1857, corresponding to the Hebrew date of 18 Kislev 5618, a ceremony for the foundation stone was held. David Sassoon, identified as the Sheikh, his children and the rest of the community were present for its placing at the spot where the synagogue hekhal would eventually be positioned. According to this inscription, Sassoon read a section of the Psalms during this gathering, and it also notes that the cost of the  synagogue, 50,000 rupees, was to be defrayed solely by David Sassoon.8

46   Jay A. Waronker In  honour of its benefactor, the synagogue has always been referred to as the David Sassoon Synagogue. According to another marble building inscription, in 1861 Magen David Synagogue was completed and consecrated by the membership. The synagogue remained in active use for nearly half a century, yet by the turn of the twentieth century, according to another building inscription, an increased membership by then numbering more than 500 people required more space. To accommodate this need, in 1910 the synagogue was enlarged with the addition of matching side bays attached to the original larger and taller building. This expansion and renovation of the original building, designed by an unknown architect, was made possible with the help of David Sassoon’s grandson, Jacob E. Magen David is fronted by a high wall and gate along the busy divided Sir J.J. Road and its congested sidewalk. Inside the compound, the synagogue is set back to allow for a generous open and peaceful space with mature trees. Magen David’s exterior is an impressively large symmetrical Western-­inspired eclectic design – versus Ohel David’s more pure revivalist aesthetic – that contains neo-­ classical features blended with more freely conceived elements. Some of these include the four stylized columns supporting the flat-­roofed porch with its amply proportioned, classical-­inspired entablature that is decorated with the name of the synagogue in English and a Ten Commandments Tablet. There is also the centrally placed stepped square tower positioned over the porch in the tradition of some Anglican churches. Set within one of the middle tiers of the tower is a clock manufactured in England. The synagogue façade is lined with tall doors and transoms capped by cross-­hatched panels as well as windows with rounded transoms encased in heavy trim. Other design features of the building’s front elevation include a classically inspired entablature with a projecting bracketed cornice around the building’s main massing that is topped by a panelled balustrade. The thick exterior walls of the building are finished in chunam, or a plaster of polished lime and sand, over a structural brick. Over the years, the synagogue has been painted various colour schemes, and this has included times when the façade was repainted a new palette of colours while the sides of the building had been left untouched. Within the extensive grounds of the synagogue are accessory and support buildings that include two schools operated by the Sir Jacob Sassoon High School Trust and the E.E.E. Sassoon High School Trust. These were both almost exclusively Jewish instructions originally, yet in more recent years, with few Baghdadi children living in Mumbai, students from outside faiths have been educated here. In the synagogue compound, the Trust used to operate the Lady Rachel Free Dispensary, where a doctor was employed to look after members of the Jewish community requiring medical aid. There was also once a mikvah (ritual bath) on the property, yet today it is unused. Beyond the synagogue’s front porch are two spaces that flank the foyer: a stairwell up to the women’s seating gallery to the south, and an office space to the north. From the foyer, doors lead into the sanctuary. The interior of Magen

The Baghdadi synagogues of India   47 David is slightly less grand than the exterior, although the double-­height sanctuary with women’s gallery wrapping around three sides is a very generous space. Tasteful high-­end detailing and materials, including the marble tiled floor, elevated central tebah fabricated mostly of brass with lights projecting from its four corners and its intricately carved teak reading table, and classical pilasters and moulding can be found inside. Even though the building has a hipped roof that is hidden behind the balustrade, Magen David’s finished ceiling in the sanctuary is flat with an attic space above. The finished ceiling is made up of painted white strips of wood decorated with small medallions. Hanging from these medallions is a variety of lighting fixtures and fans to cool the space, which are common to other Indian synagogues. In more recent years, the sanctuary’s chunam walls and architectural details have been painted blue and white, and throughout the room Hebrew “Tree of Life” framings and other Jewish art are displayed. The focal point of the sanctuary is the velvet-­draped hekhal. This important liturgical feature is flanked by a pair of windows and set in an apse. Within this area are engaged pilasters with stylized capitals, panels containing scripture tablets and a half-­dome ceiling decorated with medallions and Stars of David. Strips of small lights here and along other wall surfaces of the sanctuary, a feature seen in other Indian synagogues that include Bene Israel ones, provide a degree of sparkle and drama. Elevated six risers above the main floor level, this niche is positioned in the west wall, which in this case is closest to Jerusalem, as per synagogue convention. To the sides of the hekhal niche are two special draped chairs used for the brit mila, or circumcision ceremony, with one of them dedicated to the prophet Elijah. Long wood and woven-­cane benches fill the large sanctuary. Magen David, which continues to be an active centre of Baghdadi religious and communal life in Mumbai, is today managed by trustees of the Sir Jacob Sassoon Charity Trust. Though renovation efforts have taken place on the heritage synagogue over the years, including one funded by an Israeli businessman in the first decade of the 2000s, it is currently in need of a more complete and authentic restoration. Despite its imperfect condition, the synagogue, a landmark neighbourhood building, remains open and marginally active for a small congregation.

Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai This particularly large and imposing synagogue, completed in 1884, was built and endowed for Mumbai’s Baghdadi Jewish community by Jacob Elias Sassoon and his brothers in honour and memory of their father, Eliyahoo (Elias) David Sassoon, the son of David Sassoon. David Sassoon was the first permanent Sassoon settler in the city who had emigrated from Baghdad in the 1830s to seek religious freedom as well as business and life opportunities in British India. Once in Mumbai, David Sassoon founded a hugely successful trade and manufacturing enterprise that afforded him, his sons and family descendants opportunities for Jewish and civic leadership and philanthropy.

48   Jay A. Waronker Keneseth Eliyahoo (Hebrew for Gathering of Elijah) was designed by English architects David E. Gostling and James Morris, who were based in Mumbai during the latter part of the nineteenth century and the designers of numerous important civic, religious, residential and institutional buildings of the British colonial period. The synagogue was built in the Fort area of Mumbai along V.B. Gandhi (formerly Forbes) Street, a secondary thoroughfare containing residential and commercial structures, and at the intersection of Rope Walk Lane and Saibaba Roadon, on land procured not long after significant changes took place there. For the last century-­and-a-­quarter, this neighbourhood has been a key commercial business centre where some of the city’s most important civic and commercial structures are found. Earlier, a castle within a walled settlement called Fort George (in tribute to King George III) stood there. The strategic fort settlement had been periodically refortified by the British, but in 1863 the progressive governor of Bombay, Sir Bartle Frere, dismantled the walls. The fortification was deemed unnecessary since Bombay by that time was stable against French and other potential attacks. Vacant land within the fort walls provided ample space for building needed after a paroxysm of growth in Bombay during the second part of the nineteenth century. In this open territory, Jacob Sassoon purchased a building site from the Land Mortgage Bank of India and arranged for the design and construction of Keneseth Eliyahoo. Because of its location, the building has been informally referred to as the Fort and the Blue (for its colour) Synagogue, named in memory of Eliyahoo (Elias) David Sassoon, the son of David Sassoon. Keneseth Eliyahoo’s exterior is an example of English composite architecture. The building is a neo-­classical design, yet with neo-­Baroque flourishes, an aesthetic popular during the Edwardian period in Britain and throughout its colonies. It has a pronounced semi-­rusticated base with quoins, middle section composed of a grouping of stained glass windows and repetitive bays of fenestration divided by engaged pilasters, and a top with a high pediment and balustrade. The exterior is finished not in masonry as might be expected for a building of its size and stature but chunam over simple brick. For years the synagogue was painted a bright medium blue with white accents but during its restoration in 2018–2019 its colour palette was changed to a bright white base with baltic blue walls and white accents at the upper levels. Many of the details at the outside of the synagogue were faithfully executed according to established stylistic traditions, including the rounded arches with keystones, alignment of the bays, entrance pediments supported by brackets, and panelled pilasters and plinths. Other elements are more stylized, such as the detailing at the ground floor knelling windows, the start-­and-stop pattern of the rusticated base, and the out-­of-the way placement of the building’s main entrance. Like an urban palazzo in Europe, Keneseth Eliyahoo’s ground floor contains secondary spaces as offices, classrooms, event rooms, a mikvah and storage areas, whereas the primary space, here the sanctuary, is positioned on the two upper levels. Compared to the more stylistically pure exterior, the double-­height interior is rather eclectic with its neo-­Gothic fretwork and tracery combined with stylized

The Baghdadi synagogues of India   49 classical components that include rounded arches and slender iron columns. Above the hekhal, its doors fronting an unusually large storage space for hundreds of Sefer Torahs, is the visual focal point of the sanctuary: a large stained glass window, crafted by John Hardman Trading Co., Ltd., framed by a decorated surround that is crowned by a panel containing a Ten Commandments tablet. A crystal chandelier once hung in the space above the centrally positioned tebah. The sanctuary is fitted out with turned wood columns, a brass railing at the tebah, an intricately carved rosewood reading table, the wrap-­around women’s gallery and polychromatic Minton encaustic floor tiles from England popular to this era. Long freestanding teak benches with cane seats and backs and plush cushions and matching chairs fill the space. Within easy walking distance of this stately synagogue are key Mumbai landmarks, attesting to its important place in the city. Nearby are the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum), Flora Fountain, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai Town Hall, Old Mint, Customs House; the Gateway of India and Taj Mahal Hotel are also close. Along with these sites, Keneseth Eliyahoo is marked on the city map provided by the Indian Office of Tourism. At one time this synagogue had hundreds of members and was a busy centre of religious and civic life for Mumbai’s Baghdadi Jews (along with Magen David Synagogue in the Byculla area). Today it has a very small congregation but remains open and vital. Regular prayer and holiday services using the Baghdadi nusah (liturgy) are held here, conducted by hazzans (cantors) appointed by

Figure 3.2 Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai (courtesy Noshir Gobhai).

50   Jay A. Waronker

Figure 3.3 Kippot (skullcaps) offered to visitors, Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, February 2018 (courtesy Shalva Weil).

the congregation. Tourists and other visitors are invited, and the synagogue is more than ever an integral part of Mumbai’s Jewish identity and a testament to the city’s tradition of diversity and tolerance. For Keneseth Eliyahoo’s important anniversaries over the years, gala events attended by its members, the broader Mumbai community, Indian political leaders and dignitaries have been held. For its centennial (1984) and quasquicentennial (2009) celebrations, the Indian Post and Telegraphs Department paid homage to the momentous occasions. Restoration of the synagogue, which continues to be a part of Mumbai’s Jewish identity and a testament to the city’s diversity, finally began in 2018 after a difficult period of delay. On 7 February 2019, a reopening of the synagogue was held, celebrating its twenty-­first-century renewal.

Maghen David Synagogue, Kolkata One of India’s grandest synagogues, and among the largest in Asia, Maghen David (Hebrew for Shield of David) has for more than a century and a quarter been a landmark work of architecture in Kolkata. The last of the city’s main synagogues to be realized, it was dedicated according to its inscription on 11 September 1884 when the Baghdadi Jewish community was thriving. Located at

The Baghdadi synagogues of India   51 Biplabi Rash Berhari Road (formerly Canning Street) and Brabourne Road (with Old China Bazar and Indra Kumar Karnani Streets running to the rear sides of the property), this prominent site in central Kolkata had been the site of Neveh Shalome (Hebrew for Oasis of Peace) Prayer Hall, another Baghdadi Jewish house of prayer, until it was demolished in 1883 (and later rebuilt in 1911 as a larger synagogue next door). The synagogue was made possible through the generous donation of a Kolkata Baghdadi Jew, Elias David Joseph Ezra in memory of his father, David Joseph. Ezra had settled in Kolkata from Baghdad and amassed his fortune in business and real estate. He began a tradition of family service and philanthropy with the construction of Beth El Synagogue in 1856 and other local buildings, and this practice was carried on by his son, Elias David Joseph. Maghen David was designed by a British colonial architect based in India who was well versed in English and other European building traditions. The imposing flat-­roofed synagogue, measuring 82 feet by 140 feet (25 metres by 43 metres) and set behind a wall and gate along the busy street, is stylistically a Renaissance-­revival structure. Finished in rust-­coloured brick with buff stone accents, the synagogue’s most commanding feature is its corner tower that soars to a height of 140 feet (43 metres). The tower displays an English-­manufactured clock with faces on four sides that originally chimed every quarter hour, and it is capped by a steeply pitched slate-­tiled roof crowned by a finial. Along the sides of the synagogue are repetitive bays of rounded-­arched windows, decorated panels and bands of trim that faithfully follow the Italian Renaissance-­revival aesthetic. A porch leads to an anteroom that is flanked by an office to one end and the stairway up to the gallery at the other side. Lining the walls of this anteroom is a number of inscription and donation plaques installed over the years. Pairs of doors at the long side of the anteroom open into the sanctuary. It is an impressively large space able to accommodate a membership that, at its height, numbered over 100 families. In plan, the generous triple-­height central nave with its tebah is separated from the two double-­height side aisles by a colonnade of compound, or bundled limestone columns with carved floriated capitals. Sources indicate that these columns were quarried and fabricated in France and sent to Kolkata for installation. Clerestories with stained glass, grey and white marble floor tiles set in a chequered pattern and the raised tebah with brass balusters are prominent design features. Filling the sanctuary, in Baghdadi and other Indian synagogue fashion, are several freestanding long wood and woven-­cane benches and chairs as well as various-­styled hung lighting fixtures (some originally gas-­ lit and featuring Belgian glass) and ceiling fans. Panels throughout the sanctuary that run along the curved arches, in between the columns and on wall surfaces are highly decorated with floral patterns and Hebrew inscriptions. As per Orthodox synagogue custom, the ground floor is where men sit, whereas the gallery level is the women’s seating area. Maghen David follows the pattern of other Baghdadi synagogues in India and Myanmar in that it contains a particularly prominent architectural and liturgical

52   Jay A. Waronker feature: a sizeable heckal. The heckal, positioned on the wall nearest to Jerusalem as per synagogue convention, is set within a high half-­domed apse. Its ceiling is painted a deep blue with gold stars to represent heaven. From within the sanctuary, the heckal parochet and doors appear to front a conventional, cabinet-­like space. Yet once they are opened, a walk-­in apsidal-­shaped room as deep as ten feet (three metres) and considerably wider is revealed. Here 100 or more Torah scrolls each set within a tik, or decorated silver case, were proudly displayed. Today, as is the case with its much-­diminished membership, a far lesser number of Torah scrolls remain at Maghen David. Most of them have been shared with communities in Israel and elsewhere. Today the Baghdadi Jewish population of Kolkata is estimated to number only around 20 people, so regular prayer services may not be held here, but holiday services are, and on Friday evenings a lamp is always lit inside the sanctuary by a resident Jew to welcome in the Sabbath. Maghen David continues to be lovingly watched over by dedicated caretakers, nearly all of them Muslim for years, who, like the Baghdadi Jews left here, recognize the building, set within a fairly generous and peaceful compound, as an important religious and civic monument that has been a part of the history and fabric of the Kolkata for so many years. Over the decades, anniversary celebrations have been held at Maghen David. In a precarious state structurally for decades, and with its architecture worn, the building was carefully restored in 2016–2017. The Society for Heritage Conservation and Preservation of New Delhi was commissioned by Maghen David to document the condition of the synagogue, prepare a restoration plan and oversee the work on the heritage building so that it could return to its former glory. A team of synagogue members, architects, engineers, designers, consultants, artisans, contractors and craftsmen collaborated for months to ensure an authentic restoration.

Beth El Synagogue, Kolkata Completed in 1856, Beth El (Hebrew for House of God) Synagogue in central Kolkata at 26 Pollock Street off Brabourne Road, with shops and residences alongside, has served the city’s Beth El Baghdadi congregation for more than one and a half centuries. Its construction was made possible with funding from David Joseph Ezra and Ezekiel Judah, two local Baghdadi Jews. In 1885, to better serve the needs of a congregation that had grown in size during the 1860s and 1870s, the building was enlarged and improved. These changes were paid for by another community member, Elias Shalom Gubbay. The sizeable yellow and orange-­gold accented synagogue, positioned behind a wall and an iron gate, has an eclectic Western style. The building, finished in painted chunam over brick, is a symmetrical tripartite design set on a high base. Its façade features recessed panels with paired rounded-­arched openings, slender pointed-­arched stained-­glass windows, grouped pilasters, a curvilinear stepped­up top with a clock in the middle, and a central covered monumental stair within

The Baghdadi synagogues of India   53 a recessed porch that serves as the building’s foyer. Star of David and menorah appliqués to the synagogue’s façade, highlighted in blue, help identify this building as a synagogue. A conglomeration of nineteenth-­century Western-­revival architectural styles, made popular in England, elsewhere in Europe and in other places of the world where Western influence was pervasive, served as the inspiration for Beth El and for other Baghdadi congregations. Renaissance-­revival, neo-­Gothic, classical-­revival and neo-­Baroque, or hybrid styles were adopted. This propensity for architectural historicism reflects the breadth of options for the design of synagogues at that time as well as the congregations’ affinity for Western-­inspired design. The synagogue sanctuary is a large space able to accommodate a membership that once numbered over 100 families. The generous triple-­height nave with its centrally positioned tebah is separated from double-­height side aisles by colonnades. The columns, painted white with medium-­blue capitals, mid-­collars and bases, are stylized and fabricated out of iron, which became a common structural material in buildings in England, its colonies and elsewhere as a result of the Industrial Revolution. A nod to nineteenth-­century technology, these columns are set within an otherwise primarily historicist interior. They support the roof and screen the women’s gallery, which is accented by repetitive decorated brackets. While the white chunam walls contain some applied ornamentation, the overall space is relatively understated. Large shuttered-­wood windows with stained-­glass transoms, clerestories containing similar coloured glass, variegated grey marble floor tiles, intricately patterned painted iron railings and the elevated tebah with its bowed perforated brass balusters and turned wood members set on a marble base lined with colourful tiles are prominent design features of the space. The ceiling is flat with exposed painted steel “I” beams, another embrace of contemporary building technology. Filling the sanctuary are wood and woven­cane benches and chairs, as well as various-­styled hung lighting fixtures, ceiling fans and wall sconces. Beth El’s hekhal is a particularly prominent architectural and liturgical feature for its size. Positioned on the (west) wall nearest to Jerusalem, it is set within a high half-­domed apse with windows and a ceiling painted sky blue with gold stars to resemble the heavens. This recessed area elevates the hekhal above the main floor level to dramatize its importance, and it is framed by a pediment. From within the sanctuary, the hekhal doors and the parochet draping them seem to front a conventional cabinet. Yet once open, a walk-­in apse as deep as three metres (ten feet) and considerably wider is revealed. Up until the mid-­twentieth century, the hekhal shelf held dozens of Torah scrolls, each stored in an embossed-­silver tik, or case. Most of them are now in use in the synagogues around the world where Beth El’s members resettled. Gala events celebrating anniversaries and significant events over the years have highlighted Beth El Synagogue’s central place in Kolkata’s Jewish community and, more broadly, in the city. Political and social changes in India that started in the 1950s led to a dramatic decline in the number of India’s Baghdadi Jews in Kolkata, and the result was a decrease in activity at Beth El Synagogue.

54   Jay A. Waronker Beth El is today a protected heritage building open to visitors. Services are still sometimes led here for the minute congregation and visitors, and a Sabbath lamp is lit on Friday at sunset in the sanctuary by a synagogue member. Beth El continues to be lovingly watched over by mostly Muslim caretakers who, like its congregation, recognize the building as an important religious and civic monument that has long been part of the history and fabric of Kolkata. In conjunction with the nearby Maghen David Synagogue, it was restored in 2015–2017, and a rededication of the synagogue was held on 17 December 2017, with local, national and international visitors celebrating the building’s renewal.9

Neveh Shalome Synagogue, Kolkata Neveh Shalome (Hebrew for Oasis of Peace) congregation was founded in Kolkata in the mid-­1820s by the one of first communities of Baghdadi Jews who had settled permanently in India. Shalom Obaidah HaKohen made the first major contribution towards realizing a building in memory of his father, Shalom Aharon HaKohen, who was one of the original Baghdadi Jews to move to Kolkata. The city was then India’s capital under the British Raj. Neveh Shalome is notable as the first Baghdadi Jewish community house of prayer in India. Dating to 1830, the prayer hall (referring generally to a smaller structure compared to a larger synagogue) predates other Baghdadi synagogues/prayer halls in Kolkata by a generation or more. Early on, the congregation was based in a former residence that was converted into a prayer space. That repurposed building was at the corner of Biplabi Rash Berhari (formerly Canning) Street and Brabourne Road on a site where Maghen David Synagogue stands today. Many of the Baghdadi Jews lived and worked nearby, and the area was at that time the centre of Jewish mercantile, home, social and religious life. Within a quarter of a century, another Baghdadi synagogue, Beth El, was erected in the immediate area. In 1883, the Neveh Shalome building was demolished, and the large Renaissance-­revival Maghen David Synagogue was built on the site. On 10 May 1911, construction of a second Neveh Shalome, this time a larger synagogue, began at 9 Jackson Lane, next door to Maghen David, and the work was completed the following year. Neveh Shalome’s symmetrical tripartite façade is made up of a central hefty mass that is flanked by smaller side bays. At the street level, the central mass serves as a portico with a broad rounded archway, which includes the name of the synagogue in English, and a wide stair providing access up to a foyer that leads into the synagogue’s sanctuary. Along the façade and other elevations of the synagogue are wide engaged pilasters, rounded-­arched windows with painted-­green wood-­louvred shutters, and generous bands of buff-­ coloured trim. A parapet conceals most of the roof of the synagogue, while the façade’s central massing is covered by a hip roof that is capped by a simple finial. The pilasters in this area continue, forming small pylons that project above the roof line. Compared to neighbouring Maghen David and Beth El Synagogues, Neveh Shalome is a less grand, more eclectic design that is stylistically difficult to label.

The Baghdadi synagogues of India   55 The synagogue sanctuary is a rectangular generous space able to accommodate a membership that, at its height, numbered several dozen families. The room contains a centrally positioned tebah. Its walls, finished in chunam and painted white, include some applied trim today painted medium green, yet the overall space is understated. Shuttered-­wood windows set in the thick walls, grey and white marble floor tiles, and the wood tebah with decorative metal balusters are prominent design features. The hekhal is set in a semi-­circular apse that is bordered by a pair of pilasters and rounded-­over trim. This area is painted and features Hebrew text. The apse is raised off the sanctuary’s floor by a few risers. Rounded-­arched openings each draped with a parochet lead into the generous walk-­in space that once contained dozens of Sifrei Torah each stored in a silver-­ embossed tik set on a shelf supported by brackets. Within the apse’s half-­domed ceiling are three small windows. The ceiling of the sanctuary is flat with exposed painted beams and purloins. Above is an attic. Filling the sanctuary, in Baghdadi synagogue fashion, are several freestanding stained-­teakwood benches and chairs with woven-­cane seating, as well as various-­styled hung lighting fixtures and ceiling fans. Running along the longitudinal (north and side) and front (east) sides of the sanctuary is a narrow women’s gallery. The gallery is lined with arched openings with windows and a railing made up of shaped and painted-­ wood balusters. Beginning in late 2013 and continuing into 2014, Neveh Shalome Synagogue, today open yet not regularly functioning, was restored by the Kolkata Jewish community and their supporters. In need of repair and rejuvenation for years, the rust-­coloured painted brick and buff painted chunam building was carefully brought back to form.

Conclusions From the late 1800s through to the first third of the twentieth century, India’s Baghdadi Jewish community was at its prime. Neveth Shalome along with Maghen David, Beth El and the smaller Magen Aboth (dating to 1897, now demolished) and Shaare Rason (1933, now closed) in Kolkata together with Ohel David in Pune and Keneseth Eliyahoo and Magen David in Mumbai accommodated the sizeable community. While all were Baghdadi synagogues, each congregation had its own distinct composition, identity and sense of community. As a result of social and political changes in India beginning in the 1950s, most Baghdadi Jews opted to emigrate. Today the community’s population in India is estimated to number only just over 100 people. Even so, most of their synagogues remain open, largely for visitors. In recent years, four of the six Baghdadi synagogues have been carefully restored, and others may soon follow. The result is that the physical synagogues are in a far more stable if not sprightly state than the very small, primarily elderly, congregations they currently serve. Attractive Baghdadi synagogues with their lavish details, elaborate and costly materials, and extravagant designs have been built over the years in India. While they should not, by themselves, be perceived as the only representatives of the

56   Jay A. Waronker Indian synagogue as a building genre, we have shown in this chapter that the large, impressive and well-­built Baghdadi synagogues dating from the mid-­ nineteenth through to the early twentieth centuries, have made fundamental and lasting contributions to Jewish as well as architectural history, and they have enriched, expanded and helped define both Indian and Jewish culture and traditions.

Notes 1 Another Baghdadi synagogue, Musmeah Yeshua, dating to 1896, can be found on 26th Street in central Yangon, Myanmar. 2 With the decline in membership, the synagogues were needed less as venues for such things as B’nei Mitzvah, weddings, educational programmes, social events and funerals. 3 Exodus 25: 10–22. 4 Other examples include the seating separation of the genders in the prayer space per Orthodox Jewish convention and the raised bimah/tebah and hekhal. 5 Yet during this period, some progressive structures came to be realized, many ahead of their times. The cast iron structures of designers that include Joseph Paxton, Henri Labrouste, Gustave Eiffel and John and Augustus Roebling are examples. 6 In contrast, American and European Jews built synagogues in Moorish or Islamic styles since they were distinct from local Christian architectural traditions. 7 This property wall was increased in height and upgraded in the early 1990s as a consequence of the Gulf War of 1991. It was then that the synagogue was threatened by some extreme Islamic groups expressing anti-­Jewish sentiment. 8 According to, one rupee in 1857 is worth 29 US dollars today. According to, $29 in 1857 would be worth $828 in 2019 (www.davemanuel. com/inflation-­calculator.php). Therefore 50,000 rupees in 1857 would be worth $41,450,000 in 2019. 9 The Society for Heritage Conservation and Preservation of New Delhi also worked on this restoration.

Reference Sapir, Shaul, 2014, Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage, Bene Israel Heritage Museum and Genealogical and Research Centre, Israel.

4 Music traditions in the Baghdadi Jewish communities of Bombay and Poona Continuity, new horizons Sara Manasseh The Baghdadi Jewish communities of Bombay and Poona in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: an overview The Baghdadi1 Jewish community in India comprised Arabic-­speaking Jews, the majority from cities in today’s Iraq ‒ Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, ‘Amara ‒ and also from Syria and Aden (Yemen). Later, they were joined by Persian-­speaking Jews including those from Bukhara, Meshhed and Afghanistan. It also included a small number of Jews from Cochin living in Bombay and Poona. The community was variously known as “Mesopotamian”, “Iraqi” (following 1917), “Baghdadian”, “Baghdadi” or “Babylonian” as they all followed the Baghdad (or Babylonian) religious rite, the minhâgh bâbli (Babylonian custom).2 It also included a small number of Jews from Cochin living in Bombay and Poona. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, strong communal ties existed between families and individuals in the cosmopolitan port city of Bombay, the Gateway to India, and its sister city, Poona, the “Queen of the Deccan” or “monsoon capital”, situated on the Deccan plateau beyond the Western Ghats, some 100 miles south-­east of Bombay. Poona, with its cooler and dryer climate, remains an attractive base for many in the height of Bombay’s humid heat and monsoons, from approximately April to October. The following two sections – Bombay, Poona – briefly survey the historical dimension of the Baghdadi community, with the arrival of Arabic-­speaking Jews in Surat (India) during the eighteenth century, followed by the move to Bombay from the end of the century, augmented by growing numbers of settlers from the middle east, later from Central Asia, and the emergence of the community in Poona. The musical dimension is the focus of the chapter, with a consideration of continuity of traditions and the embracing of new genres of music. The section, Continuity of Music Traditions: Religious, Life Cycle and Secular Perspectives, presents evidence as to the centrality of, and adherence to, the Babylonian religious custom. The tenacity of the oral tradition is evidenced in the maintenance of chants and melodies in synagogue services and at home, in the continuation of musical practice related to life-­cycle events, in both men’s and women’s traditions – respectively the abu shbaḥoth; daqqâqa and ‘addâda – with material sung in Hebrew and Judeo Arabic, and in secular contexts, which

58   Sara Manasseh continued to enjoy the instrumental châlghi ensemble and the many songs from Iraq and Egypt in Arabic. As the community overwhelmingly comprised settlers who hailed from cities in today’s Iraq, performance practice in this section relates to the continuation of traditions familiar in Iraq at the time. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to present the differences between the discrete groups comprising the Baghdadi community. At the synagogue, for example, the ḥazzânîm (cantors, prayer leaders) were overwhelmingly from Baghdad or versed in the Baghdad traditions, consequently all who attended the services, whether from Iraq, Aden, Central Asia or Cochin, participated in this experience. Family gatherings at home would have evidenced greater variation in musical practice between the different groups, and even between families from a similar background. The section, New Horizons in Music Traditions: Recordings, Synagogue Choirs, Youth Organizations, Euro-­American Popular Song and Professional Musicians, presents the many new musical dimensions embraced by the Iraqi Jewish community in Bombay, from around the 1920s–1930s. Defining features included a wider spectrum of social contexts, where members of the general Baghdadi community participated together, in some cases together with members of the Bene Israel Jewish community. In many cases the key organizers, performers and participants were second or third generation, those who were born in India or, in some cases Hong Kong or Shanghai, and whose parents or grandparents were originally from Baghdad or cities in today’s Iraq. Moreover, the influence of the British Raj and of Indian film is seen to become part of the  soundworld of the Baghdadi community in Bombay. Contexts include the recording of Jewish song on 78 rpm record labels, the creation of Synagogue choirs, the establishment of the youth organization, Habonim, based on the South African and British models, the strong influence of Euro-­American popular song and dance, including jazz, enjoyed on gramophones, at cinemas, concerts and at dance evenings, and concerts of western classical music given by visiting artists, such as notable pianists and choirs. Members of the community themselves had lessons on western instruments, some going on to compose and perform in orchestras and bands. The final section, Concluding Remarks, summarizes the musical life of the Baghdadi Jewish community during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, bringing the reader into the twenty-­first century, with a brief account of the Baghdadi Jewish community and its growing link with the Bene Israel Jewish community in Bombay and Poona today. The following two sections survey the general background of the community in Bombay and Poona.

Bombay The earliest Arabic-­speaking Jewish settler in Bombay, India was Joseph Ṣémaḥ, who arrived in 1730, from the port city of Surat (Roland 1989:16, Isaacs 1994:38). Yet, it was mainly from the late eighteenth century onwards that

Music traditions in Bombay and Poona   59 Bombay became home to an increasing number of Arabic-­speaking Jewish settlers, augmenting the city’s Jewish presence, already home to a growing Bene Israel Jewish community. Arriving by boat either from the earlier settlement of “Arabian” Jews in Surat, some 160 miles north of Bombay, or from west Asian ports, Bombay became a refuge and haven for those fleeing persecution in Ottoman lands, as well as for those seeking a secure livelihood and business opportunities.3 In 1832, David Sassoon (1792–1864), originally from Baghdad, arrived in Bombay from Bushire. In 1829, in fear of his life, he had fled from Daud Pasha, the Ottoman wali (Governor) of Baghdad, escaping on a boat from Basra to Bushire on the Persian Gulf. David Sassoon’s philanthropy, both for his co-­religionists and for all citizens of Bombay and Poona, is well documented (e.g. Weil 2014). Of David Sassoon, his grandson, namesake and bibliophile, David Solomon Sassoon (1880–1942), writes: “with his growing influence he endeavoured to improve the spiritual and religious life of the community” (Sassoon 1949:207). In 1857, David Sassoon (the elder) purchased land for the Magén David (Magén David: Shield of David) Synagogue in Byculla, where most of the community then lived. The synagogue was completed in 1861. David Sassoon also established a free Jewish school in Byculla called The David Sassoon Benevolent Institution, where in addition to lessons, pupils were taught to sing God Save the Queen in Hebrew, English and Arabic (Jackson 1968:35). He also made generous contributions to the David Sassoon Industrial and Reformatory Institution (1857), the David Sassoon Reading Room and Library (completed 1870) and the Victoria and Albert Museum (completed 1872). His grandson Jacob Sassoon built the Keneseth Eliyahoo (Gathering of Elijah) Synagogue in the Fort area, in 1884, in memory of his own father, Eliyahoo (Elias) Sassoon, to serve the many families now living there. From the mid-­ nineteenth century, the Baghdadi community in Bombay was joined by Persian-­ speaking Jews from Meshhed, and later from Bukhara and Afghanistan (Fischel 1972:143–144, R. Manasseh 2013:40). The thriving city of Bombay had been managed by the English East India Company as an agency for the British Government in India, Bombay having become the Company’s headquarters for India in 1674 (Farrington 2002:64). Following the Indian Mutiny (or Sepoy Mutiny) of 1857, the East India Company lost its charter completely, and India reverted to British rule (Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica 2016). Bombay remained a British dominion until Indian independence (1948), as did Poona and all of British India. Through these changing times, Jewish settlers from western Asia continued to arrive in Bombay and Poona, a number of them in the wake of the Farhûd, the pogrom against the Jewish population in Baghdad in 1941, following the military coup of Rashid ‘Ali al-­Gaylani.4 In the twentieth century, the Persian-­speaking community had increased by an influx of Afghan Jewish refugees during the Second World War, as evidenced by their presence in the Magen David Synagogue compound in Byculla, Bombay (R. Manasseh 2013:168–169). At that time, the Jewish population in Bombay and Poona, as in Calcutta, swelled further with refugees fleeing the Holocaust in Europe.

60   Sara Manasseh

Poona During the nineteenth century, Poona was established as an important British military base, and the summer capital of the British Governor of Bombay. In time, the city gradually emerged as a centre for Jewish life, though far smaller in numbers in comparison to Bombay. According to Isenberg, the Poona Jewish population peaked at about 1,200 c.1949, and H. Reissner in a census noted 621 Bene Israel and 184 Baghdadis in Poona in 1945 (Isenberg 1988:182; 190–191, fn. 7 citing Reissner 1950:357). Bene Israel had settled in Poona from 1856 or earlier and Bene Israel soldiers came to Poona with the British military later settling as army pensioners (Isenberg 1988:178). David Sassoon had a summer residence in Poona where he made generous endowments, including endowments to the David Sassoon Infirm Asylum and to the Sassoon General Hospital in 1861, open to all, irrespective of religious, caste or social affiliation, with the latest western equipment (Roth 1941:65–66, Roland 1989:17, R. Manasseh 2013:54). David Sassoon built a synagogue called the Ohel David Synagogue, known locally as Lâl Déwal (Red Temple: Hindi, Marâṭhi), completed in 1867, remaining a Poona landmark even today. Writing in 1874, W.F. Sinclair noted there were some 200 Bene Israel Jews living in Poona, but only “two or three families of Mesopotamian Jews, connected in one way or another with the Sassoon family” (Sinclair 1874:338, quoted in Isenberg 1988:179). Abraham David Ezekiel, a relative of the Sassoons, established a Hebrew printing press, his first publication (1887) being a Judeo-­Arabic translation of the Kabbalistic Idra Zuta (The Lesser Holy Assembly), which, as Sassoon writes, caused “much opposition and strife …” (Sassoon 1949:216).5 Earlier, the first Hebrew printing press in Poona had been set up by Ezekiel Samuel Talkar, a Bene Israel, who published six Hebrew titles between 1870 and 1871 (Isenberg 1988:92). The Baghdadi Jewish population increased in Poona during the twentieth century, a close-­knit, lively community, centred in the cantonment area and in the vicinity of the Sassoon synagogue (R. Manasseh 2013:140–142).

Continuity of music traditions: religious, life cycle and secular perspectives Perhaps the most important item brought by Jewish settlers to Bombay (and Calcutta) and subsequently to Poona, was their love of and adherence to religious practice, the Babylonian (or Baghdadi) Jewish rite observed by Jews from western Asia – including Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bukhara, Meshhed (Iran) and Afghanistan. Though some customs, such as Hebrew pronunciation, intonation of prayer and melody may have differed to an extent among the different communities, the prayer services followed the Babylonian religious tradition (Sassoon 1949:176–180). Settlers from these lands attended the Sassoon synagogues in Bombay and Poona, and were all part of the Baghdadi Jewish community. In addition to their devotion to Jewish practice, the settlers brought other important aspects of their lives – language, food, dress, music – to India. All

Music traditions in Bombay and Poona   61 these aspects would be subject to differing degrees of adherence and change, in their encounters with a new land and people. The religious life of the community centred around the synagogue and home. The singing of shbaḥoth (paraliturgical hymns; lit. “praises”) at home and synagogue, for Sabbaths, festivals and life-­cycle events, has remained an unbroken thread through generations.6 Writing of the Baghdad Jews in Bombay, Sassoon (1949:208–209) refers to “the Sefer ha-­Pizmonim, a book of songs providing more than 250 songs and hymns without which a Baghdad Jew could not celebrate his festivals or enjoy his festivities”. The songs have been handed down in written and oral traditions: song texts, many by medieval Andalusian Jewish poets, have been known through centuries, in manuscript, lithographed copies or publications.7 The melodies have been handed down orally, and only in the past century have they been available in recorded form. The tenacity of the oral tradition is remarkable, and while we do not know the melodies sung to texts composed centuries ago, there is evidence that melodies and texts sung over a century ago continue to be sung today. The musicologist, composer and cantor, Abraham Zvi Idelsohn, published the notation for six shbaḥoth as sung by Flora Sassoon (1856–1936) in the early twentieth century, after she had moved from Bombay to London (Idelsohn 1923:23, 140). These hymns include Sîméni rosh ‘al kol oyba-­y (Place me above my enemies) for Pûrîm (Feast of Lots), Kî eshmérâh shabbâth (Because I observe the Sabbath), the text by Abraham Ibn Ezra

Figure 4.1 Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles) celebrated by Mozelle and Yahya Hemi and family in the sukkâh (tabernacle) erected in their bungalow garden, Bombay, 1953 (courtesy Joseph Hemi).

62   Sara Manasseh (c.1089–1164), Déror yiqra (Proclaim freedom), the text by Dunash Ibn Labraṭ (c.920–c.990), sung on the Sabbath and shown with the Pésaḥ (Passover) melody and Nakhon libbo (His heart is true) sung on Passover (Idelsohn 1923:140, nos.  190–193, respectively). All of these songs continue to be sung today in the Baghdadi Jewish diaspora,8 though of some 350 song texts published in the widely used Mansour book (1953–1954/5714), perhaps only 100 are known and sung today (S. Manasseh 2012:5, 225). A perennial favourite for the Sukkoth (Tabernacles) festival is Sukkâh wélûlâb (Tabernacle and branch), sung at home, at synagogue and in the sukkâh (‘booth’: a temporary dwelling space for the festival).9 Synagogues in Bombay and Poona erect a sukkâh for the use of the congregation, though at least one family in Bombay, the Hemi family, was fortunate to have a sukkâh which they built on the lawn of their own home (pers. comm. Joseph Hemi 7 December 2016).10 Biblical cantillation (Qériath hatorâh: lit. “reading” from the bible) is perhaps the most tenacious of oral traditions. Baghdadi melodies for cantillation from the Torâh (Bible), for hymns and chants, together with the Baghdadi Jewish pronunciation of Hebrew, were all strongly maintained at prayer services at the three Sassoon synagogues in Bombay and Poona. In the Torâh, the Hebrew text is pointed with Masoretic accents or symbols (ṭa‘amîm: lit. “tastes”, “flavours”), serving to punctuate the phrases and sentences, and to indicate the melodic shape for each word. While the text is written, the “reading” or chanting is orally transmitted. This has been standard practice in all Jewish traditions, though the realization of the melodic shape of the symbols differs to an extent. In Bombay and Poona, children were often taught Hebrew by their grandparents, parents or a Hebrew teacher, by learning to read the prayers and biblical portions, including chanting according to the ṭa‘amîm. Ḥazzânîm (cantors, s. hazzân) read (chanted) the biblical portions from Torâh scrolls fluently often at great speed, keeping the congregation alert in following the reading, particularly, as in all Jewish practice, inaccuracy in the cantillation is not allowed and has to be corrected immediately. Vowel signs and ṭa‘amîm are present in a printed Hebrew bible to aid the reader. However, the ḥazzân or lay reader chanting from a Torâh scroll at synagogue must be especially skilled, as neither vowels, ṭa‘amîm nor punctuation marks are present in the handwritten scroll. A long line of Baghdadi ḥazzânîm served at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue (Fort, Bombay): Ḥâkhâm Nissim Zakri (1884–1909), Rev. Silas I. Silas (1910–1949),11 Ḥazzân Murad E. Murad (c.1949–1963), Isaac Barukh, who served first as shammâsh (beadle) from c.1940, and later as ḥazzân (c.1963–1974),12 followed by Menaḥem David Dangoor, until his emigration to Israel (1987).13 At the Magen David Synagogue (Byculla, Bombay), the first two ḥazzanîm were from Cochin, Rabbi Mayar Solomon Gindill (c.1861–c.1882 or later) and Rev. Solomon Aaron Gindill until c.1916,14 followed by Ḥâkhâm Yosef Eliezer (1916–1949) and Ḥazzân Zaki I. Solomon (aka Zaky Solomon Isaac, c.1954–1964), both born in Baghdad. In Poona, ḥazzanîm from Iraq, Mordecai Shalom b. Ezra (1916–1919)15 and Murad E. Murad (1920–1943),16 were followed later by Ḥazzân Ezekiel Abraham, a member of the Sassoon family, during the 1970s and 1980s (pers. comm. Karen

Music traditions in Bombay and Poona   63

Figure 4.2 Family of Ḥazzân (Cantor) Mordecai Shalom b. Ezra (d. 1919). Widow Amam; sons, Solomon (L) and Abraham (R), standing on either side of Amam with their wives, Sophie and Hilda (with child in lap); Rifka, eldest daughter (seated far L) with children, visiting from Bombay; Mozelle, youngest daughter (seated, far R); Ezra, the youngest son (standing, far R, holding Solomon and Sophie’s son). Poona, 1932 (courtesy Kitty (Mordecai) Beckwith).

Cohen, 21 June 2017). Lay readers also led prayer services, among them, Daniel Daniel and his son Ezra Daniel (pers. comm. Rochelle (Daniel) Iny, 30 September 2007, daughter of Ezra Daniel) and Shalom Cohen (also known as Shlomo ḥazzân), from Cochin, who lived in Poona with his family (pers. comm. Sassoon Daniel, 19 June 2017). Each ḥazzân or reader left his individual stamp on the community, and many are remembered for their fine, melodious and inspiring voices. The rendition of hymns and prayer chants was direct and straightforward, perhaps representing the maintenance of an older Baghdadi style, compared to the more ornamental and melismatic style of later immigrants from Baghdad, during the 1930s and 1940s. The community included ḥâkhâmîm (lit. “wise men”), scholars of Jewish law and skilled in Torah reading. Ḥâkhâmîm, ḥazzânîm and expert lay persons also acted as teachers for the community, both by example in their public renditions at synagogue, and in family homes, where they taught the children to read Hebrew. Ḥâkhâm Abraham Moses Ṭaḥan (c.1859–1939) (pictured in R. Manasseh 2013:148), a pupil of Ḥâkhâm Abdullah Somekh,17 was brought from Baghdad to Bombay, c.1889, to teach the children of the Judah family and their

64   Sara Manasseh relatives.18 Ḥâkhâm Ṭaḥan was also skilled as a sofér (scribe) and while in Bombay, completed a Méghillâh – the Book of Esther, handwritten on parchment, and rolled into a scroll. It is chanted on the Pûrîm festival. Noteworthy is the layout, with the first word of sections two to five arranged as an acrostic of the scribe’s name (Abraham) in Hebrew (pers. comm. Margery (Moses) Cohen, 27 March 2016).19 A seminal figure in Bombay was Mnashshi Mijbura (1888–1968), who came from ‘Amara with his family, around the turn of the twentieth century, settling in Nagpada (Byculla) (pers. comm. Simon Menashy, 2 August 2007, son of Mnashshi Mijbura).20 Mijbura continued Hebrew lessons with Rabbi Saeed Nathan b. Awadh, who had been invited by Sir Jacob Sassoon to come from Aden as religious adviser in Bombay (pers. comm. Saeed Nathan, 29 October 2009, grandson of Rabbi Awadh).21 Mijbura, later known also as Abu Moshi, was a skilled Hebrew teacher, a singer at life-­cycle events, and knowledgeable in Torah, Mishnah and Zohar. He taught the reading of prayers, biblical cantillation, including the Book of Psalms, both in Hebrew and shaṛḥ (Judeo-­Arabic translation), all of which he knew entirely from memory. His son, Simon Menashy, who used to accompany Mijbura, for some 20 years, on visits to homes, remarked: His first love was for the Torah, and music. These are the two things he loved the most. He never cared about how poor he was, as long as he studied the Torah, he was quite rich at heart, you see. So whatever happens – [even] if we are starving, don’t ever desert the Torah – torâthî al-­ta‘azobu [do not abandon my Torah – my teaching. Proverbs 4:2] … he knew everything.… He said [when teaching] – shûf el-­juwwâha bîha daghésh [notice the dot in the letter] … the ḥîrak … shéwa … ga‘ya [names of vowel signs] … everything. (Pers. comm. Simon Menashy, 13 October 2002) Mijbura additionally continued the Abu shbaḥoth (Judeo-­Arabic: “Father” or “expert” of praises) tradition; he was an expert in singing shbaḥoth and improvising songs in Judeo-­Arabic for life-­cycle events, accompanying himself on dumbuk (goblet-­shaped drum).22 He performed at ceremonies – the ‘Aqd el-­yâs (Judeo-­Arabic: lit. “binding of the myrtle”) on the night prior to a male baby’s circumcision ceremony and Mîlâh (circumcision), singing the traditional Hebrew shbaḥoth, El éliyyâhu (Lord of Elijah) and Yéhi shâlom béḥélénu (May there be peace in our midst). He also entertained at the pre-­wedding henna ceremony – known both as Khað̣ba (dyeing with henna) and Ḥinni (henna), when the hands of the bride- and groom to-­be were stained with henna dye.23 The occasion, with its often witty Judeo-­Arabic repertoire, includes the most famous ‘Afâki ‘afâki (Bravo to you!) sung caustically, as though by the groom’s mother to her rival, the bride’s mother. Mijbura also sang wedding songs in Judeo-­Arabic and Hebrew – respectively, Ḥilu ḥilu lissofér (How sweet the scribe) traditionally sung on pilgrimage in Iraq to the tomb of Ezra the Scribe, in ‘Uzayr, and Eméth

Music traditions in Bombay and Poona   65 attâh ḥathânénû (You are our true bridegroom). My mother, Rachel Manasseh, recalled Mîlâh ceremonies at their home, when her mother, Georgette Ani, would ask Mijbura to stand by the Eliyyâhû hannâbi (Elijah the prophet) chair, and would point out and describe those present. Mijbura would immediately compose verses in Judeo-­Arabic, in praise of the person.24 Mijbura‘s son, Simon Menashy, also remembered accompanying his father, who was invited to entertain with Arabic songs and improvisations at social events, such as gatherings of middle eastern Jewish merchants and friends at the home of my grandparents, Reuben and Georgette Ani (pers. comm. Simon Menashy, 13 October 2002). The women’s daqqâqa tradition in Baghdad and Basra also continued in Bombay.25 Always present at a Ḥinni ceremony, the daqqâqa was a woman who played (daqq: lit. “hit”) the neqqâra (pair of small timpani) and sang. She was often accompanied by a ṛeddâda (small women’s chorus), one of whom also played daff (tambourine). Perhaps the most famous daqqâqa in 1920s Baghdad was Mas‘uda al-­Bambayli (also al-­Bambayliyyi; “Mas‘uda, the Bombayite”), the sister of Mnashshi Mijbura (above).26 In Bombay, their niece Gurjiyyi, daughter of their sister Tiffaḥa, took on the role of daqqâqa, playing the neqqâra and singing Judeo-­Arabic songs, especially at henna ceremonies. Accompanied by her uncle, Mijbura, on dumbuk, and by an older woman from Baghdad, on tambourine (pers. comm. Simon Menashy, 13 October 2002), Gurjiyyi was present at every wedding and Ḥinni in Byculla (pers. comm. Menahem David Dangoor, 18 March 1999). On occasion, she also filled the role of ‘addâda (professional female mourner) at bereavements.27 The henna ceremony was also celebrated in Poona. Violet (Daniel) Cohen recalls the Khað̣ba celebration before her wedding (1956): “We had a lady from Bombay who sat before us on the floor with her two drums and singing all the songs … those were the days!” (pers. comm. 6 June 2017). Gurjiyyi daqqâqa made ‘Aliyah (“immigration” – Hebrew) c.  mid-­1950s, after which these traditions no longer continued in Bombay and Poona. The châlghi (instrumental) group, a valued and cherished feature of Baghdadi musical life, continued to be enjoyed in Bombay, c.1920s–1940s.28 A key player at social gatherings, both for secular and life-­cycle events was Sliman Muṣeri (c.1870–1950), a violinist and ‘oud player, originally from Egypt. He settled and married in Baghdad, emigrating to Bombay with his family in 1924. His châlghi group in Bombay included four or five instrumentalists and three women dancers, with lit candelabras on their heads. They performed at private parties, and toured within India and also on occasion in Singapore.29 Not to be confused with the famous Egyptian composer and ‘oud player, ‘Abd al-­Wahhâb, Bombay had its own ‘Abdul Wahhâb, an Egyptian ‘oud player, who, though not Jewish, was well known in the Iraqi Jewish community. He had his own châlghi, and had even learnt Hebrew songs – such as Yéhi shâlom béḥélénu for the birth of a boy – from Mnashshi Mijbura (above). Jewish musicians in Bombay played in ‘Abdul Wahhâb’s châlghi: Silman abu-­l-Kamanja (aka Silmân Kamâna) (violin), Siyyon Tarkâriwala (dumbuk), ‘Aziz Dumbukchi (tambourine), and also Eliyahu (Elijah) Menashy (‘oud) from Calcutta.30 Ya‘qub Mas‘uda, son of the daqqâqa

66   Sara Manasseh Mas‘uda al-­Bambayli, came to Bombay from Baghdad after she died. He too is remembered for singing with the châlghi.31 My mother, Rachel (Ani) Manasseh, remembered a châlghi and dancer at her parents’ spacious home for a henna evening during the 1930s: “[T]hey brought the châlghi there, and the dancer … she had this glass … with a flame on her head, and she’s dancing … and all the men are getting so excited and throwing notes at her.…”32 Families from Bombay visiting relatives in Poona, would on occasion take châlghi musicians with them to celebrate births and weddings – at the Aqd el-­yâs or Khað̣ba ceremonies. Emma Mordecai remembers the fun and excitement of staying up late at night at her sister’s henna evening in 1950s Poona, with the Moses David family and châlghi visiting from Bombay (pers. comm. 8 June 2017). The châlghi repertoire in India included such Iraqi favourites in Arabic, as Balîni-b-­balwa (He’s a plague on me!), Ṭâl‘a min bét abûha (While leaving her father’s house) and Jewish song – Hebrew and Judeo-­Arabic shbaḥoth for life-­cycle events. The Egyptian songs of Umm Kulthoum were indispensable – “No Umm Kulthoum – no Arabic!” (pers. comm. Menahem David Dangoor, 18 March 1999). Most of the performers were from Byculla (Bombay), but also performed for their co-­religionists’ delight in the Fort and Colaba, and on occasion in Poona. Hand clapping and ululations (calls of kîlîlîlî) from women present added to the excitement and enjoyment. Jacob Baḥer, a connoisseur of middle eastern music (both Arab and Jewish) and superlative singer, came to Bombay as a young man from Baghdad in 1935 (pers. comm. from his daughter, Edwina Baher, 21 June 2017). He remembered the influx of Jews from Baghdad during the 1940s and the excitement of a visiting châlghi group: … these people came from Baghdad and … [it became] lively – the clubs, the parties started, singing all together – one night we were singing and the telephone rang – [it was Yoseph Sassoon] Zibli33 – he caught hold of châlghi people from Baḥrain, in his house – so we all went there – sat on the carpet … and what a night! (pers. comm. Jacob Baḥer, 21 July 1985) Contemporary songs and recordings from Iraq and Egypt were also enjoyed. The satirical songs of the monologist ‘Aziz ‘Ali (1911–1995) from Baghdad were known in India. My uncle, Edward Ani, often sang Allâh yijâzi-n-­niswân (G-­d punishes women!), complete with instrumental interludes, as heard from recent immigrants to Bombay.34 In Poona, too, Arab music was very popular among the Iraqi Jewish community; Victor Mordecai recalls his parents listening to radio broadcasts from Cairo (pers. comm. 4 April 2017) – a further link with Iraq (and Arab countries in general), where the Umm Kulthoum broadcast on Radio Cairo, from 10 pm to 2 am, on the first Thursday of each month was essential listening. Umm Kulthoum’s inaugural broadcast was in 1934 and Egyptian music was highly regarded in all Arab countries.35 Recordings from Iraq continued to be enjoyed among the community in India, both of Arabic and Jewish song. The enduring Iraqi Arabic songs of the most popular singers, Salima Pasha (later

Music traditions in Bombay and Poona   67 Murad) (1900–1974) and Nað ̣am al-­Ghazali (1921–1963), were well-­known, particularly among arrivals from Iraq in the 1930s and 1940s.36 In the late 1920s, in addition to Arabic song, recordings of Jewish song – shbaḥoth for festivals and the life-­cycle – were made on 78 rpms in Baghdad, by HMV, Polyphon, Odeon and other companies, recording such renowned experts as Ḥazzân Shlomo Mu‘allim, singer-­composer Selim Daoud and the Abu shbaḥoth, Ḥagguli Shummel Darzi, accompanied by châlghi ensembles.37 These recordings were also prized and collected in India, among the Iraqi Jewish community – at least one Polyphon label on a 78 rpm disc survives, rubber stamped “Abid David Byculla Bombay”.38 Abid David’s own recording activities in Bombay continue below.

New horizons in music traditions: recordings, synagogue choirs, youth organizations, Euro-­American popular song and professional musicians Trends that characterized new directions in music in the Bombay–Poona–Baghdadi community were an offshoot of the encounter with new peoples, particularly Indian and British. This included the adoption of new languages, Hindustani and English (both in speech and song), the lure of Indian and western film and its music, and the establishment of synagogue choirs and of the youth organization, Habonim. Additionally, this encounter opened up the opportunity to study western or Indian classical music and dance, or to attend concerts including those of the many visiting European and American artists of classical, jazz and popular music genres. While recordings of Jewish music in Baghdad were made by visiting western recording companies, the continuing tradition in Bombay took a new direction, with recordings made by Baghdad emigrés themselves. In 1937, recordings on the Hebrew Record label were made in Bombay, through the entrepreneurship of Abid David.39 David was bought out of the Turkish Army by his sister, and accompanied her from Baghdad to Bombay. He later moved to Poona with his wife and young family. His livelihood there was selling kosher meat at his shop in the Nanapet area, earning him the nickname, “Abid Goshwala” (Hindustani: “Abid, the meat man”).40 His enduring contacts with the Baghdadi-­Bombay Jewish community provided the personnel for the 1937 recordings of Sabbath, High Holyday and festival songs, featuring Abid David’s father-­in-law, Ḥakham Yosef Eliezer, ḥazzân at the Magen David Synagogue, Byculla, on shofâr and chorus; violinist, ‘oud player and châlghi director, Sliman Muṣeri; Muṣeri’s 17-year-­old son, Zaki Isaac Solomon, leader of the Byculla synagogue choir (and later ḥazzân), as main lead singer, and also on shofâr, and mandolin expert in the Indian film industry and multi-­instrumentalist, Isaac Jacob David (Dandekar), most likely playing qânûn (zither); Abid David sang on two of the tracks, on choruses and organized the recordings.41 The performances by the singers and instrumentalists are enlivened by rhythmic chorus backing, ululations, handclaps, percussion, by exhortations sung by Zaki I. Solomon in Hindustani and

68   Sara Manasseh English – including, for example, Bhâi-lok! (brothers!) and Gentlemén!, on the song Yom simḥâh (Day of rejoicing) for Simḥath Torâh (Festival of Rejoicing) – and by Abid David’s Sabbath greeting, Shabbâth shâlom! and congratulatory, Shâbâsh Zakki! (Hindustani: Well done, Zaki!) at the end of Zaki’s joyful Yom hashabbâth (The Sabbath day). A further series of 78 rpms released in Bombay on King Records (1940) featured the Bene Israel repertoire, sung by Simeon Kharilker, accompanied by four instrumentalists.42 Together, they represented the Bene Israel, Persian and Baghdadi Jewish communities in Bombay: Kharilker (leader and vocalist), a Hebrew teacher, member of the Tiphereth Israel Synagogue and guest High Holyday ḥazzân at Ahmedebad and Jabalpur synagogues,43 and the violinist, Israel, both of whom were from the Bene Israel community; Faizullah (Ḥanukkah) Taghioff, originally from Samarkand, a leading mandolin player in Hindi film, and a member of the Persian Jewish community; Elijah (Eliyyahu) Menashy, on ‘oud, was of Iraqi Jewish parentage, and had moved from Calcutta to Bombay, and played with ‘Abdul Wahhâb’s châlghi (above); and Mordecai on dumbuk (drum). The interrelationship of the Bene Israel with the Baghdadi and Persian communities in Bombay may be considered unusual, but was not unknown. An innovation in the Bombay-­Baghdad Jewish tradition, particularly at the Magen David Synagogue (Byculla), was their establishment of a regular synagogue choir. The choir of some 30 boys in gowns and mortar boards, was organized on a formal basis in 1934 by Jack Moses, himself a violinist. The choir sang regularly at Sabbath and marriage services at the Magen David Synagogue. The leader of the choir was Zaki I. Solomon, later a lead singer on the Hebrew Record tracks and ḥazzân at the synagogue. Successive choirs continued until approximately the late 1950s, when Solomon I. Solomon (son of Ḥazzân Z.I. Solomon) sang as leader of the choir, whose members represented the Iraqi, Bene Israel and Cochin Jewish communities.44 At the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Fort Bombay, the Habonim choir,45 conducted by George Sopher, made its debut c.  September 1948 (Nightingale 1949:15), singing from the Ladies Gallery at weddings (pers. comm. Helen Manasseh, 8 June 2017), and at other events. Its repertoire included Bâ-âh hakallâh (Here comes the bride), Sopher’s three-­part choral arrangement of Wagner’s Bridal Chorus from the opera Lohengrin (1850), with Sopher’s own poetic and sensitively composed Hebrew text.46 Bâ-âh hakallâh remained a firm favourite, and continued to be sung at weddings many years after George Sopher’s emigration to Israel with his wife, Rachel and young daughter, Shoshana, in 1950.47 Following George Sopher’s departure, Commander Jack Japheth, himself a Habonim stalwart, conducted the choir, which performed mainly at weddings, including his own, and at other events. The hymn, Mizmor lédâvid (Psalm of David), was sung at weddings, while the groom awaited his bride, with Bâ-âh hakallâh sung upon her entrance, and the joyous Halélûyâh to end the service.48 During Commander Jack Japheth’s travels as a naval officer, the choir was conducted by Rachel Japheth, and

Figure 4.3 Wedding portrait of George Sopher and Rachel Ani, Bombay, July 1948 (courtesy Manasseh Family Collection).

70   Sara Manasseh following their departure, continued under Estelle Cohen, and then, Joan Gahtan (all choir members). In Poona too, Habonim was the impetus for a choir that sang at the Ohel David synagogue, c.1948–1950. Violet Daniel (later Cohen), was appointed Shîrîm Madrîkha (Song leader) at Habonim, and trained the Choir that sang weekly at the end of the Shabbâth morning service, with the hymn Eyn kélohénu (None like our Lord). They also performed at weddings, with Bâ-âh hakallâh (pers. comm. Violet (Daniel) Cohen, 6 June 2017), and at a special performance,  when His Excellency, the Governor paid a visit to the Synagogue. Habonim voices rang during the short service.… All honour to Violet and Ruth for their persistent efforts in training the Choir.… The Choir is now preparing for the first Investiture of Madrichim in Poona.… (Fifi 1949) The establishment of the youth organization, Habonim (Hebrew: The Builders), in India was visionary. Based on South African and UK models, my father, Albert Manasseh, instituted and led the movement, as Manhig (Leader), in Bombay from 1935, in both the Fort and Byculla. He was assisted in starting the movement by his good friend, Solomon Ezra, Bakoach (Commissioner) of the Boys’ (Bonim) Division. Habonim in India was organized as a religious movement. In Bombay, Habonim attracted large numbers of Jewish youth, mainly

Figure 4.4 Habonim picnic, Bombay, 1962 (photograph credit: Mark Sopher; courtesy Manasseh Family Collection).

Music traditions in Bombay and Poona   71 from the Baghdadi community, but also some Bene Israel, and was a focal point in their lives for many years. Albert Manasseh extended Habonim in India to Calcutta (1938), Cochin (1946) and Poona (1948).49 In addition to imparting cultural and religious knowledge, Habonim introduced the youth to Modern Hebrew (Ivrît), which became familiar through terminology used, through lessons from the South African Habonim Handbook, with conversational Hebrew and numerous songs – pioneering songs from Palestine, later Israeli songs, and songs for festivals – sung with verve at the weekly Habonim meetings, picnics, socials and annual camps and for the many folk dances which also became part of a new and expanding sound. The journal Kol Habonim (Voice of Habonim) was published first in September 1938, edited at first by Rachel Ani (later Manasseh) who was also Bakoach (Commissioner) of the Girls’ (Bonoth) Division, and later, by her siblings, Violet Ani, followed by Henry Ani. Published until 1950, when many leading members had made ‘Aliyah, the journals convey a palpable sense of the fun, excitement, anticipation and strong sense of unity at the many organized events. Music, whether in song, dance or instrumental performance, was a constant and cohesive force. An evening at the Cowasji Jehangir Hall (November 1938), in aid of Habonim is described: Six o’clock, Theodore and his band played the opening number, one of the enjoyable pieces of music, composed by Mena Silas who also conducted them.50 … Two budding pianists played “Les Clochettes” for us.… The appreciation of Hazel David’s clear notes was evident.… The Hutson sisters delighted us with their songs and jokes.… And as for Allen David, he won all hearts, when he sang, “Home Sweet Home”. The concert was over.… It was a grand success. (M. Gourgey 1938) Habonim leaders caught the imagination and interest of the children, spurring them to further musical achievements. Soon, Habonim had its own band. At a Purim celebration (March 1939), at the Sir Jacob Sasoon School Hall (Byculla), the Habonim Band made its maiden appearance: The Manhig also paid a compliment to the budding set of musicians led by Menahel [Hebrew: Director] J. Moses, an accomplished violinist.… … in the space of a year such good results are manifest considering that almost all the players knew nothing of music before then. Credit for this success goes … to Mr. Moses, who took pains and is still working to see that the movement possesses an orchestra such as to be proud of.… The first strike of the Band playing HABONIM STRONG BUILDERS produced a thrilling effect on the merry makers who sang lustily to its strain. This was followed by popular Hebrew and English songs, two comical playets, games, and best of all, a Fancy Dress Parade.… (Ani 1939)

72   Sara Manasseh The Habonim Band became a regular feature. A gathering in July 1939 at the P.V.M. Gymkhana (Fort), saw: … the first public appearance of the recently-­formed Habonim Band under the leadership of Mr. J. Moses – the response to the Dance tunes especially the Lambeth Walk and Palais glide were so great as to leave no doubts of the Band’s future success.… In this connection must be mentioned the clever pianist Mr. Solo Jacobs.51 The Hatikvah [national anthem of the Jewish homeland, later Israel] rounded off a most enjoyable afternoon’s entertainment. (J. Gourgey 1939) From the early 1950s, with the exodus of many Habonim leaders and rank and file mainly to Israel, UK, USA, Canada or Australia, Habonim in Bombay centred in the Fort area and ceased in Poona. In Byculla, Bene Akiva became the focus for Jewish youth from the mid-­1950s. Each group continued with its cultural programme, and songs and folk dances remained a dominant feature. Jewish festivals and Habonim camps continued to provide an impetus for musical plays. Mark Sopher wrote outstanding pantomimes, which apart from entertainment value, are significant even retrospectively, for recording political events at the time – such as the Finance Minister, Morarji Desai’s 1963 ban on the production of gold jewellery above 14 carats, immortalized in a Purim pantomime at the Jewish Club, Bombay: (Tune: Sing a song of sixpence) Sing a song of gold control, no need to throw a fit All the merchants here are desperately hit We do feel sorry for them, it must be such a shame When their gold of fourteen-­carat plus Goes tumbling down the drain.… The youth groups imbued a strong sense of purpose and camaraderie. At Habonim reunions, more than half a century later, the same sense of cohesion and vitality prevails. During the Second World War and later, Jewish Armed Forces, some from the Palestine Jewish Brigade, participated in religious and social events.52 In Poona, following synagogue services for Shabbâth, Holy Days and festivals, they were often invited to homes in the community (pers. comms Kitty (Mordecai) Beckwith, 26 March 2017; Rochelle and Maurice Iny, April 2017; Emma Mordecai, 8 June 2017). In Bombay, the Jewish Hospitality Committee organized Holy Day and festival prayers for some 200–300 Jewish soldiers at the Sunderbai Hall (pers. comm. Helen Manasseh, 31 March 2017). Following the war, too, a Passover sédér service was organized for the Forces at the Jewish Club (1947). European and American music was a strong force in the life of twentieth-­ century Bombay and Poona. Such wartime song hits as Gracie Fields’ Wish me

Music traditions in Bombay and Poona   73 luck as you wave me goodbye, as well as other popular, jazz and classical music genres were enjoyed. This also included films, concerts from numerous visiting artists and, famously, the Binaca Hit Parade broadcast every Sunday morning from Radio Ceylon. Ballroom dancing was popular – the waltz, polka, foxtrot; Latin American rhythms for the samba, rhumba, conga; American rock’n’roll and twist. Bombay hosted concerts by world-­famous artists – pianists Artur Rubinstein and Shura Cherkassky, the Harvard Male Voice Choir and Vienna Boys Choir, the Dave Brubeck Jazz Quartet and Louis Armstrong All Stars – some of the many visiting musicians who delighted audiences in the 1950s and 1960s. From the 1940s, Indian film and its music were an attraction for many of the Jewish youth in India. Western melodies were often borrowed, and given a new treatment by Indian film composers. A few Hebrew songs, some from wartime Palestine, and also sung in Habonim, found their way into Indian film. The song Im hupalnu lo nivhalnu (If knocked down, we won’t panic), set to the hora rhythm and sung in Habonim, recorded the wartime disasters of the sinking of the two ships, Patria and Struma. The melody was used later as an impetus for the song, Andhé jahân ké andhé râsté (Blind world, blind streets), composed by the duo, Shankar-­Jaikishan in the film Patîta (1953). Yafa Yarkoni’s wartime hit Ḥabîbî (My friend), was taught in Bombay by the Maimon brothers, visiting from Palestine in the early 1940s; it was heard by the film composer O.P. Nayyar, from the singing of the Ma‘atuk family (pers. comm. Simon Menashy, 13 October 2002), and transformed into Jâta kahân hai dîwâné (Where are you going, love-­crazed one) for the film, CID (1956). Later, the melody for the Shavuot (Festival of Pentecost) song, Shibbolét basadéh (Ear of grain in the field), was the inspiration for Ek din bik jayéga (A day will come),53 composed by R.D. Burman, for the 1975 film Dharam karam (Do your duty). Though sounds of Indian film music pervaded the atmosphere from radios, loudspeakers or the cars driving along roads to hill stations, it was to a much lesser extent that classical Indian music and dance was patronized by the community, despite the very fine performances available. A number of youth had music lessons or were self-­taught, on piano, violin, Hawaiian guitar, Spanish guitar, mandolin, flute and drums. Teachers and parents were often strict about practice routines – my mother’s piano teacher had a number of pupils in the same area, and would walk past their homes on Colaba Causeway listening out for what they were practising (younger siblings keeping a watchful eye for the teacher’s approach!). Youngsters also went to ballet dance classes, and others to classical Indian dance, both a world away from the middle­eastern dancers with candelabras in Muṣeri’s châlghi. Musicians from the community also made their mark professionally in Bombay. Mandolin experts, Faizullah Taghioff (c.1905–1979) and Isaac Jacob David Dandekar (c.1910–1966), both Jewish musicians, have been mentioned for their role on 78 rpms of Jewish song. They both excelled in Indian film, under their stage names, Abdul Rahim Taghioff and Mr David (David Sâhb), respectively, and played on the soundtracks of numerous iconic films, including Awâra

74   Sara Manasseh (1951) and Shree 420 (1955). Among his many achievements, the Baghdadi Jewish businessman, Mena Silas (b. 1884, Shanghai), mentioned above in connection with the Habonim concert (1938), was a pianist, composer and orchestra leader; he wrote the lyrics and melody for Taj Mahal Foxtrot recorded by trumpeter, Crickett Smith and his Symphonians (Bombay, 1936) – “the first ‘hot’ tune with roots firmly planted in the subcontinent” (Fernandes 2012:65–66).54 Solomon Jacob (b. c.1917), a jazz pianist and grandson of Rev. Solomon Aaron Gindill, played with Ken Mac’s dance band in Bombay (pers. comm. Fay Hallen (Hallegua) Cleveland, 7 June 2017).55 Jacob is mentioned above, as Solo Jacobs, lending expertise on piano in Jack Moses’ Habonim Band (1939); he also played, as Sollo Jacobs, with Rudy Cotton’s jazz band in 1940s Bombay (Fernandes 2012:86). Fernandes further quotes Soli Sorabjee’s account of Sunday jam sessions of “pure jazz” in Frank Rose and Company’s warehouse on Frere Road, with Chic Chocolate and others, including “the tasteful piano of Sollo Jacobs” (ibid.:88–89). Abe Cohen (1930–1997) established himself as a jazz drummer, playing with the Ambassador Quartette in Bombay, receiving favourable comments from Dave Brubeck, visiting Bombay in 1958.56 Eric Sargon studied violin in Bombay, playing in the Bombay Symphony Orchestra led by Mehli Mehta (R. Manasseh 2013:267); emigrating to London, Sargon joined the BBC Symphony Orchestra on viola in 1952, playing for 43 years, and as Sub Principal cum Principal Viola for his last 25 years in the orchestra. Brian Elias, a British composer living in London, left Bombay as a young teenager, continuing his piano lessons and later studying composition with Elisabeth Lutyens; Elias’ orchestral work, L’eylah (On high) in memory of his sister, was premiered at the Proms (1984), and quotes the melody of the Iraqi song, Balîni-b-­balwa which their maternal grandmother, Flora (Moussa) Ephraim used to sing to them as children (pers. comm. Brian Elias, 21 June 2017).57 In A Talisman (2004) for bass-­baritone and small orchestra, Elias sets the text from his mother’s mid-­ nineteenth-century silver amulet from Kurdistan.58 In the field of dance, until her emigration in the 1960s, Marcelle Vanura, daughter of the educationalist, Madame Sophy Kelly, studied Indian classical dance as a young girl, both the North Indian Kathak and South Indian Bharata Natyam; she later performed professionally as Chandralekha (Kelly 1985:102–103) to such dignitaries as the then Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Lady Mountbatten.

Concluding remarks This chapter is evidence of the centrality, richness and variety of music in the fabric of Baghdadi Jewish life in Bombay and Poona, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The primary concern was that of maintaining the Babylonian religious custom, in synagogue and at home. This included continuity in the melodies of biblical cantillation, prayer chants and shbaḥoth (hymns). Similarly life-­ cycle celebrations enjoyed the familiar Baghdadi repertoire, often in Judeo-­Arabic, performed by experts – the male abu shbaḥoth (master of praises) and the female daqqâqa for the pre-­wedding henna ceremony and ‘addâda, who

Music traditions in Bombay and Poona   75 appeared at family bereavements. Even secular music making initially continued with entertainers performing Arabic songs, primarily from the Iraqi and Egyptian repertoires – including well-­loved songs by Salima Pasha (Murad), Nað ̣am al-­Ghazali and Umm Kulthoum. These trends were mainly characterized by first generation performers who had arrived in Bombay from Iraq. New horizons dawned on the community concurrently with the continuity of earlier traditions. Enterprising individuals organized and participated in recordings of 78 rpms of Jewish song, sometimes including members of the wider Jewish community in Bombay. In many cases, initiators of newer trends were second generation members of the community, whose parents had come from Baghdad or other cities in today’s Iraq. Moreover the effect of growing up in the British Raj showed its influence in a broadening of musical experience and the contexts in which these musics were enjoyed. This influence is seen in the formation of synagogue choirs, some dressed in gowns and mortar boards – a nod to the British establishment – with a repertoire of both customary Babylonian and wider Sephardi song. Similarly, the youth organization, Habonim, introduced folk dances and songs in modern Hebrew from Mandate Palestine. Expert multi-­instrumentalists from the community were among the foremost performers in Indian film music, which, in a few cases, was influenced by Hebrew songs from the British Mandate sung at Habonim. There was growing enjoyment of Euro-­American popular and classical music, as performers, composers and as part of the audience. Some of the traditions remain today, particularly the maintenance of the Babylonian custom in prayer, but most are history, a distant memory or from an unknown soundworld. In today’s Mumbai and Pune, the Sassoon legacy remains significant, both for the general population and in Jewish life. The three Sassoon synagogues built in the nineteenth century continue into the twenty-­first century, now supervised by Mr Solomon F. Sopher, chairman and managing trustee of the Sir Jacob Sassoon and Allied Trusts, and who also participates as prayer leader.59 Members of the Bene Israel community, still the largest Jewish community in India, constitute the core worshippers who sustain the prayer services at these synagogues. In Pune, at the Ohel David Synagogue, Sabbath and festival prayers are led and attended by the Bene Israel community, the ḥazzân, Joshua Pingle, travelling from Navi Mumbai. At the Magen David and Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogues (Mumbai) prayers and melodies remain predominantly Baghdadi, led by the ḥazzânîm Ellis Jacob and David Pezarkar, respectively. Religious life remains a focus for many Jewish residents and for Jewish visitors – tourists, business people and ex-­pats – who intermittently swell the congregation for Sabbath services at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue. The sojourn of the Baghdadi Jewish communities in Bombay and Poona, for some 200 years may seem a drop in the ocean in the vastness of time. In reality, life was full and vibrant. It was blessed and sustained by the community, promoting a spirit of confidence and achievement combined with a sense of fun. Many evenings were spent watching the sunset on the horizon at Cuffe Parade or Marine Drive in Bombay, or at Sunset Point in the hill station of Matheran. That

76   Sara Manasseh horizon ultimately beckoned most of the Jewish community away – Baghdadi, Bene Israel, Cochin – to further, distant shores. Yet, India welcomed and provided a secure existence to its Jewish communities, enriched by contact with the wider Indian society. The Indian experience remains the strength of Indian Jewry – a vital part of its being.

Notes   1 The term “Baghdadi” conforms to usage in this publication. In earlier work, the author has referred to the community as “Iraqi”, “Babylonian” or “Baghdadian”.   2 Moreh (2009:1–12) gives a succinct historical account of the 2,500 year Jewish existence in Iraq.   3 Jewish life in Surat had comprised both Bene Israel and Arabic-­speaking Jewish merchants and settlers, and included a synagogue and cemeteries. Both the “Arabian” Jewish and Bene Israel cemeteries, though in disuse, existed until recently, as witnessed by my mother, Rachel Manasseh and myself in 2003 (R. Manasseh 2013:375–379, 381–384). On my subsequent visit to Surat in 2014, following reports of vandalism, I found both had disappeared: the “Arabian” Jewish cemetery was grassed over with a new lawn and a K Star building development, surrounded by high walls; the Bene Israel cemetery, roughly cleared, was now a parking lot for Surat’s many motor scooters.   4 The Farhûd (Arabic: “violent dispossession”) is increasingly seen as the “Arab Kristallnacht”, fomented by anti-­Jewish and anti-­British Nazi propaganda disseminated by Fritz Grobba, German Ambassador in Baghdad, and Hajj Amin al-­Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Many references to the Farhûd include Stillman (1991:116–120, 405–418), Black (2010), R. Manasseh (2013:14, 142, 156), whose uncle was murdered in the Farhûd, Julius (2016). Morad et al. (2009:47–49, 53–55) give personal accounts by Farhûd survivors.   5 An account of the publication and others by Ezekiel, a Fellow of the Theosophical Society is given in Huss (2016) [Hebrew with some English sections], with illustrations of the title page of the publication in English and Judeo-­Arabic (p. 167).   6 S. Manasseh (2012) discusses the shbaḥoth genre in detail, including song texts and music notation. The publication includes a CD of 18 tracks, most in the Bombay– Baghdad tradition, sung by Manasseh. S. Manasseh (2004) discusses the Baghdad– Bombay liturgical and paraliturgical repertoire, with examples from the singing of Jacob Baher, M. David Dangoor, Hazzân Zakki I. Solomon and his son Solomon I. Solomon. For further performances in the tradition: S. Manasseh (2002, 2015).   7 Sassoon (1949:207–208) refers to the Jewish traveller, Jacob Saphir, on his visit to Bombay, describing the vast library of the Baghdadian settler, David Ḥai b. Ezekiel Abraham Maṣliaḥ; included was “a considerable Diwan in an old manuscript containing poems of the classical period, by Solomon ibn Gabirol, Judah ha-­Levy, Moses and Abraham ibn Ezra … and other Spanish poets” (Saphir 1874, quoted in Sassoon 1949:208). Dîwân: a collection of poems intended to be sung, arranged in order of melodic mode.   8 For example, Sîméni: S. Manasseh (2002, track 10); Kî eshmérâh shabbâth: S. Manasseh (2012, CD track 9).   9 S. Manasseh (2012:174–179; track 12); S. Manasseh (2015, track 5). 10 Mr Yahya Hemi was manager of one of the Sassoon textile mills, the family living on the premises in a large bungalow with spacious garden. Thanks to Aviva Maller for originally bringing the illustration (Figure 4.1) to my attention. 11 Further details in R. Manasseh (2013:134–135). 12 Further details in S. Manasseh (2012:27).

Music traditions in Bombay and Poona   77 13 Pers. comms to confirm dates: Hannah Lopez (16 March 2013), granddaughter of Isaac Barukh; Ezra Dingoor (2 October 2007), younger brother of Menahem David Dangoor. 14 Pers. comm. Fay Hallen (Hallegua) Cleveland (4 March 2014, 7 June 2017), great granddaughter of Solomon Aaron Gindill, whose wife, Flora, was from the Sassoon family. Cleveland also refers to a Kethubbâh (marriage document) dated 1868, where one of the signatures in English is “M.S. Gindill, Rabbi of Bombay”, and notes that this family of learned men, ḥazzânîm and scribes, was originally from the Yemen. The surname Gindell (also Gindill) is an anglicization of the Arabic “Qindîl” (light, candle). 15 Pers. comm. Victor Mordecai (1 February 2013, 23 June 2017), grandson of both Ḥazzân Ezra Mordecai, from Kût al-‘Amâra, and of Ḥazzân Murad, from Baghdad, who followed him. 16 In Poona, Murad was also shoḥéṭ (ritual slaughterer of meat and chicken) for the community. Well known in Poona and Bombay as a ḥazzân, Murad had run a business in making and supplying linens in Baghdad, where had also played the ‘oud (Arab lute) (pers. comm. Eli Elias, son of Ḥazzân Murad, 1 October 2007). 17 Abdullah Somekh was head of the Yéshîbâh, Midrash Abu Menashe, established by Ḥesqel Menashe Zbeida, c.1840. Also see R. Manasseh (2013:227, fn. 1). 18 Pers. comm. Margery (Moses) Cohen (24 October 2014), granddaughter of Ḥâkhâm Ṭaḥan. The three sons of Jacob and Kate Judah were Ellis, David and Solomon, who were also great-­grandsons of Sir Albert Sassoon (R. Manasseh 2013:220 fn. 12). 19 The Book of Esther is read on Pûrîm, traditionally from small hand-­held scrolls. 20 S. Manasseh (2012:22, 37) shows illustrations of Mijbura and his family. 21 R. Manasseh (2013:129–130, 143). 22 S. Manasseh (1999, vol. 1:136–137) and Kojaman (2001:108–110) describe the Abu shbaḥoth tradition in Baghdad. 23 The term khað̣ba was especially used in Bombay and Poona, perhaps a survival of an older term not in use at the time in Baghdad. 24 Rachel Manasseh, at interview with Simon Menashy (13 October 2002). 25 For the traditions in Baghdad: S. Manasseh (1999/1:138–139) for daqqâqa and ‘addâda; Kojaman (2001:101–116) for daqqâqa. 26 The extended musical family, in Baghdad, Bombay and Israel, is briefly mentioned in S. Manasseh (2012:36–38). 27 In Iraq, these roles were not usually performed by the same person. 28 Kojaman (2001:21–26) describes the Baghdad châlghi of two fixed melodic and two percussion instruments. In Bombay, and elsewhere, the term evolved to denote any instrumental group playing Iraqi, or Arab music. 29 Pers. comm. Solomon I. Solomon (5 September 1999), Muṣeri’s grandson. Further brief details in Futter and S. Manasseh (2009:9). 30 Some names denote the instrument or profession of the person: abu-­l-Kamanja (Arabic: “father” or “expert” of the fiddle or kamâna), dumbukchi (Arabic: drummer), tarkâriwala (Hindi: vegetable seller). 31 Perhaps Muṣeri’s châlghi. Pers. comm. Simon Menashy (13 October 2002). 32 Pers. comm. Rachel Manasseh (13 October 2002); also, R. Manasseh (2013:14). 33 Zibli arrived in Bombay in 1941, in the wake of the Farhûd (pers. comm. Lydia Carmi, his daughter, 21 June 2017). 34 For an account of ‘Aziz ‘Ali: Holes (2014). 35 S. Manasseh (1999/1:142) refers to other popular Egyptian singers at the time. 36 Salima Pasha, the most famous woman singer in Iraq, was Jewish. She later married al-­Ghazali, permitting him to perform songs specifically composed for her. 37 Ulaby (2010:113–115) discusses recordings of Arabic music by HMV and Odeon, among others, seeking to expand their markets; these included late 1920s recordings in Baghdad of the celebrated Jewish brothers, the composer and violinist, Saliḥ Al-­ Kuwaity and singer and ‘oud player, Daud Al-­Kuwaity.

78   Sara Manasseh 38 S. Manasseh (2012:25) shows an illustration of the label. Futter and Manasseh (2003) present remastered recordings of these labels. 39 At least four 78 rpm discs with the Hebrew Record label were released by the National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Co. Ltd. Bombay (label illustration, S. Manasseh 2012:33). Seven of the Hebrew Record tracks, together with eight tracks of Bene Israel song on the King Records and Jay Bharat labels are remastered on Futter and Manasseh (2009). The Hebrew Record songs are on tracks 7–13. 40 I am grateful to Rahma Levi (10 June 1999) for information regarding her father, Abid David, and her maternal grandfather, the ḥazzân Ḥâkhâm Yosef Eliezer, and for making available some of the Hebrew Label 78 rpms. 41 A multi-­instrumentalist, Dandekar also played violin, ‘oud and qânûn (pers. comm. 8 June 2005, Ezra Moses) and is confirmed to be playing on the recordings (pers. comm. Rahma Levi, 10 June 1999, 2 July 2009), which include qânûn. Muṣeri is known to be playing violin and ‘oud (pers. comm. Solomon I. Solomon, 5 March 1999). For an account of the recordings and illustrations of personnel, see S. Manasseh (2012:27–36; 2014). 42 S. Manasseh (2012:36) shows an illustration of the group. The recordings are heard on Futter and Manasseh (2009), tracks 1–6. 43 Pers. comm. Rachel Feldman (14 June 2009), daughter of Kharilker. 44 For an account of Jack Moses’ choir and illustrations of three of the choirs, see R. Manasseh (2013:131, 147, 167, 171). 45 The youth organization, Habonim, is discussed below. 46 Sopher composed the text in preparation for his own wedding (pers. comm. Grace (Hayeem) Lerno 27 June 2017, as intimated by Jack Japheth, the subsequent leader of the choir). 47 George Sopher’s wife, Rachel, was a cousin of my mother, Rachel Manasseh. They shared their maiden name, Ani, prior to marriage. 48 My thanks for information about Jack Japheth’s choir, to Barbara Japheth (12 June 2017); and to former choir members, Grace (Hayeem) Lerno (20 July 2016, 7 June 2017), Pamela (Shellim) Solomon (4 July 2016, 7 June 2017) and June (Hillel) Gahtan (7 June 2017). A naval commander, Japheth was based for a time in London, UK; on his return to Bombay, he introduced melodies and arrangements from the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue (London) into the repertoire of his choir (pers. comm., Barbara Japheth, wife of Jack Japheth, 11 September 2017). 49 Habonim in India, and its activities are discussed in R. Manasseh (2013:230, 278–290, 296–310). 50 Fernandes (2012:65–66, 77 fn. 33) gives a brief account of Silas, with an illustration. 51 Known as a jazz pianist, Jacob (also Jacobs) is mentioned below. 52 R. Manasseh (2013:151–170) discusses the Second World War in the Baghdad–­ Bombay community. 53 With thanks to Saeed and Ivy Nathan (June 2016) for bringing this to my attention. 54 Taj Mahal Foxtrot is also the title of Fernandes’ (2012) survey of jazz in Bombay from the 1930s. Silas’ composition:­fernandes. 55 Ken Mac’s band was renowned in Bombay for four decades, from 1922 (Fernandes 2012:35–37, 41, 86–88, 150). 56 Pers. comm. Rahma Cohen to R. Manasseh, 29 September 2005. Also, Fernandes 2012:148, R. Manasseh 2013:346). 57 The song, with the same text, is recorded on Manasseh (2002, track 8) and Chaudhuri (2006, track 3), based on the singing of Elias’ aunt, Salha Khattan (London, 1983) and Jacob Baḥer (Manchester, 1985), both from Baghdad. With thanks to Brian Elias for the recording of his aunt. 58 The amulet was a gift from her uncle, and arrived in Bombay via Baghdad (pers. comms Brian Elias, 22 June 2017). 59 On the Sassoon synagogues, see:

Music traditions in Bombay and Poona   79

References Ani, R., 1939/5699, “Pelugim Tel-­Hai & Trumpeldor celebrate Purim”, Kol Habonim 1(3), III (inside back cover). Black, E., 2010, The Farhud: The Arab-­Nazi alliance in the Holocaust, Dialog Press, Washington, DC. Chaudhuri, S. (ed.), 2006, Rivers of Babylon: Live in India!, audio CD, ARCE/AIIS, Haryana. Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2016, “East India Company”, Encyclopædia Britannica, viewed 21 August 2016 from­India-Company. Farrington, A., 2002, Trading places: The East India Company and Asia 1600–1834, British Library, London. Fernandes, N., 2012, Taj Mahal foxtrot, Roli Books, New Delhi. Fifi, 1949/5709, “Poona post: Our carolling choir”, Kol Habonim 5(10), 17. Fischel, W., 1972, “Bombay in Jewish history in the light of new documents from the Indian archives”, Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research 1970–71 38–39, 119–144. Futter, J. and Manasseh, S. (producers), 2003, Shbaḥoth: Iraqi-­Jewish song from the 1920s, audio CD, Renair, London. Futter, J. and Manasseh, S. (producers), 2009, Shir Hodu: Jewish song from Bombay of the ’30s, audio CD with 24-page booklet, Renair, London. Gourgey, J., 1939/5699, “At home to the Manhig”, Kol Habonim 1(4), 5. Gourgey, M., 1938/5699, “A grand variety entertainment was held”, Kol Habonim 1(2), 7, 6. Holes, C., 2014, “Azīz Alî, Iraqi ‘monologist’ ”, Quaderni Di Studi Arabi 9, 229–237, viewed 1 November 2016 from­ Monologuist_. Huss, B., 2016, “Kitâb el Idra Zuta mitarjem bil ‘Arabi fi Balad Pûna (Judeo-­Arabic) [The Translation of the Idra Zuta into Judeo-­Arabic: Kabbalah and theosophy in India in the late nineteenth century]”, Pe‘amim 146–147, 165–194 [in Hebrew]. Idelsohn, A., 1923, Thesaurus of Oriental Hebrew melodies 2: Songs of the Babylonian Jews, Benjamin Harz, Berlin. Isaacs, H., 1994, “Migration of Iraqi Jews”, The Scribe 62, 38. Isenberg, S., 1988, India’s Bene Israel: A comprehensive inquiry and sourcebook, Judah L. Magnes Museum, Berkeley, CA. Jackson, S., 1968, The Sassoons, E.P. Dutton & Co., New York. Julius, L., 2016, “What links the ‘Farhud’ to Sarona?”, blog, viewed 28 April 2017 from­links-the-­farhud-to-­sarona/. Kelly, S. (ed.), 1985, The Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue centenary: 18th April, 1985, Souvenir, Madame Sophy Kelly, Bombay. Kojaman, Y., 2001, The maqam music tradition of Iraq (with two CDs), Y. Kojaman, London. Manasseh, R., 2013, Baghdadian Jews of Bombay – Their life and achievements: A personal and historical account, Midrash Ben Ish Hai, New York. Manasseh, S., 1999, “Women in music performance: The Iraqi Jewish experience in Israel”, two volumes, PhD thesis (Department of Music, Goldsmiths’ College), London University. Manasseh, S. (producer), 2002, Treasures: Songs of praise in the Iraqi-­Jewish tradition, performed by Rivers of Babylon, audio CD (Sara Manasseh), London.

80   Sara Manasseh Manasseh, S., 2004, “Religious music traditions of the Jewish-­Babylonian diaspora in Bombay”, Ethnomusicology Forum 13(1), 47–73. Manasseh, S., 2012, Shbaḥoth – Songs of praise in the Babylonian Jewish tradition: From Baghdad to Bombay and London, Ashgate, Farnham (book marketed with the CD More precious than pearls). Manasseh, S., 2014, “Baghdadian and Bene Israel Jewish song in twentieth century Bombay: Repertoire, performance and interaction”, Special Issue of the e-­journal Cafe Dissensus on Indian Jewry 12, 41–53, viewed 3 May 2017 from www.academia. edu/9968810/Special_Issue_of_the_e-­journal_CAFE_DISSENSUS_on_The_Indian_ Jewry_. Manasseh, S. (producer), 2015, From her father’s house: Iraqi Jewish and Arabic song, performed by Rivers of Babylon, audio CD (Rivers of Babylon), London. Mansour, S., 1953–1954/5714, Séfér shîrîm: Téhillath-yéshârîm hashshâlém. Pizmonîm, baqqâshoth, wéthishbbâḥoth [Book of songs: The complete praises of the righteous. Songs, supplications and praises], Saleh Bar Ya‘aqob Mansour, Jerusalem [in Hebrew]. Morad, T., Shasha, D. and Shasha, R. (eds), 2009, Iraq’s last Jews, first paperback edn, pp. 47–49, 53–55, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. Moreh, S., 2009, “Introduction: The historical context”, in T. Morad, D. Shasha and R. Shasha (eds), Iraq’s last Jews, first paperback edn, pp.  1–12, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. Nightingale, 1949/5709, “Choir choruses”, Kol Habonim 2(8), 15. Reissner, H., 1950, “Indian Jewish statistics, 1837–1941”, Jewish Social Studies 12, 349–365. Roland, J., 1989, Jews in British India: Identity in a colonial era, University Press of New England for Brandeis University Press, Hanover, NH and London. Roth, C., 1941, The Sassoon dynasty, Robert Hale, London. Saphir, J., 1874, Eben saphir, vol. 2, Mekitzei Nirdamim, Magenza (Mainz) [in Hebrew]. Sassoon, D., 1949/5709 [completed 1932], A history of the Jews in Baghdad, Solomon D. Sassoon, Letchworth. Sinclair, W., 1874, “Notes of castes in the Puna and Solapur districts”, The Indian Antiquary 3, 38. Stillman, N., 1991/5751, The Jews of Arab lands in modern times, The Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia. Ulaby, L., 2010, “Mass media and music in the Arab Persian Gulf ”, in M. Frishkopf (ed.), Music and media in the Arab world, first edn, pp.  111–126, American University in Cairo Press, Cairo and New York. Weil, S., 2014, “The legacy of David Sassoon: Building a community bridge”, Asian Jewish Life 14, 4–6, viewed 27 February 2019 from issues/Issue14-April2014/PDFs/AJL-­Issue14-Allinone.pdf.

Part III

The Baghdadis of Maharashtra Formal and informal education

5 Jewish schools, their entrepreneurs and their educational landscape in Bombay Shaul Sapir

Historical and geographical background Bombay’s Baghdadi Jewish community during the second half of the nineteenth century was beginning to develop its location within and outside of the city limits. The initial site was located in the old Fort area,1 mistakenly referred to by part of the Jewish community as Colaba,2 and the other, further north, in the new upcoming Byculla neighbourhood,3 along Nagpada Road and its vicinity.4 These two areas turned into the focus of attraction for the city’s Baghdadi community and within these cores, their institutions were established, especially in Byculla. In this neighbourhood, David Sassoon established his home, built a synagogue and founded a school, which attracted the Baghdadi Jews to settle there.5 David Sassoon and the Sassoon family, often referred to as “The Rothschilds of India”, (The Times of India, 22 January 1885:6; Vanity Fair 16 August 1879:93)6 or “The Rothschilds of the East” (e.g. Jewish Chronicle, 10 March 1905:10–11; Jackson 1989:31), were among the top of the list of Bombay’s benefactors (The Times of India, 22 January 1885:6).7 Their contribution in Bombay to the education of Baghdadi Jewish youth throughout the years was crucial and had, for the most part, a prominent impact on the younger generation, in particular, and on the entire community, in general. This chapter focuses on the Baghdadi Jewish schools in Bombay, their relevance in educating the Baghdadi Jewish youth in their schools, comprehensively, on the principles of their own heritage, alongside the Indian school system existing at the time. The modern school system in Bombay was established during the term of Mountstuart Elphinstone (1779–1859), as Governor of Bombay (1819–1827), with The Bombay Education Society. This society was established in 1815 and was then called The Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor within the Government of Bombay. During his governship, Elphinstone initiated and promoted various projects in the expanse of his territory, such as commercial bonds, paving new roads, erecting vital public buildings and mainly promoting the subject of education amongst the local population. Until 1920, they had four primary schools for the children of the local population, in which 250 boys studied. In this year, The Elphinstone Native Education Institute was established

84   Shaul Sapir to integrate within the Society’s aims of spreading secular (general) education among the locals. In 1822 it was separated from The Bombay Education Society, under the title of The Bombay Native School Book and School Society. In 1827, the society became The Bombay Native Education Society and Mountstuart Elphinstone was its first President.8 The schools belonging to the Baghdadi Jewish community were mainly located in Byculla and within the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in Fort. The schools in both areas had been progressive since the 1860s in Byculla and since the 1880s in Fort. The Fort area, as aforementioned, was the town’s old historic core, and the new suburbs were subjected to a developmental process of intensive construction during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This was the financial, commercial and economic centre of the town, which attracted but a minor share of Bombay’s Baghdadi community. The Jewish centre at the Fort was concentrated around the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, which also included its institutions and administrative functions. The synagogue was the only public building at the disposal of Colaba’s Jews for many years, and was the heart of public activity of its members in the fields of religion, education, culture and social activities (Sapir 2013:77–83). Unlike the Fort and Colaba, the Baghdadi community in Byculla possessed a large compound, fenced in by a wall which included all of its public structures (see map in Sapir 2013:52). The development of the Byculla area was in progress during the second half of the nineteenth century and was part of the new area of northern Bombay, including the neighbourhoods of Parel (or Parell), Tardeo, Tarwadi (West of Byculla) and even distant Sewri (at times referred to as Sevri or Sewree; India Office 1904:11–12). In both communities (Fort/Colaba, as well as Byculla), some Jewish children received their education in local Christian (and other) schools in these neighbourhoods, and at times, also in distant non-­Jewish boarding schools, which were considered to afford a higher level of education.9 In this chapter, we will attempt to recover the contribution made by the Baghdadi community and its prominent representatives, especially the Sassoons, in what concerns the education of the community’s children in Bombay, focusing on the schools erected in the Jewish compound.

The Sir Jacob Sassoon Free High School Three Jewish schools were erected for educating the children of the Baghdadi Jewish community in Bombay; all three were located within the area of the Jewish compound in the Byculla neighbourhood. Within this area, most of the community’s public institutions and buildings are found. The most prominent edifice is the Magen David Synagogue, named after David Sassoon (Sapir 2013:69–76). A few yards away from the southern wall of the synagogue stands the big and cumbersome Sir Jacob Sassoon Free High School building, bearing his grandson’s name. Both structures are located in the south-­eastern part of the compound, near the Byculla Gate.

Jewish schools in Bombay   85 Continuing westwards, there is another complex of two large buildings: the Sassoon House, and the E.E.E. Sassoon High School. The route from these buildings southwards leads to the Nagpada Gate, affixed to the southern wall of the Compound. Previously, the Sassoon House housed the Sir Sassoon J. David School and the Lady Rachel Sassoon Dispensary. In recent years, the building has been renovated and, in February 2006, a modest hostel was opened for Jewish travellers and tourists visiting Mumbai.10 The location of the Sir Jacob Sassoon Free High School next to the synagogue building and the Byculla Gate, granted convenient access to those seeking its services. The school was named after Sir Jacob Elias Sassoon (1844–1916), the firstborn of five brothers to Elias David and Leah Gubbay, and grandson of David Sassoon. Jacob received the management of his father’s company, E.D. Sassoon & Co., together with two of his younger brothers.11 Sir Jacob was created a Baronet on 1 January 1909 (The Times of India – Illustrated Weekly (referring to The London Gazette), 6 January 1909:4). The Sir Jacob Sassoon Free High School was established by David Sassoon in 1861, hand in hand with the establishment of the Magen David Synagogue (The Times of India, 10 January 1862:3). At first, the school was named The David Sassoon Benevolent Institution. It was established for the children of the Jewish community due to the desire of its founder to grant a Jewish and a general education of a higher quality and for free (Jewish Chronicle, 21 November 1873:558). David Sassoon passed away in Poona (Pune) 1864, without leaving any funds either for the maintenance of the synagogue or for the school which he had founded. His son and heir Albert, followed his father’s footsteps by supporting both institutions, until an agreement was signed on 1 June 1868, and a special fund for the school was established.12 Later, Albert supported and funded the full maintenance of the school through his firm, David Sassoon & Co.13 Albert Sassoon moved to England in 1873. His wife, Hannah Moses, could not join him due to her illness, only with the exception of two visits to England. Remaining in Bombay, she bore on her shoulders the main burden of the school’s maintenance until her death in 1895. Additionally, she continued running the other family matters from her three residences in Bombay Presidency, which were kept up under her husband’s bill for her use (see The Times, 11 January 1895:4). In 1903, Sir Jacob Sassoon took over the maintenance of the school, expanded its premises and called it the Jacob Sassoon Free School (Jewish Chronicle, 15 May 1903:27; for a photograph of Sir Jacob, see The Times of India – Illustrated Weekly, 31 July 1907:6). In a Commemorative Plaque affixed at the entrance to the school building, the details slightly differed from those of Benjamin: Jacob Sassoon Free School. This institution was presented to the Jewish Community and endowed with a liberal donation of Rs.110,000, on the 17th day of April 1903, by the generous benevolence of Mr. Jacob Elias Sassoon, for Free education of Jewish boys and girls in Hebrew and English, which amount he subsequently supplemented by a further sum of Rs.40,000

86   Shaul Sapir making a total endowment fund of Rs.150,000 investing and handed over same to a Board of Trustees for the control thereof.14 The opening ceremony of the school in its new form took place on 23 April 1903, in the presence of numerous as well as important people from Bombay’s Jewish and non-­Jewish community. Among the distinguished guests were Lady Flora Sassoon (the widow of Solomon Sassoon), Waldemar Haffkine (the Jewish Doctor from Russia and resident of Bombay; Sapir 2013:97)15 and Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy (the well-­known Parsi philanthropist and one of the most important benefactors of Bombay and its population; Jewish Chronicle, 15 May 1903:27).16 Several years later, in an interview Sir Jacob granted to the Jewish Chronicle, in 1909, he related to the quality and the standard of the school, and to the significant progress its graduates achieved:  The school works wonders for the children, who are of a naturally clever stock, and both boys and girls make extraordinary progress. The school has also contributed to improvement in the economic condition of the population and to the general industrial conditions throughout the Presidency.  (Jewish Chronicle, 25 June 1909:20)17 Sir Jacob Sassoon died on 22 October 1916, leaving funds in his will for various Jewish institutions, including the Jacob Sassoon Jewish Charitable Fund, for the support of the Sir Jacob Sassoon High School (see The Times, 24 October 1916:11). The school is being supported from the same fund today. In 1933, The Jewish Advocate reported on a proposal to enlarge the premises of the school in order to accommodate 80 more students. It was also mentioned that the school had about 400 boys and girls on its rolls (The Jewish Advocate, 24 February 1933:9). In many aspects since the 1930s, the school building also served as a community centre for its members, while from time to time, cultural and social activities also took place, including special events or youth movements’ activities and those of the younger age groups.18 The school continued expanding and included high-­school studies, which allowed its graduates to take the state matriculation examinations. At this stage the word “High” was added to the School’s title and, thus, it was named the Sir Jacob Sassoon Free High School. This was a large school with over 300 attendants, most and nearly all of them were members of the Baghdadi community, as well as a small percentage of pupils from the Bene-­Israel congregation. The school seems to have reached the peak of its prestige during the time of Miss Esther Joseph, who began teaching in 1925, and was appointed its principal in the same year (Manasseh 2013:185, 260–261).19 As a tribute to her inexhaustible effort and contribution, Miss Esther Joseph was granted a special medal (1937), by the Municipality of Bombay, for her achievements in the field of education (Jewish Chronicle, 30 August 1937:17). During the second half of the twentieth century, the school underwent another turning point in its history, though in a less desirable direction. After India

Jewish schools in Bombay   87 received its independence (August 1947) and a short time after the State of Israel received its independence in May 1948, began the great immigration process of Bombay’s Baghdadi community to Israel and to other countries. This process accelerated during the 1950s and continued to get stronger during the years that followed, while the number of Jewish children in the school was beginning to decline. Despite this, the school was rebuilt in 1962, and the Joint Distribution Fund financed the construction of a new kitchen and dining room and even participated in subsidizing the free meals that were provided to the school’s students (Jewish Chronicle, 31 August 1962:14). A few months later, the Jewish Chronicle reported (January 1963): About 450 pupils attend the Sassoon School, originally the gift of the Sassoon family and recently rebuilt. Boys and girls, aged between five and 18 years, receive an English education. For the boys there is training in all general occupational jobs and for girls opportunity to train as secretaries, teachers and dressmakers. (Bing 1963:7) In recent years, the school has served the children of members of Bombay’s other religions and congregations in the city, mainly from the Muslim community, who live in the neighbourhoods surrounding the school. Today, the school is called Sir Jacob Sassoon High School, and is maintained by the Sir Joseph Sassoon Fund. The school has about 500 students, among whom are just a few Jews.20

Figure 5.1 Sir Jacob Sassoon High School, February 2018 (courtesy Shalva Weil).

88   Shaul Sapir

The Sir Sassoon J. David School The second school to be erected within the grounds of the Jewish compound was the Sir Sassoon J. David School. Sir Sassoon J. David was born in Bombay on 11 December 1849. He was the second son of Jacob Isaac David, who was a prominent member of the Jewish community and one of the first to settle in Bombay. In 1876, he married Hannah, daughter of Elias David Sassoon and upon his death (27 September 1926), he was succeeded by his only surviving son, Percival Victor David Ezekiel. Sir Sassoon David was among the leading cotton yarn merchants of Bombay, where he filled various public offices and was noted for his charitable and other benefactions (The Times, 28 September 1926:13). Sir Sassoon J. David was the main initiator and living spirit behind the establishment of the Bank of India, one of the largest banks in India. He was the chairman of the bank for 20 years since its foundation in 1906, and continued in this role until his death in 1926 (Bank of India 1956:3, 5).21 Sir Sassoon David earned many awards and merits in managing many of his businesses and was appointed as the Sheriff of Bombay in 1905 by Lord Lamington (1860–1940), Governor of Bombay Presidency (1903–1907).22 Among other offices he held in his extensive career was being a member of the Imperial Legislative Council of the Viceroy of India and Chairman of the Bombay Electric Supply and Tramways (BEST) Company, Limited (The Times, 9 September 1929:15).23 Sir David was knighted in 1905, created a Baronet in 1911 and received the honoured K.C.S.I. in 1922 (The Times, 28 September 1926:13). The Sir Sassoon J. David School was erected after the First World War as a kindergarten and primary school. The reason for founding the school was an intention to receive pupils from the lower grades, who were rejected or were not accepted, due to lack of space, by the Sir Jacob Sassoon Free High School (Manasseh 2013:191–192). The Sir Sassoon J. David School was located in the Lady Rachel Sassoon Dispensary, close to the Nagpada Gate (Jewish Chronicle, 27 July 1917:12–13). The clinic operated on the bottom floor of the small, three-­storey building, under the management of a Farsi, Dr Baspoor, who provided his professional and loyal services to the local members of the Baghdadi community for many years. In the mid-­1950s, due to gradual emigration, attendance dropped and the school closed its doors.24 During the years 2005–2006, the old building underwent a thorough renovation. At the beginning of February 2006, a modern little guesthouse was opened for Jewish tourists and travellers, called Sassoon House. The guesthouse opened its gates with a modest ceremony, in the presence of the Israeli Consul General in Bombay at the time, Daniel Zohar-­Zonshine, and representatives from the local Jewish community.25

Jewish schools in Bombay   89

The Ezekiel Ezra Elisha (E.E.E.) Sassoon High School Located in the Jewish compound, the E.E.E. Sassoon High School was established through the initiative of Albert Manasseh (1907–1991),26 a prominent figure and one of the leaders of Bombay’s Baghdadi community.27 Ezekiel Ezra Elisha (E.E.E., also known as “Triple E”) Sassoon, was one of two brothers (Saleh and Ezekiel) and a sister (Salha – married to Rabbi Moshe Sadkha). Ezekiel was the son of Elisha Sassoon and the grandson of Benjamin Sassoon (Binyamin – married to Hanna bat Salhka), the younger brother of David Sassoon, the founder of the Sassoon dynasty. David and Benjamin were sons of Sheikh Sassoon ben Saleh (1750–1818), Chief Treasurer of the Ottoman Pashas of Baghdad and head of the Jewish Community for 40 years, who was known to be a direct descendent of Babylon’s “Resh Galutha”, descending from the Royal House of King David. E.E.E. was married to Farha Aboudi (sister of Sion Aboudi) and had a son, Jacob, who married his mother’s nurse, a Bene-­Israel woman. They had a daughter, Dorothy, who died at a young age, and bore no other children. E.E.E. Sassoon lived alone, in a two-­storey mansion in Cuffe Parade, which in later years was called Monica Bungalow (Sapir 2013:192–193). He was a highly respected importer of various goods who entertained important celebrities visiting Bombay. He had many servants, including a bodyguard. E.E.E. Sassoon was one of the very few people in town to own a car, a seven-­seat Studebaker, driven by a liveried chauffeur. He was a soccer fan “who had his own box/seat and was fondly referred to as ‘Mr. Socca’ ”.28 E.E.E. Sassoon was persuaded by Albert Manasseh to erect a new school for the Baghdadi Jewish pupils, as the existing schools described above were unable to cope with the needed demand. In 1937 a Trust Fund was set up by E.E.E. Sassoon for that goal, on condition that the school would be started after the demise of the donor (Manasseh 2013:262). The school was started, subsequent to High Court order of 1948 as a kindergarten school, which later was gradually expanded to a primary school and a high school (Manasseh 2013:181). Three rooms were rented from the American Mission at the Nagpada Neighbourhood House, in a large building on New Nagpada Road (today named Sofia Zubair Road). The school’s site was chosen because the building was situated in the Baghdadi community’s residential area, near the community compound. The school began very humbly. In the first year of its establishment, the new school had fewer than 30 pupils.29 As the years went by, so grew the demand for new premises for the school and there was a need for expansion. In 1952, the Trustees of the E.E.E. Sassoon School purchased a plot of land, measured 600 square yards, by the Nagpada Gate, for the purpose of erecting a primary school for 240 pupils, consisting of six classrooms (Manasseh 2013:263). The E.E.E. Sassoon School was awarded recognition by the Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education, giving it an SSC Board examination status in 1984.30 In 1993, the School gained the recognition of the Department of Education, and turned into a high school, and was named the E.E.E. Sassoon High School (Manasseh 2013:263).

90   Shaul Sapir According to a testimony by Solomon Sopher, who started his activity as the school’s inspector in 1986, the school shut down for a few years during the 1960s and reopened during the 1970s. In his opinion, when he began work, the school had about 400 pupils altogether. The E.E.E. Sassoon High School is still run by a Sassoon Trust, and currently has approximately 600 pupils, nearly all of them members of the Muslim community and only a few Jews from the Bene-­ Israel congregation.31

Summary Upon the establishment of India’s independence (15 August 1947) on the one hand, and the establishment of the State of Israel (14 May 1948) on the other, we witness a major decrease in the Baghdadi community in Mumbai. Emigration from the community was high and attendance dropped gradually, causing a crucial effect on the school system. A large share of this community has immigrated to Israel, while others have dispersed throughout English-­speaking countries, mainly to England, Australia, the USA and Canada (Israel 1982:13). The Sir Sassoon J. David School closed its doors. The other two schools, the Sir Jacob Sassoon High School and the E.E.E. Sassoon High School, operate today through Jewish funds and cater to children of Mumbai’s other religious sects, mainly to the Muslim community. Examining the educational system of the Baghdadi Jewish community in Bombay gives us a rare opportunity of understanding the way the Baghdadis taught their own heritage and language, but also taught secular subjects on the highest levels. On the whole, it illustrates freedom of religion in India, which enabled Baghdadi Jews to flourish in their unique culture and heritage.

Notes   1 Historically, the fort area was the fortified and populated place at the south-­eastern end of Bombay Island. It was not actually a fort, as that term implies a fortress or citadel, but a highly populated city barricaded by a massive wall. Colaba, which was sparsely settled, is a long and narrow island south of Bombay Island that is still the southern tip of the city.   2 Relating to the origins of the name Colaba and its various meanings see: I.O.R./OIH 915.479, which also appears as I.O.R./T33352 Gazetteer of Bombay City and Island, Vol. 1, Bombay 1909 (infra: Bombay Gazeteer, three volumes, stating the number of volume and the year of publication), p.  25. On the same matter, also see Sheppard 1917:49.   3 Regarding the name Byculla, we should note that in the past the Byculla area was indeed a low land area and was separated from the main land area during high tide; bhaya means land and khala means low. For this and other suggestions, see Sapir 2013:20; Sheppard 1917:28, 40 and India Office 1909:28.   4 The name Nagpada is composed of Nag, which means snake and Pada, which means place of domicile, hamlet or village (for example, similar to the ville addition in France or the dorf in Germany). See on this matter: India Office 1909:30. Sheppard stated that the pada ending notes such as Nagpada, Agripada, are of Dravidian origin, pada being the ordinary Kanarese word for hamlet. Kanarese is a Dravidian language

Jewish schools in Bombay   91


 6  7



10 11


spoken predominantly by Kannada people in South India, mainly in the State of Karnataka (and by linguistic minorities in neighbouring States) and Sri Lanka. See: Edwardes 1902:19–24; Sheppard 1917:17. The founding father of the short Sassoon dynasty in India was David Sassoon (1792–1864), who arrived in Bombay in 1832. David was the second of the seven children of Sheikh Sassoon (1750–1830) and his wife Amam Gabbai, and the grandson of Saleh from Baghdad in Iraq. David had two sons with his first wife Hannah Joseph, Abdullah (1818–1896) and Elias David (1820–1880). Abdullah later changed his name to Albert in Bombay and was honoured and knighted by the British Crown. Consequently, he was known as Sir Albert Sassoon. The couple was also blessed with two daughters, Mazal Tov (good fortune) and Amam. The brothers Albert and Elias and their descendants were the more prominent figures in the Sassoon dynasty. With his second wife, Farha (Flora) Hyeem, David Sassoon had nine children (Jackson 1989:2–7). This Vanity Fair article includes a well-­known illustration of Sir Albert (Abdallah David) Sassoon, between pages 92 and 93. Besides being one of the most successful business magnates in the city of Bombay, David Sassoon was a keen philanthropist who channelled much of his surplus fortune towards helping his brethren and to the people of Bombay as well. He paved the way for many from his homeland to come and better their lot under his auspices. After David Sassoon’s death, his descendants followed in the footsteps of this grand old patriarch, continuing his legacy of creating wealth and using it for public welfare, thus playing a significant role in leading Bombay into the next century (Albuquerque 1995:11–17). On this matter and other contributions made by Elphinstone, see: Bombay Gazetteer, volume 2, 1909, pp. 140–141. For an extensive detailed account on this subject matter see Sapir 2013:114 and the comments at: Bombay Gazetteer, volume 3, 1910, pp. 130, 278. For a table displaying the number of schools and pupils in Bombay City at successive decades, since 1820 and in 1909, see: Bombay Gazetteer, volume 3, 1910, p. 125. On the Society’s further development and activity in the educational field, see: ibid. pp. 101–109. Referring to other important and famous educational institutions in Bombay City, see: ibid. pp. 133–137. One of the better boarding schools in India at that time was the Barnes School at Deolali (also known as Devlali) in the district of Nasik, a four-­hour train ride from Bombay, where the author of this chapter had the opportunity to study for almost three years. As of February 2006, only two residential units had been renovated and the intention was to designate all of the rooms in the upper floor as guest rooms. The hostel was managed by a young person named Naresh. E.D. Sassoon & Co. greatly expanded under Sir Jacob’s management and gained a great reputation in various fields such as precious stones, grains, spices, cotton, metals, petroleum, opium and more. The company traded with China, the Persian Gulf, Europe, America, Africa and some other places around the globe. The company opened branches in London, Baghdad, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Japan and agencies in nearly every important trading town in the Orient. The company had the largest textile mills in all of India. For further reading on this matter, see India Office 1904:178. Jacob married Rachel Isaacs, the daughter of a rich merchant from Calcutta named Simon H. Isaacs in 1880 (Jewish Chronicle, 7 April 1911:13). The couple did not have any children. It was acceptable to state the name of the company in both languages, Hebrew and English. Part of the firm’s documents, upon which the names of the company appear with this spelling, can be seen in Ben-­Ya’akov 1989:27. This firm was established by David Sassoon on 7 Adar 5615, which in the Gregorian calendar fell in the year 1856. For the original foundation document and the company regulations in Jewish-­ Babylonian Arabic, including its 22 clauses and the signatures of its 11 members (also

92   Shaul Sapir including the signature of its founder, David Sassoon), see Ben-­Ya’akov 1989:51–52. Regarding the date according to the Gregorian calendar, the author must have mistakenly stated 1855 as the company’s year of establishment, which should be 1856; to compare see Ben-­Ya’akov 1989:53. 13 This vital information relating to the school’s first years was summarized by Charles Benjamin, one of the heads of Byculla’s Baghdadi community, in his speech at the opening ceremony of the renovated school, which took place in 1903. For more on this topic, see Jewish Chronicle 15 May 1903:27. 14 The Hebrew text of the commemorative plaque reads as follows:  This house of study was established in order to spread the light of science upon the sons of Israel and to guide them according to the instructions of the Torah and fear of God and morality and manners and to educate them in the study of the holy language and the English language through free tuition, given by the volunteer of His people, ‘Shay’ Jacob Eliyahoo David Sassoon, may his candle light amen, who helped erect the school by donating one hundred and ten thousand rupees, on Friday 20 Nisan 5,663 in B”D (Biggest Detail), and he added to that another forty thousand rupees and a general total of one hundred and fifty thousand rupees is given to the existing fund into the hands of the commanders to support it from its crops.

15 Professor Waldemar Mordecai Haffkine (born Vladimir Havkin, 1860–1930), a 16 17

18 19 20 21

22 23

24 25

Russian Jew and a close friend of Flora Sassoon, invented the vaccination that eradicated the bubonic plague and cholera epidemics from India. The name of this Parsi philanthropist is sometimes spelled “Jamsetji Jejibhoy” or “Jamshetji Jijibhai”. In this interview, Sir Jacob clarified that European teachers were also employed in his school. Maybe we should note that when he related to the matter of the industry in Bombay’s expansion, Sir Jacob was referring to the employment of the school’s graduates in key positions in the textile mills, which he owned. His mills employed, according to the figures he provided, over 200 Jews (and one must assume that not all were members of the Baghdadi community). I thank London-­based Benny (Gay) Moses for this information. I thank my late uncle, Yitzhak Oren (Isaac Saul) for this information. I express my gratitude to the principal of the school, Ermelinda D’Mello, for supplying me with this information. My special thanks to Mathuradas J. Bhatia (Vice General Manager of the Bank of India’s head office in Bombay) for informing me of the existence of this book, the last remaining copy of which is at the bank’s disposal. It should be noted that Sir Sassoon David is not a direct descendent of the Sassoon family dynasty. Lord Lamington is Charles Cochrane Baillie (1860–1940), who was the governor of the Bombay Presidency between the years 1903 and 1907. It is mentioned in this source that the sum left by Sir David in his will was estimated at a value of 245,367 English pounds, which was equal to about 20,000,000 rupees. It was also stated in his will that “any of his descendants who shall marry a person not of Jewish descent and professing the Jewish faith should forfeit all interest” (The Times, 9 September 1929:15). My thanks to Gracie Simon Raymond Fishson for supplying me with this information during an interview held with her on 4 July 2006. I thank Naresh for this information, on a visit to the building on 22 February 2006. Paying a visit to the building a year later, on 2 February 2007, I noticed that three more rooms had been renovated and added to the hostel. The spacious and modern hostel rooms were installed on the second floor, and the rooms were clean. I thank Haim Eliyahu, one of the remaining members of the Baghdadi community, for giving me a tour of the place and for updating me.

Jewish schools in Bombay   93 26 Albert Manasseh was a great-­grandson of Sir Albert Sassoon. For a chapter devoted to his work in the Jewish community, see Manasseh (2013:225–256). 27 Many essays were published regarding the involvement and activities of Albert Menashe. A summary of his activities was presented in Kelly (1985:93). 28 Thanks to Sydney-­based Dolly Dyan Shadler for the detailed information on E.E.E. Sassoon. 29 I thank Gracie Simon Raymond Fishson for this information. 30 My thanks to Solomon Sopher for this information, given to me in an interview held in his home on 18 August 2003. Sopher apologized that he was not knowledgeable about all details concerning the school because vital documentation had not been saved. 31 My thanks to Solomon Sopher for these details, in an interview held in his home in November 2015.

References Albuquerque, T., 1995, “Early Settlers in Bombay”, in Proceedings of seminar of Bombay Local History Society, St Xavier’s College, Bombay, pp. 11–17. Bank of India, 1956, The Bank of India Limited – Golden Jubilee – 50 Years of Service: 1906–1956, published by the author, Bombay. Ben-­Ya’akov, A., 1989, Chapters in the history of Babylonian Jewry, the story of one branch of the Baghdadi Sassoon family, Olam Hasefer hatorani, Jerusalem, in Hebrew. Bing, L.S., 1963, Jewish Chronicle, 13 January, p. 7. Edwardes, S.M., 1902, The rise of Bombay, a retrospect, I.O.R./V2812, Bombay. India Office, 1904, Bombay illustrated: Her resources, industries and commerce, I.O.R./ J100/58, Bombay. India Office, 1909, Gazetteer of Bombay city and island, vol. 1, I.O.R./T33352, Bombay. Israel, J.B., 1982, The Jews of India, Manohar, New Delhi. Jackson, S., 1989, The Sassoons, William Heinemann Ltd, London. Kelly, S., 1985, The Keneseth Eliyahoo synagogue century, Keneseth Eliyahoo, Bombay. Manasseh, R., 2013, Baghdadian Jews of Bombay, Midrash Ben Ish Hai, Great Neck, NY. Sapir, S., 2013, Bombay: Exploring the Jewish urban heritage, Spenta multimedia, Bombay. Sheppard, T.S., 1917, Bombay place names and street names, I.O.R./T37389, Bombay. Bombay Gazetteer, volume 2, 1909. pp. 140–141. Bombay Gazetteer, volume 3, 1910, pp. 101–109, 125, 130, 133–137, 278. Jewish Chronicle, 21 November 1873, p. 558. Jewish Chronicle, 15 May 1903, p. 27. Jewish Chronicle, 10 March 1905, pp. 10–11. Jewish Chronicle, 25 June 1909, p. 20. Jewish Chronicle, 7 April 1911, p. 13. Jewish Chronicle, 27 July 1917, pp. 12–13. Jewish Chronicle, 30 August 1937, p. 17. Jewish Chronicle, 31 August 1962, p. 14. The Jewish Advocate, 24 February 1933, p. 9. The Times, 11 January 1895, p. 4. The Times, 24 October 1916, p. 11. The Times, 28 September 1926, p. 13. The Times, 9 September 1929, p. 15.

94   Shaul Sapir The Times of India, 10 January 1862, p. 3. The Times of India, 22 January 1885, p. 6. The Times of India – Illustrated Weekly, 31 July 1907, p. 6. The Times of India – Illustrated Weekly, 6 January 1909, p. 4. Vanity Fair, 16 August 1879, p. 93.

6 Jewish sports and sectarianism in pre-­independence Bombay Nathan Marcus

In 1934, the Zionist rabbi and future Rector of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Israel Supreme Court Judge, Simcha Assaf, visited India. In Bombay, he noted how relations between its Baghdadi Jews and the Bene Israel community were “not good and needed improvement” (Assaf 1935:12–16). The Baghdadis were not marrying Bene Israel, nor were they even dining together. When asked why, one Baghdadi told Assaf that the Bene Israel did not sign marital contracts (ketubah) or practice levirate marriage (halitzah), that their wives did not follow the rules of family purity (taharat hamishpacha) and that in any case they had Indian names. Assaf retorted that the Bene Israel had ritual baths, that he had seen Bene Israel marriage contracts going back at least a century and that in fact neither Esperenza nor Flora were very Jewish names either. Seeking material support for the national project in Palestine, Assaf had little patience for Jewish sectarianism, but not every Jew around the world espoused his Zionist claim to nationhood. Prior to the advent of political nationalism, Jewish communities had developed localized and separate ethnic identities that allowed them to perceive themselves as distinct communities sharing the same religion. Whereas the rise of violent anti-­Semitism and the horrors of the Holocaust would soon prove a powerful motive for overcoming Jewish sectarianism around the world, class, language and education remained strong divisive forces that divided the two Jewish communities of Bombay. Zionism and Zionist sports offered a new ideology, one that strove to integrate different Jewish groups into a national fold, and by the 1940s some Bene Israel youths trained and competed alongside Baghdadi Jews in Zionist clubs. Overall, however, the ideology of Jewish nationalism could not bridge the geographic, linguistic and socio-­ economic distances that kept most members of these two Jewish communities apart.

Bombay’s Jews under British rule As Assaf critically observed, the Jewish population of interwar Bombay split largely into two detached communities: the majority were Bene Israel, Marathi-­ speaking Jews, who had lived in rural villages spread across the Konkan Coast for hundreds of years before moving to Bombay at the end of the eighteenth

96   Nathan Marcus century. Unaffected by developments of rabbinic Judaism, they had only recently adopted its extensive restrictions. The second largest group were Iraqi Jews, or Baghdadis, Arabic-­speaking Jews who had migrated from Mesopotamia and Syria in the footsteps of the wealthy Sassoons during the nineteenth century (Israel 1982:23). There were also small numbers of other Jewish ethnicities present in Bombay, including Yemenite and Afghani Jews as well as Persians who had escaped persecution from Meshad (Cohen 1925:247–266). From 1881 to 1941, the number of Bombay Jews tripled from about 3,300 to over 10,000, of which around three-­quarters were Bene Israel and one-­quarter Baghdadis (Lord 1907/1976:Appendix 1, p.  2; Reuben 1917:41; The Jewish Advocate March 1931:127). Most Jews of both groups were poor and resided in Bombay’s Byculla neighbourhood, where living standards were often precariously close to destitution, while a smaller group of wealthy Baghdadis lived in the more affluent Fort Area to the south of Byculla. Jews arriving from Baghdad were invited by Bombay Bene Israel to join their synagogues and use their cemeteries in the early nineteenth century, but the Baghdadis soon distanced themselves, acquired their own cemetery and unnecessarily refused to count Bene Israel among the quorum of ten during communal prayers. Marrying Bene Israel was prohibited because if indeed they were descendants of Jews, which they claimed and seemed to be, then their failure to follow rabbinic marital law made them ineligible for marriage. Nevertheless, the Baghdadis regarded Bene Israel as Jews, hiring them as cooks in their homes, as ritual slaughterers or appointing them headmasters of the predominantly Baghdadi Sir Jacob Sassoon high school (Kashani 1977:14; Timberg 1986:273–281). It is only natural that the Baghdadi refusal to inter-­marry with Bene Israel was resented and provoked animosity, mutual segregation and even hostility.1 As late as the 1960s, some Baghdadis still stated openly that they did not consider Bene Israel proper Jews (Neuman 1969:192). The fact that prominent twentieth-­ century rabbis in Britain and Palestine argued for the authentic Jewishness of Bene Israel did not solve the legal question of their marital status under rabbinic law, which preoccupied Israel’s rabbinic courts before it got resolved through a special session of Israel’s parliament in 1964 (Roland 1989:67). The political and social practices of the British Raj certainly helped shape the animosity between these two Jewish groups. Bene Israel communities, chosen by British administrators for employment in offices, the army or as workers, formed into a cohesive community, with their own school and synagogues in Bombay (Weil 1977:176–177). Similar to their Hindu neighbours, for whom caste-­identity was primary, the Bene Israel regarded their Jewish distinctness as more important than their Maharashtrian heritage. They quite naturally self-­ identified as “Jews from India”, but also strongly believed that they had conserved the “purity of their blood” (The Israelite 12 January 1900; The Israelite 9 February 1900). Taking pride in their lineage, they were strongly opposed to intermarriage with non-­Jews and did not submit to a position of inferiority, but wherever possible challenged Baghdadi exclusionism, proudly asserting their own Jewish heritage (Lord 1907/1976:110–111).

Jewish sports and sectarianism in Bombay   97 At the same time better-­off Baghdadis in Bombay’s Fort Area became anglicized, switching from Arabic to English and changing Iraqi garb for European dress, while a far larger, poorer strata in Byculla still preferred Arabic as late as 1931 (Assaf 1935; Timberg 1986:275–276, 1995:140–141). Egorova (2006:90–97) claims that it was partially because being “European” (or Arab) implied being “non-­Indian” that affluent Baghdadis were loath to identify with a group of Jews that took pride in its Indian history and traditions. Roland (1989:65–85; see also Timberg 1995:147) also argues that even if Bene Israel had been accepted as rabbinic Jews, the racial antagonism between British and Indians would have driven them and the Baghdadis apart.2 However, the gradual ascendance and acceptance of Bene Israel into higher echelons of business and political administration before and after the First World War, and the reluctance of wealthy upper-­class Baghdadis to heed calls from certain middle-­class Baghdadis to end their social snobbery, indicate that Jewish segregation and sectarianism was also governed by class-­consciousness during the interwar period, a challenge Zionist nationalism would try, but fail, to overcome. To ensure Indian support in fighting the Great War, the British had promised Gandhi sweeping constitutional changes, bolstering the standing and demands of Indian nationalists after the Armistice. The rise of Hindu (and Muslim) nationalism was an obvious reaction to the global order that emerged from the Great War, one that privileged the nation-­state and, above all else, supported the right to national self-­determination. But Jewish ethno-­religious groups such as the Baghdadis or Bene Israel, as well as Indian Muslims, were debarred from inclusion in the Hindu nation.3 Nationalism, with its exclusionary emphasis on common linguistic, religious and historic practices, therefore required minority groups to develop other forms of self-­understanding. In Bombay, much like in the urban centres of the Austro-­Hungarian Empire or Ottoman Turkey, separate ethno-­religious communities had lived side by side, and only shared a vague common self-­understanding that was so (un)defined as to accommodate a wide heterogeneity of peoples and beliefs. Zionism offered an answer to Indian exclusionism and gradually, but piecemeal, brought Bombay’s Jews closer together during the 1930s and 1940s (Timberg 1986:279). The space opened up through Zionist activities during the interwar years was the most obvious place for Bombay’s Jews to shed antagonistic allegiances, but Jewish nationalism remained an alien idea to many. Some Bene Israel, refusing to abandon their Indian heritage, stood opposed to political Zionism, as did many wealthy Baghdadis, reluctant to extend their sense of communal responsibility beyond the confines of their small, transnational community (Israel 1982:32; Roland 1986:285–347, 1995:127, 2007:43, 158–180; The Jewish Advocate 7 September 1931:233). Those Bombay Jews who did espouse Zionism did so separately (either joining the Bombay Zionist Association founded in 1920 by three young Baghdadis or the Bene Israel Zionist Society that had followed several months later), so that Bene Israel and Baghdadi Zionists were active in separate sports organizations, too. Inspired by the writings of Max Nordau and in line with other nationalist ideologies, Zionism emphasized the importance of

98   Nathan Marcus physical fitness and rejuvenation of the Jewish body, spouting the formation of Jewish sport clubs around the world. Bombay’s Zionist magazines enthusiastically espoused this ideology, covering Jewish athletics around the globe and devoting generous space to reports and photographs from local Jewish sport events.

Jewish sports in Bombay Except for Bhattacharya (2004, 2009) and her contribution in this volume on Jewish (and Parsee) girls sports in Calcutta, there is little literature on the athletic activities of India’s Jewish communities, though the study of organized sports holds much information as to how societies organize and view themselves.4 As Roland (2007:173) already noted, sport touches on questions of Jewish identity in India (and not just in India), because participating in athletic events can bring together members from different communities and presupposes that they perceive themselves as such. Sports as a leisure pastime might have been identified with European practice and the values of sportsmanship with British ideals, but both Jewish communities engaged enthusiastically in various athletic disciplines including cricket, hockey, football, tennis, table tennis, badminton and water polo. The examination of the Bombay Jewish press reveals that Bene Israel and Baghdadi athletes practised sports separately and that even towards the end of the Second World War, the newly founded Zionist Maccabi Sports club did not really bridge the communal divide that separated them.5 In 1941, the Baghdadi editor of the Zionist Jewish Advocate still considered the question of “inter-­sectional cooperation … the most important issue before the Jewish community in India” and deplored the fact that “communal life as such is to-­day divided into almost watertight compartments” (Shohet 1941:2). Starting with the beginning of the twentieth century, Jewish sports were organized along communal lines, and both groups had their separate Jewish clubs catering exclusively to either Bene Israel or Baghdadi members. In 1900, the (Bene Israel) Bombay Jewish Sporting Club was established, practising cricket, hockey and football, followed in 1917 by the (Bene Israel) Amateur Athletic Circle.6 By 1917, the Jewish Sporting Club had 41 members and its teams competed with different local clubs “of other communities … every year to improve the social intercourse amongst members of different races” (The Bene Israel Year Book 5677–5678 1917:60–61; The Bene-­Israel Annual and Year Book 5678–5679 1918:47–48).7 In 1920, the Amateur Athletic Circle’s cricket team played regularly on Saturdays and Sundays, and among its Jewish opponents were the Bombay Jewish Sports Club, the Israelite School and the Israelite Brotherhood – all organizations associated with the Bene Israel community (Friends of Israel January–March 1920: inside front cover).8 Both the Jewish Sporting Club and the Amateur Athletic Circle catered exclusively to the Bene Israel community and both were still active in the 1920s (The Bene Israel Year Book 5680 1919–1920:36–37).

Jewish sports and sectarianism in Bombay   99 Sport was a popular activity among members of the Bene Israel community. Over 600 people attended the Amateur Athletic Circle’s Bene Israel sports day in 1923, and the Bene-­Israelite Brotherhood organized sports days in 1924, 1926 and in 1934.9 A tennis club was established in Byculla in 1933 by the Maccabian alumni association of the Sir Elly Kadoorie School – a Bene Israel school (Israel School Maccabian Fellowship Silver Jubilee 1928–1953 1953:3; The Jewish Advocate 24 February 1933:13). Several Bene Israel institutions united in 1936 to bring about the establishment of a gymkhana for their community, an idea that had already been raised in 1927 (Report of the Eleventh Bene-­Israel Conference 1927 1928:42–43; The Jewish Tribune August 1936:15). Finally the Bombay Israel Association, founded in 1935 by Bene Israel, counted about 30 members and conducted daily cricket practices on the grounds of Byculla’s Young Men’s Christian Association (henceforth YMCA).10 None of these organizations seems to have competed against Baghdadi athletes or teams and all their members seem to have belonged to the Bene Israel community. The Bene Israel community also provided sports training to its younger members enrolled in the Bene Israel Sir Elly Kadoorie School. In 1910, its boys played cricket and its girls badminton and table tennis (The Annual Report of the Israelite School for the Year 1910 1911:7). Three years later hockey and football were added, but plans to set up a tennis court for girls miscarried.11 The school joined Bombay’s High School Athletic Association and its boys played friendly hockey and cricket matches against non-­Jewish teams from other schools and neighbourhood clubs (The Annual Report of the Israelite School, Magazon, Bombay, for the Year 1924 1925:8–9; The Annual Report of the Israelite School, Magazon, Bombay, for the Year 1925 1926:10; The Israelite January–February 1925:6–8). Bene Israel youth were also engaged in sports through the Israelite High School Boy Scouts (35th Bombay Boy Scout Troop), taking part in the Relay Race for Boy Scouts at the All India YMCA Athletic in 1923 and the Bombay Boy-­Scouts’ first athletic meeting in 1924.12 There is no indication, however, that Bene Israel boys or girls competed with or against Baghdadis, say from the predominantly Baghdadi Sir Jacob Sassoon School. The Bene Israel maintained their community’s own exclusive sport clubs and activities, but Byculla was home also to Baghdadi Jews. The Nagpada Neighbourhood House (henceforth NNH), a Jewish charity catering to Baghdadis, organized boxing trainings and tournaments there in the 1930s and 1940s (The Jewish Tribune July 1936:20). This boxing club was also segregational and in the 1930s only Baghdadi Jewish boxers or Paradesi Jews from Cochin, some of whom were of Baghdadi origin, as well as non-­Jews, represented NNH at tournaments, but no Bene Israel. Thus in 1933, at a Novices Boxing Tournament, Baghdadis M. Jacob, Ezra Ezekiel, Elias Joseph, Isaac Salomon and Elias Sassoon fought for NNH alongside S.S. Sapare and Harry Pascoe (The Jewish Advocate 7 July 1933:12; The Jewish Tribune 1 July 1933:29).13 The NNH’s Saul Hayem, another Baghdadi, won the final of the 1934 middleweights Amateur Championship, and during a NNH Boxing Tournament that year all but one Baghdadi were beaten by their adversaries, leaving S.M. Jacob the only Jew

100   Nathan Marcus to defeat his Parsi opponent (The Jewish Tribune 1 January 1934:20).14 Two Baghdadis, Isaac Menashe and Solo Jacob, won titles at the Bombay Presidency Junior Championship in 1936, together with their non-­Jewish NNH team-­mates G. Baboolal (Babulal) and Raymond D’Souza.15 A number of Baghdadis from NNH also fought at the Western India Junior Championship in 1940 and the Baghdadi Isaac Meanshi (sic) went on to win the Bantam Weight Boxing Championship of Western India that year.16 Although Bene Israel and Baghdadis both boxed, only the latter trained at the NNH. Baghdadis did so together with their non-­Jewish friends and neighbours, while the Bene Israel Fly Weight Champion Benjamin Aaron (fighting as A. Benny) trained independently. His trainer, the Goan Jack D’Souza, deplored the fact that there was no suitable institution in the Bene Israel community, “where their lads could be taught to use their fists in time of need” (D’Souza 1925:141–142). Nor did Bene Israel and Baghdadis compete against each other in cricket, a sport that both communities enjoyed. In 1926 a Bene Israel team for boys under 18 won the Silver Cup at the Thana Cricket Tournament. Around the same time, the (Baghdadi) Zionist Sports Club (henceforth ZSC) played cricket against the Baghdadi Jewish Social Club and the Baghdadi Young Zionists played against Cathedral High School’s “B” team (The Bene-­Israel Review October–November 1926:9; The Jewish Bulletin March 1930:4; The Jewish Bulletin August 1930:23). In 1932 the ZSC played the Ex-­Students Association of the Sir Jacob Sassoon School, an institution frequented by affluent Baghdadis, and its “B” team met the school’s “B” line-­up.17 Both communities seem to have enjoyed playing cricket and the ZSC regularly played the Sir Jacob Sassoon Ex-­ Students association, but there are no records of the ZSC or Baghdadi clubs competing against Bene Israel cricketers.18 The (Baghdadi) ZSC, established in 1930, was more than just a sports club. Despite its name, its leadership was made up entirely of Baghdadis, and it provided leisure activities to spectators and the Baghdadi community beyond the sports arena.19 The club put together a jazz band, issued its own journal, The Maccabee, but was particularly successful in water polo.20 The ZSC entered a team into the first division of Bombay’s European Water Polo League during the 1931–1932 season and its Baghdadi swimmers beat Cathedral High School, the Ducks and the Bombay Gymkhana, but lost a crucial game to the Cathedral Old Boys.21 The ZSC opened the next season with a “Communal match” against the Hindu section of the Bombay water polo team and in the European Water Polo League again beat the Bombay Gymkhana, but as well lost to the Cathedral Old Boys to finish second.22 The club entered the next two seasons with Baghdadi teams in both the first and second division.23 It was during the 1936–1937 season that its “B” Team became “B” division champions, defeating the incumbent Royal Artillery, and coming first again the following year.24 The Bene Israel did not have their own water polo team and all the ZSC swimmers seem to have been Baghdadi. The ZSC in its first years also fielded a football team in the League Eliminating Football Tournament.25 In 1933 the all-­Baghdadi team played only the first

Figure 6.1 Jewish Advocate, April 1941. Waterpolo Quadrangular between “Zionists” (sic) and Parsis, Bombay, 1941 (Source: reproduced with kind permission from the National Library of Israel).

102   Nathan Marcus round of the Gossage Football Cup, since they had “began training only three days before the match”, but in the Harwood League’s B Division the team gradually improved its game.26 The ZSC also had an all-­Baghdadi hockey team, which entered the Buchanan Tournament in 1933.27 But the ZSC would continue to score its largest success in water polo. In 1935, when the ZSC participated in the first-­ever Bombay Waterpolo Quadrangular, made up of “the Europeans, the Jews (known as Zionists), the Hindus and the Parsis”, it dropped out in the first round.28 The following years the Zionists kept being regularly defeated at this important event, but in 1941, the ZSC did reach its final to beat the Parsis, who had won the tournament since its inception, and then went on to even win the Western India League that same year.29 ZSC membership seems to have been exclusively Baghdadi, despite the Zionist ideology of inclusiveness, and to have competed only against Baghdadi and non-­Jewish teams, and never against Bene Israel. When in 1930 The Jewish Bulletin reported that for the first time a Jewish water polo team was entering the European Water Polo League, it noted:  We are glad to state that since writing in this connection in an earlier issue some of our lads who have not been playing for the Zionists have now joined forces with them … the subject of Jews patronizing their own as the problem of many Jews holding apart from their fellow-­Jews with feelings of pride is getting quite a serious one. (September 1930:35) But the new athletes must have been Baghdadi swimmers abandoning the elite and non-­Jewish Cathedral High School team for the ZSC. Publicly, at least, the ZSC was inclusive and did not ascribe to the practiced segregation dividing Bombay’s Jewish communal life. One year after its foundation, its Baghdadi secretary E. Solomon and treasurer N.H. Hillel had appealed to the readers of the Zionist Jewish Advocate to join the ZSC: “There should be no reason why each and every Jew in this place should not be a member of an institution which deserves every support and is the only one of its kind in Bombay.” However, class-­consciousness and geography were good reasons why Jews from Byculla would not join a Fort Area institution. The ZSC retained its Baghdadi and upper-­class character and when Zionist emissary Adolph Myers attended a water polo game while visiting Bombay in 1935, he wondered why the elitist ZSC was not associated with the World Jewish Sports Association Maccabi and had failed to participate in its Olympics held in Palestine (The Jewish Advocate 17 November 1932:595).

Piercing the barrier: Zionist sports Unlike in the upscale Fort Area, it was in the close quarters of Byculla, where Baghdadis and Bene Israel lived alongside each other, that we do encounter members of both communities gradually engaging together in sports and leisure.

Jewish sports and sectarianism in Bombay   103 In 1932, the Baghdadi S. Ezra called for the creation of a Byculla Branch of the Zionist Association, where the community was split into “various clubs and associations and the attitude towards one another is beyond conception … for it is really foolish of us to sneer at one another” (The Jewish Advocate 1 January 1932:315). The Baghdadi-­run Bombay Judean Club, founded by the Zionist editor of The Jewish Advocate A.E. Shohet, hosted debates and lectures and from 1939 onwards arranged table tennis tournaments for men, women and mixed doubles which Bene Israel also attended (The Jewish Advocate 16 June 1939:14). The Bene Israel Isaac “Aptekar” (Apthekar) beat first his opponent N. Aaron in the mixed open finals and then the Baghdadi Sassoon Sion in the gents handicap in 1940 (The Jewish Advocate August 1940:13). Isaac “Apetkar” (Apthekar) also came second at the table tennis tournament in 1942 and in 1943 won the gents open, gents handicap and the doubles against Baghdadi opponents (The Jewish Advocate February 1942:8).30 At least two more Bene Israel were actively present at the Judean Club tournaments: In 1943, the Ben Israel Isaac David Benjamin beat his Baghdadi opponent in the badminton handicap singles and then came second in the badminton doubles with his Ben Israel partner H. Townsend.31 The arrival of Jewish refugees from Europe and news about anti-­Semitic atrocities played a part in further breaking down social barriers between Baghdadi and Bene Israel youth. In 1943, the Odessa-­born refugee Gershon Starosta approached the 20-year-­old Percy Sassoon Gourgey, a Baghdadi Jew and captain of the successful ZSC water polo team, to help him found a local Maccabi sports club that would simultaneously welcome both Baghdadis and Bene Israel.32 The ZSC was considered “to all intents and purpose dead” though the Zionists still played in all of the important water polo fixtures (The Jewish Advocate August 1940:13). Together with several other European refugees and a number of Baghdadis, Percy and his twin brother Archie, founded the Maccabi Sports Club, which replaced the ZSC and was presided over first by Starosta, and, after he left to Palestine in 1944, by the Baghdadi E.M. Guetta.33 The new club must have attracted large numbers. By the fall of 1943, boxing equipment had been purchased for the (Baghdadi) Sir Jacob Sassoon School and training was held there every evening under the supervision of the Baghdadi E. Benjamin. Football and gymnastics were conducted at the (Bene Israel) Sir Elly Kadoorie School grounds and separately in the Fort Area, three volleyball teams were training, football practice was taking place on the Oval Maidan and swimming events were being held twice a week. In 1944, Maccabi started an athletic section, Elias Caustell (Caustill) was hired to supervise box trainings, cricket equipment was purchased and volleyball training intensified to thrice a week.34 By the next year, Maccabi was holding daily cricket practices in the evening on the Cross Maidan until sunset, which about 15 boys attended (The Jewish Advocate October 1943:22; The Jewish Advocate November 1943:23; The Jewish Advocate December 1943:23; The Jewish Advocate January 1945:15; The Jewish Advocate November 1945:16). The Maccabi football team, after a practice game against a line-­up chosen from 400 Jewish servicemen in Bombay on Passover leave, entered the Junior

104   Nathan Marcus Harwood League’s 4th Division (The Jewish Advocate May 1944:27). After losing its first games, the team played successfully during the 1945 season, winning nine, losing seven and drawing four, with the Baghdadi Simon Judah proving “a most exceptional striker” (The Jewish Advocate August 1945:17; The Jewish Advocate October 1945:17; The Jewish Advocate November 1945:16). We do not know if any Bene Israel were on Maccabi’s football team, but in 1945, Maccabi entered a women’s (and men’s) hockey team in the Bombay Provincial Hockey League, which consisted solely of Baghdadi women.35 A Maccabi rugby team valiantly faced local opponents, relying heavily on the Gourgey twins as well as on P. Klein, J. Shashoua, and its Baghdadi captain M. David (The Jewish Advocate September 1945:22; The Jewish Advocate October 1945:17). However, at a friendly volleyball match between Maccabi and Habonim in 1943, while the teams were still made up mostly of Baghdadis, Maccabi’s included the Ben Israel Ezekiel Moses in its line-­up.36 With the generous help of the Guetta and Rosenfeld families, the Golwalla Baths were reserved five days a week for practice, which helped the Zionists continue with their highest achievements in swimming. (The Jewish Advocate February 1944:23; The Jewish Advocate May 1944:27). Maccabi entered the European Water Polo Association league and was defeated by the Parsees in the final of the 1944 Quadrangular, but its swimmers came first in the league’s 1944–1945 season (The Jewish Advocate May 1944:27).37 As the 1947 monsoon ended, Maccabi was further successfully running table tennis and badminton, netball, boxing, gymnastics, football, hockey, rowing and weight-­lifting sections (The Jewish Advocate October 1947:12; The Jewish Advocate November 1947:15–16; The Jewish Advocate January 1948:13).38 At the beginning of the twentieth century, Bene Israel and Baghdadis had each organized into several yet separate sport clubs. Although non-­Jews were occasionally included on their teams, the two Jewish groups did not exchange players nor face each other on the Maidan during the 1920s or 1930s. This was more likely a cause of mutual and deep-­rooted animosity and a matter of class, rather than a question of race and colour, since Baghdadi teams did play against Christians, Muslims and Hindus and Bene Israel competed with Europeans. However, Zionist ideology, the strengthening of interwar nationalism, news about the Holocaust and possibly a youthful tendency to rebel against traditional norms all helped pierce the barriers that divided the two communities. In the 1940s, Baghdadi and Bene Israel youths competed together in tournaments at the Judean Club and in possibly more than just one of Maccabi’s sport sections. Maccabi, however, founded and led by Baghdadi Jews, still remained a Baghdadi-­dominated organization, despite its commitment to Zionist ideology.39 Only the better-­educated Bene Israel would have felt comfortable socializing with middle-­class Baghdadis anyway and the wealthiest Baghdadis kept looking down on poorer Jews from both communities.

Jewish sports and sectarianism in Bombay   105

Conclusion In 1952 the Chief Rabbi of Johannesburg, revisionist Zionist and later Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Louis Rabinowitz, visited independent India as official emissary of the Jewish Agency. In Bombay he gained the impression that relations between Baghdadis and Bene Israel had markedly improved after the British left. Rabinowitz blamed the racist assumptions that had governed so much of life under the British Raj for having kept the two Jewish communities apart: It is only in recent years that they [Bene Israel] have been accepted as full Jews by the younger Community of Bagdadi [sic] origin. They were not counted in Minyan, intermarriage with them was forbidden, and they did not benefit (nor do they own) from the trusts. I asked the reason and was piously told that it was a decision of a Haham from Baghdad, on account of their alleged laxity in matters of divorce and other aspects of marriage law. When I pressed my informant to produce these rulings, he embarrassedly evaded the question. In the last years, however, they have been accorded full rights. “Did you receive a ruling to this effect to annul the previous one?” I asked sarcastically. The answer was of course in the negative, as I believe the original ruling to be a figment of imagination. The facts were patent clear. Under the British Raj a white skin was an honour placing its owner in a privileged position. The greater the dissociation from Indian coloured Jews the better. With the attainment of independence by India, however, the tables have been decisively turned. It is the Indian who is “top dog” now and the formerly privileged class have hastened with almost indecent haste to welcome the Bene Israel as brothers and coreligionists! Naturally there are still some diehards, and need it be stressed that among them are some of the trustees? (Rabinowitz 1952:71–72) Zionism had already opened up a space in pre-­independence Bombay for Baghdadis and Bene Israel to socialize, to compete athletically or to join forces on sports teams, but only a few seem to have been interested in doing so. Writing in 1971, Strizower noted how a quarter century after independence matters still had changed little. “Mixed” events were taking place at the Jewish Club to bring young Baghdadis and Bene Israel together, but only “the more sophisticated section of the Bene Israel youth is attracted by the club’s activities such as debates and dancing”. Baghdadi members in turn were also few and mainly from the poorer section of its community. Some affluent Baghdadis would sometimes show up, but Strizower had the impression that they perceived their membership as “some sort of social work”, helping to organize activities for the poorer members of their own community and supporting the more affluent and sophisticated Bene Israel in their efforts to learn more about Judaism (Strizower 1971:150–163). Twenty years after India had gained independence, and despite a joint commitment to Judaism and Zionism, differences of wealth, language and education still helped keep animosities alive and the two communities apart.

106   Nathan Marcus

Notes   1 In 1930s Bombay, some Baghdadis wished to exclude Bene Israel from hospital beds paid for and reserved for Bombay Jews, provoking petitions from Bene Israel to the government (Roland 1995:117–131).  2

Given the Indian context of the second half of the 19th century in which the British­Indian relationship was that of superior-­inferior, the identification of the Baghdadi community with the Europeans was bound to result in a social rift between the Baghdadis and the Bene Israel. (Roland 1998:84)

  3 Flower Elias and Judith Elias Cooper wrote about Baghdadi identity in colonial Calcutta: The citizens of Calcutta were predominantly Indian but under this label were many sects, the two main ones being separated by an unbridgeable gulf; the Hindus and the Muslims. There were also many minorities, the most powerful of all being the British, who were, in fact, the sovereigns of the state. The British kept to themselves and mixed only with other Europeans in their clubs; the Hindus and Muslims did likewise in their homes – and the minorities did the same. Among their fellow citizens, the Jews perhaps had most in common with another minority, the Armenians, (as the Jews in Bombay had with the Parsees) for both had a Middle Eastern background and both had retained their identity in spite of a long sojourn in this land.  (Elias and Cooper 1974:207–208)   4 Bombay’s Baghdadi Jews have received less scholarly attention than those of Calcutta, where the gradual Europeanization towards the end of the nineteenth century brought along British practices and organized sport, too. The Jewish Girls’ School of Calcutta had its own competitive hockey team in the late 1920s and 1930s, playing in the city’s first division and practising during the early morning hours on the Maidan. According to The Jewish Tribune (December 1938:23), Calcutta’s Jewish women’s hockey team included the following players, who were all Baghdadis: H. Benjamin (capt.), R. Aaron, S. Luddy, S. Ezra, R. Luddy and R. Jacob. See also Elias and Cooper (1974:182), Hyman (1995:94–95) and Timberg (1995:147).   5 This was much deplored by Jewish refugees arriving from Europe. On their arrival in Bombay, see Weil (1999:64–84).   6 Its Managing Committee in 1920–1921 consisted of S. Jacob (secretary), Isaac Elijah (capt.), A.D. Penkar (capt.) and S. Solomon. Its donors were mostly Bene Israel, too: Aaron Benjamin, Jocob I. Apteker, D.J. Samson, I.J. Samson, M.E. Daniels, H. David, Solomon Moses, Uziel Solomon, D.S. Penkar, D.A. Tarankhopkar, Benjamin Simeon, A. Isaac, Abraham Benjamin, H.S. Reubens, Simon Reuben, Elijah Hyams, Isaac Sadick, M.A. Moses and S.S. Mazgaonkar. At a Peace Commemoration in 1919, E.S. Judah of Jubbulpore took gold and silver. I.A. Ezekiel won the one-­mile race and Jacob Ezekiel Penkar and S.J. Samuel were also awarded prizes. The event concluded with the singing of the national anthem “amidst much enthusiasm” (Friend of Israel January–March 1920:inside of front cover; Friend of Israel May–June 1919:56; Friend of Israel November–December 1919:140).   7 In 1917, the office bearers were M. Benjamin (secretary) and M. Solomon (treasurer) who also served as secretary for the Israelite Brotherhood, founded in 1905. In 1918, the office bearers were R. Isaac (capt.) and Solomon Daniel Satamkar (secretary). Isaac remained captain in 1919, but John Reubens replaced Satamkar and E. Ezekiel was named treasurer (The Bene Israel Year Book 5677–5678 1917:60–61; The Bene-­ Israel Annual and Year Book, 5678–5679 1918:47–48).

Jewish sports and sectarianism in Bombay   107   8 The other teams played were: Robert Money School, Dadar Independent S. Club, New Maharashtra C. Club, Military Depot and Accounts Office, Presidency C. Club, Catholic Cricket Club, Parsee Orphanage, Santa-­Cruz Y.M.A.S. and Star Rising C. Club (Friend of Israel January–March 1920:inside of the front cover). They do not seem to have ever competed with Baghdadi teams.   9 In 1923, women competed in Musical Chairs and Anagram. In 1926, the championship gold went to Joshua Joseph and D. Isaac came second (The Bene-­Israel Review January 1926:14; The Israelite January–February 1923:15; The Jewish Tribune 1 February 1934:17). 10 The founders were Abraham D. Penker, G. Rubens and Jonathan Abraham. The office bearers for 1936–1937 were also all Bene Israel: Joseph R. Samuel (president), G. Reuben (secretary), M. Samson (treasurer), G. Reubens (cricket captain), D. Isaacs (vice captain), D.S. Kolet (B team captain) and Joseph E. Payne (cricket managing committee) (The Jewish Tribune February 1935:16; The Jewish Tribune April 1936:16). 11 In 1922, the school’s alumni in a friendly match beat the boy’s cricket team. All players seem to have been Bene Israel. Alumni (66 runs): A.M. Chincholker, Mishael Michael, E. Ezekiel (capt.), S. Benjamin, S.A. Chewoolker, J.J. Samuel, E.S. Ezekiel, B.A. Kasooker, Elijah Jacob, Michael Ezekiel, Dr E.S. Moses and Aminabad (sic) Ezekiel. School boys (65 runs): S.A. Changaoker, S.M. Desai, D.E. Belker, J.D. Bhonker, A.I. Ghosalker, E.I. Pezarker, R.S. Desai (capt.), P.D. Wasker, I.A. Kasooker, D.A. Waroolker, E.S. Penker and M.R. Killeker (The Annual Report of the Israelite School for the Year 1912 1913:9; The Annual Report of the Israelite School, Magazon, Bombay, for the Year 1922 1923:9; The Israelite November–December 1922:166–167). 12 Competing against a range of other Bombay High School Troopers, they won two cups and three further medals. The Bene Israel Boy Scouts also did well at the second annual athletic meeting, coming second by one point (The Israelite July–August 1924:92–93). 13 Jewish boxers competed for N.N.H. at the Christ Church High School tournament on 12 October 1933 with M. Jacob beating D.A. Shroff (Zoroastrian Physical Culture League), E. Ezekiel losing to A.K. Bakru (Petit Gymnastic Institute) and S. Jacobs beaten by Marku (David Sassoon Reformatory) (The Jewish Advocate 20 October 1933:10; The Jewish Tribune 1 July 1933:29). 14 The beaten Baghdadis were Isaac Menashy, Elias (Ellis) Joseph, R. Isaacs, S. Jacob and E. Ezekiel. Hayeem reached the Bombay Presidency Amateur Boxing Championship finals in 1933 and 1935, as well as the Senior Amateur Boxing Championship for Western India. Another Baghdadi, Alfred Isaac, held three titles as best amateur fly weight of India in 1934: Auxiliary Force India Flyweight Champion of all India, All India Railways Flyweight Champion and Auxiliary Force India Flyweight Champion of Bengal (The Jewish Advocate 24 April 1933:16; The Jewish Advocate November 1935:11; The Jewish Advocate n.d., vol. 8(9):13; The Jewish Tribune September 1933:54; The Jewish Tribune August 1934:16). 15 In 1936, NNH boxers were all either Baghdadis or non-­Jews: Isaac Menashe, G. Baboolal (sic), Solo Jacob and Raymond D’Souza won titles; runners-­up were Naji Ephraim, Elias Joseph, Ezra Ezekiel, I. Sequeria, the three “Dark Flukes” Luxuman Hanumant, Albert Rangers, J. Rood Lino and the “old stager” Saul Hayeem. The complete NNH team further included A. Gueizellar, P. Fernandes, M. Jacob, M. Dilwash, Bertie Carrol, J. Santos, Ken Martin, Harry Pascoe and Victor Pascoe (The Jewish Tribune September 1936:36; The Jewish Tribune November 1936:14; The Jewish Tribune December 1936:16). In 1937 the following Baghdadis and non-­Jews boxed for NNH: Japheth Isaac, Moses Abraham, Menashe Nissim, Raymond David, Raymond D’Souza, S. Jacob, Isaac Menashe, Fred Couthino, A.M. Silas, L. Hanumant, M. Dilwash, E. Ezekiel, J. Rodd Lino, C. Hopkinson, Ned Moses, George

108   Nathan Marcus






Harris, Saul Hayeem, Joe Hayeem, I. Menashy, A. Moses and J. Cohen (The Jewish Advocate n.d., vol. 8(9):13; The Jewish Tribune June 1937:15; The Jewish Tribune December 1937:18; The Jewish Tribune January 1938:18). At the 1940 Western India Junior Championship, S.A. Solomon and N. Solomon each beat J.A. D’Souza and Cadet Mukerji on points. W.J. Sopher and Y. Howard both lost on points to Cadet V.R. Ketkar and U. Kassam. M. Nissim defeated L.P. Robson on points. A. Shohet, M. Nissim and M. Solomon lost on points to J.A. Williams, S. Shirazi and K. Koch, respectively. Baghdadi Jews also successfully competed in weight-­lifting with N.M. Pinhas and Jacob Cohen, respectively, winning the flyweight and light-­weight annual championships organized by the Matunga Athletic club in 1940. Jacob Cohen earned the title “Light-­weight Champion of Bombay” by lifting the highest poundage in the Bombay Provincial Olympics and represented Bombay at the All-­India Weight Lifting Competition (The Jewish Advocate n.d., vol. 10(5):11; The Jewish Advocate 26 April 1940:12; The Jewish Advocate December 1940:14). Two Baghdadis are mentioned as playing well – D. Haskell for Jacob Sassoon School and M. Cohen for ZSC. The ex-­students of the Jacob Sassoon School had formed an Association in 1931, which had the foundation of a gymkhana as the second of its ten aims (The Jewish Advocate December 1931:279; The Jewish Advocate 1 November 1932:573). Ex-­Students Association: N. Moses, R. Moses, S. Kelly, R. Simon, S. Ellis, S. Moses, E. Caustill, J. Benjamin, R. Cohen, P. Abraham and N. Joseph. ZSC: N. Elias, S. Sopher, S. Cohen, I. Musry, M. Cohen, J. Musry, E. Sopher, E. Solomon, N. Hillel, E. Aboody and E. Musry. The ZSC did not field a team for the important Bombay Pentangular, India’s premier cricket tournament, which Ramachandara Guha called “India’s equivalent to the Bundesliga”, but Jewish Baghdadis joined the “rest” team, together with other minorities. The Baghdadi M. Cohen, India’s best Jewish cricketer, played for the first time with the “rest” in 1938 and continued to do so until 1941, while no Bene Israel played for the “rest” team. A Jewish team did play the Muslims during the second round of the Dongri Quadrangular Cricket Tournament in 1933, a game that reportedly attracted 2,000 spectators (Guha 1997:174–183; The Jewish Advocate 21 September 1933:17; The Jewish Advocate 20 October 1933:10; The Jewish Advocate 26 December 1933:10; The Jewish Advocate 17 November 1939:11; The Jewish Advocate December 1940:14; The Jewish Tribune October 1933:21; The Jewish Tribune January 1938:18; The Jewish Tribune December 1939:12). Its early leadership was made up of E.J. Judah (president), G. Hillel (vice-­president), E.M. Sopher (secretary), E. Obadiah (treasurer), S. Gahtan, D. Sargon, M. Hillel, I. Solomon and M. Cohen. An evening picnic on Saturday, 8 November 1930 was attended by about 200 people and included singing and dancing to European music as part of the programme, while the “elder people who preferred Eastern music thoroughly enjoyed the singing and dancing of an Arabian dancer who kept the crowd amused” (The Jewish Bulletin November 1930:62). Another “picnic” on 25 October 1931 included dancing on a cruise around the Bombay harbour to Elephanta Island (The Jewish Advocate December 1931:288; The Jewish Bulletin June–July 1930:16; The Jewish Tribune May 1934:24). The musicians were all Baghdadi, too: Sollo (sic) Jacob (piano), Isaac David and R. Crain (violin), Georgy David (banjo), Dicky Ezra (drums), Bertie Cohen (guitar) and Fred Benjamin (banjo mandolin). In 1933, the following Baghdadis were elected members of the managing committee: Ellis Judah (president), E.S. Obadiah (vice-­ president), J.E. Musry (secretary) and E. Sopher (treasurer). Committee members: N. Hillel, E. Solomon, I. Musry, S. Sopher, S. Cohen, J.F. Haskell and A. Hillel (auditor). The ZSC gymkhana application to the Collector of Bombay show that ZSC did not perceive itself as a Baghdadi-­only organization, as it included not only Baghdadi names: Meyer Nissim, Alwyn Ezra, J.E. Raymond, M.I. David, I. David, E.J. Judah, Mrs Ezra, Sophie David, M.E. Haskell, Mr Chincholkar, Solomon Moses, Ruth

Jewish sports and sectarianism in Bombay   109








Reuben, M. Hillel, Miss E. Joseph, Rebecca Reuben, S.H. Haskell, R. Reuben, S.S. Sopher, Solomon Judah, R.J. Mathalone, G.N. Musry, David Judah and M.D. Reubens (The Jewish Advocate October 1932:538; The Jewish Advocate November 1932:556, 573; The Jewish Advocate 24 February 1933:14; The Jewish Advocate 10 March 1933:4, 12; The Jewish Advocate 7 April 1933:14; The Jewish Tribune 1 April 1933:26–27). The following Baghdadis played for ZSC in March and April 1932: E. Aboody, I. Solomon, E. Obadiah, G. Hillel, J. Hillel, S. Gahtan, D. Sargon and D.I. Sargon (The Jewish Advocate March 1932:354; The Jewish Advocate 1 April 1932). The polo team had grown by the end of the year to include S. Gahtan, I. Solomon, N. Hillel, D.I. Sargon, J. Hillel, S. Haskell, N. Haskell, E. Aboody, E.S. Obadiah, N. Joseph, E. Solomon and D. Sargon (The Jewish Advocate November 1932:573–574; The Jewish Advocate December 1932:620). Swimming for ZSC in 1932: S. Gahtan (goal); I. Solomon, J. Hillel and E. Solomon (backs); S. Haskell, R. Carey and D.I. Sargon (forwards) (The Jewish Advocate December 1932:620). ZSC A-­team in 1933: S. Gahtan, N. Hillel, D.I. Sargon, S. Haskell, J. Hillel, N. Haskell, E. Solomon and I. Solomon. ZSC B-­team: S. Haskell, D. Gubbay, E.S. Obadiah, G. Hillel, N. Hillel, N. Joseph and D.I. Sargon (The Jewish Advocate October 1932:539; The Jewish Advocate 1 January 1933:641–642; The Jewish Advocate 10 March 1933:12; The Jewish Advocate 7 April 1933:14, 27). A-­team: S. Gahtan, I. Solomon, D. Sargon, N. Hillel, E. Solomon, M. Hillel and J. Hillel. B-­team: E. Aboody, G. Hillel, N. Judah, E. Obadiah, A. Gubbay, M. Cohen and J. Elias. 1934 A-­team: S. Gahtan, I. Solomon, M. Cohen, N. Hillel, M. Hillel, E.  olomon and D. Sargon. Against Bombay Gymkhana, YMCA, or Royal Artillery: S. Gahtan, D. Sargon, I. Solomon, E. Solomon, M. Hillel, J. Elias, S. Cohen, M. Cohen, N. Elias and D.I. Sargon (The Jewish Advocate 21 September 1933:17; The Jewish Advocate 9 October 1933:12; The Jewish Advocate 20 October 1933:10; The Jewish Advocate 6 March 1934:2; The Jewish Tribune 1 March 1933:724; The Jewish Tribune 1 May 1933:29; The Jewish Tribune 1 August 1933:4; The Jewish Tribune October 1933:21; The Jewish Tribune 1 November 1933:27; The Jewish Tribune June 1934:16; The Jewish Tribune November 1934:15; The Jewish Tribune March 1935:34; The Jewish Tribune October 1935:18; The Jewish Tribune November 1935:14; The Jewish Tribune December 1935:16). B-­team: D. Gahtan, N. Ezra, J. Elias, E. Musry, A. Solomon, N. Elias, S. Shellim, V. Moses, S. Cohen and S. Gahtan. Against DLI on 20 September 1936: D. Gahtan, N. Ezra, J. Elias, A. Solomon, E. Musry, V. Moses and S. Gahtan (The Jewish Advocate n.d., vol. 8(2):2, 11; The Jewish Tribune October 1936:18; The Jewish Tribune November 1936:14; The Jewish Tribune May 1937:8). ZSC were beaten by Royal Artillery (0:6), and playing the Harwood league in 1933, lost all four matches. The Jewish Advocate (7 July 1933:12) reported that they “had bad luck owing to some players not being able to turn up on the match days, and consequently having to play reserves”. See also The Jewish Bulletin June–July (1930:16). The players were J. Hillel, E. Aboody, B. Cohen, Nissim Elias, I. Musry, Maurice Cohen, M. Hillel, C. Solomon, N. Joseph, S. Gahtan and S. Cohen (The Jewish Advocate 12 May 1933:11; The Jewish Advocate 26 May 1933:16; The Jewish Advocate 9 June 1933:14; The Jewish Advocate 7 July 1933:12; The Jewish Tribune 1 June 1933:34; The Jewish Tribune 1 July 1933:29). The hockey team consisted of B. Cohen, E. David, I. Musry, N. Elias, M. Cohen, J. Lewis, I. Solomon, J. Hillel, N. Joseph, S. Cohen and R. Solomon – all Baghdadis. The ZSC’s new hockey secretary, S.M. Sopher, obtained the Oval Maidan for weekly practice and hoped to see the following players show up: M. Cohen, S. Cohen, S. Gathan (sic), N. Joseph, J. Lewis, I. Musry, Aboody (sic), I. Solomon, A. Gabriel and M. Solomon (The Jewish Advocate 24 February 1933:14; The Jewish Advocate 9 October 1933:12; The Jewish Tribune 1 April 1933:27).

110   Nathan Marcus 28 S. Gathan, S. Haskell, E. Solomon, I. Solomon, S. Cohen, M. Cohen and M. Hillel (The Jewish Tribune May 1935:16). 29 At the 2nd Quadrangular: S. Gahtan, I. Solomon, D. Sargon, E. Solomon, S. Haskell, S. Cohen and M. Hillel (The Jewish Tribune May 1936:14). At the 3rd Quadrangular: J. Elias, N. Ezra, S. Gahtan, N. Elias, S. Cohen, I. Musry, D. Gahtan, A. Solomon, C. Musry, D. Sargon, E. Solomon, J. Hillel and M. Hillel (The Jewish Advocate April 1936:11; The Jewish Tribune February 1936:20). At the 4th Quadrangular: S. Gahtan, P. Gourgey, S. Haskell, D. Sargon, E. Solomon, M. Hillel and S. Chakey. At the 5th Quadrangular: W. Abraham, D. Sargon, E. Solomon, M. Cohen, P. Gourgey, M. Hillel and A. Solomon (The Jewish Advocate 26 April 1940:12; The Jewish Tribune n.d., vol. 9(3):20, 22; The Jewish Tribune May 1939:23). The champions of the 6th Quadrangular were: A. Gourgey, M. David, J. Meyer, Moses Hillel, Percy Gourgey, A. Solomon and V. Moses (The Jewish Advocate March 1941:10; The Jewish Advocate April 1941:1, 7; The Jewish Tribune April 1941:15). 30 Badminton Singles: Saul Moses (winner), Sassoon Moses (runner-­up); Badminton Doubles: Miss Cissy Simon and R. Simon (winners), Miss Rosaline Moses and Sassoon Moses (runners-­up); Table-­Tennis Opens: Sassoon Sion (winner), Isaac Aptekar (runner-­up), Ladies Handicap: Miss Pearl Abraham (winner), Miss Diana Moses (runner-­up), Gents Handicap: Sassoon Sion (winner), S.M. Silas (runner-­up) (The Jewish Advocate February 1942:8). 31 Table Tennis Ladies Handicap: Pearl Abraham (winner), Emma Nissim (runner-­up); Gents Open: Isaac Aptekar (winner), Samuel Nathan (runner-­up); Gents Handicap: Isaac Aptekar (winner), Samuel Nathan (runner-­up); Doubles: Isaac Aptekar and Sassoon Menashy (sic) (winners), Rachel Meyers and Sassoon Sion (runners-­up); Badminton Open Singles: J.M. Ezekiel (winner), Saul Somers (runner-­up), Handicap Singles: S.M. Jacob (winner), Isaac David Benjamin (runner-­up), Doubles: N. Marshal and S.I. Ashkenazy (winners), Isaac David Benjamin and H. Townsend (runners-­up) (The Jewish Advocate April 1943:15). 32 Percy and his twin brother Archie had been among the first boys active in the Zionist youth organization Habonim, founded in the Fort Area by Baghdadis in 1935. The movement spread to Byculla and then Poona, Calcutta and Cochin. The following Baghdadis were listed in 1935 as Bonim and Bonoth: Percy Gourgey, Sam Mansoor, Archie Gourgey, Ben Hayeem, Eddie Simon, J. Mansoor, Gladys Hayeem, Sophie Hayeem, Matilda Raymond, Helen Simon, Ruth Simon and Rosaline Eliezer – all Baghdadis. Maurice Raymond (Moshe Rahamim) was also an early member (Gourgey 1992:3; Gourgey 2002:5; The Jewish Advocate 24 March 1933:13; The Jewish Advocate July 1935:5; Manasseh 2013:294–295). 33 The first Maccabi committee in 1943 consisted of: G. Starosta (president), A. Menashe (vice-­president), W. Plank (secretary and treasurer), F.W. Pollack, P. Gourgey (secretary for Fort), E. Edelstein (secretary for Byculla), M. Rabinowicz (indoor sports), F. Klein (football) and E. Hollo (light athletics and swimming) – it included no Bene Israel (Starosta 1943:27, 29; The Jewish Advocate August 1943:18). 34 The three cup winners at the athletic recruiting meetings in February 1944 were all Baghdadis: Stella Joseph, M. Judah and A. Nathan (The Jewish Advocate March 1944:23). 35 The team was made up entirely of Baghdadi girls and finished second that year: Dolly Dayan, Katie Kelly, Doreen Raymond, Julie Gubbay, Margaret Marshal, Doris Marshal (capt.), Madeleine Nathan, Julie Ephraim, Rachel Simon, Rachel Moses and Sarah Moses (The Jewish Advocate January 1945:15; The Jewish Advocate October 1945:17; Manasseh 2013:294–295). 36 For Maccabi, the Bene Israel Ezekiel Moses and the Baghdadis Elias Nissim, Menashe Nissim. Edward Isaac, Joseph Isaac (capt.) and Isaac Raymond; for Habonim, the Baghdadis: L. Benjamin, David Solomon, Abraham Moses, Nissim Aaron, Manual David and Ezekiel Benjamin. At Habonim’s First Annual Sports

Jewish sports and sectarianism in Bombay   111 Meeting in 1945, championship cups were won by Baghdadis Frank Solomon and Matilda Jacob with Abe Isaac tying with Hilda Nathan and Benjamin Menasseh. On 5 March 1944, Maccabi beat the Matunga Athletic Club in a tournament game (The Jewish Advocate December 1943:23; The Jewish Advocate March 1944:23; The Jewish Advocate January 1945:15). 37 At the National Swimming Championships that year, Maccabi’s Isaac Mansoor won the 100 metres open and placed second on 400 and 1,500 metres. Maccabi also participated in a three-­mile swimming race from Sunk Rock across the harbour to the Gateway of India, coming “easily first”. Maccabi’s A-­team: Jack Jaglom (capt.), Maxie David, Archie Gourgey, Peter Kahn, Isaac Mansoor, Judah Eliezer and Moses Hillel. A certain Robert Deane, as well as Percy Gourgey and David Sopher were also mentioned (The Jewish Advocate September 1945:22; The Jewish Advocate October 1945:17; The Jewish Advocate November 1945:16; The Jewish Advocate September 1947:16). 38 For Maccabi swam: Isaac Mansoor, Ezey Mansoor, Percy Gourgey, David Sopher and Joe Zilka (The Jewish Advocate December 1947:18–19; The Jewish Advocate January 1948:13). The club sent a water polo team to Third World Maccabi Games in Israel in 1950 and two Jews were included in the Indian water polo team sent to the Olympic games in Helsinki in 1952 (Gourgey 1953:416–421). 39 The committee members and office bearers for 1946–1947 were all Baghdadi: E.J. Guetta (president), Nissim E. Marshall (secretary), Sas Moses (treasurer), Peter Klein, V. Moses, George Kobrak, Isaac Mansoor, F. Benjamin, Doreen Raymond and Rachel Moses. Section leaders: Isaac Mansoor (swimming), Nissim Marshall (table tennis), Sas Moses (badminton), Peter Klein (football and men’s), Doreen Raymond (women’s hockey), George Kobrak (rugby), Elias Caustill (sic) (boxing), Moses Menashy (Byculla weight-­lifting) and Victor Moses (gym) (The Jewish Advocate May 1946:17).

References Assaf, S., 1935, “Mirshamei Massah Behodu” [India Travelogues], HaHed, 9, 12–16. Bhattacharya, S., 2004, “Women in sport: The Parsees and Jews in twentieth-­century India”, International Journal of the History of Sport, 21(3–4), 502–529, viewed 25 March 2018 from DOI: 10.1080/09523360409510553. Bhattacharya, S.G., 2009, “Physical education in the curriculum: The case study of Bethune College”, International Journal of the History of Sport, 26(12), 1852–1873, viewed 25 March 2018 from DOI: 10.1080/09523360903172440. Cohen, Israel, 1925, The Journal of a Jewish Traveller, John Lane the Bodley Head, London. D’Souza, J., 1925, “A. Benny, Fly Weight Champion of the B. B. & C. I. Ry (Present Weight 8 S.)”, The Israelite, 9(9–10), September–October, 141–142. Egorova, Y., 2006, Jews and India: Perceptions and image, Routledge, London. Elias, F. and Cooper, J.E., 1974, The Jews of Calcutta: Theiography of a community, The Jewish Association of Calcutta, Calcutta. Gourgey, P., 1953, “India”, American Jewish Year Book, 54, pp. 416–421. Gourgey, P., 1992, “Beginnings of Bombay Habonim”, The Scribe, 55, p. 3. Gourgey, P.S., 2002, “Bombay reminiscences”, The Scribe, 75, p. 5. Guha, R., 1997, “Cricket, caste, community, colonialism: The politics of a great game”, International Journal of the History of Sport, 14(1), 174–183. Hyman, M., 1995, Jews of the Raj, Hyman Publishers, London. Israel, B.J., 1982, The Jews of India, Jewish Welfare Association, New Delhi.

112   Nathan Marcus Kashani, R., 1977, Kehilot HaYehudim BeHodu [The Jewish Communities in India], Misgav Yerushalayim, Jerusalem. Lord, J.H., 1907, reprinted 1976, The Jews in India and the Far East, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT. Manasseh, R., 2013, Baghdadian Jews of Bombay – Their life and achievements: A personal and historical account, Midrash Ben Ish Hai, New York. Neuman, S., 1969, The Jews of India: A study in majority-­minority relations, Master’s Thesis, New York University. Rabinowitz, L., 1952, Far East Mission, Eagle, Johannesburg. Reuben, R. (ed.), 1917, The Bene-­Israel Annual and Year Book 1917–18/5677–5678 1st April 1917–31st March 1918, Bombay, p. 41. Roland, J., 1986, “A decade of vitality: Bene Israel communal development (1917–1927)”, in T. Timberg (ed.), Jews in India, pp. 285–347, Vikas, New Delhi. Roland, J., 1989, Jews in British India: Identity in a colonial era, University Press of New England, Hanover, NH and London. Roland, J., 1995, “Indian-­Jewish identity of the Bene Israel during the British Raj”, in N. Katz (ed.), Studies of Indian Jewish Identity, pp. 117–131, Manohar, New Delhi. Roland, J., 1998, The Jewish Communities of India: Identity in a colonial era, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, NJ. Roland, J., 2007. “The Baghdadi Jews of India: Perspectives on the study and portrayal of a community”, in N. Katz, R. Chakravarti, B. Sinha and S. Weil (eds), Indo-­Judaic Studies in the Twenty-­First Century: A view from the margin, pp. 158–180, Palgrave-­ Macmillan, New York. Shohet, N.E., 1941, “The Jewish youth conference”, in The Jewish Advocate, 11(13), March, p. 2. Starosta, G., 1943, “Maccabi”, The Jewish Advocate, 13(1), September, pp. 27, 29. Strizower, S., 1971, The Children of Israel: The Bene Israel of Bombay, Shocken, New York. Timberg, T., 1986, “Baghdadi Jews in Indian port cities”, in T. Timberg (ed.), Jews in India, pp. 273–281, Vikas, New Delhi. Timberg, T., 1995, “Indigenous and non-­indigenous Jews”, in N. Katz (ed.), Studies of Indian Jewish Identity, pp. 135–152, Manohar, New Delhi. Weil, S., 1977, A Study of the Persistence of Ethnicity and Ethnic Identity, Doctoral Dissertation in the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Sussex. Weil, S., 1999, “From persecution to freedom: Central European Jewish refugees and their Jewish host communities in India”, in A. Bhatti and J.H. Voigt (eds), Jewish Exile in India 1933–1945, pp. 64–84, Manohar, New Delhi.

Part IV

The Baghdadis of Bengal Formal and informal education

7 Muslim students in the Jewish Girls’ School, Kolkata A changed legacy Jael Silliman

Over the last 30 years, the student body of the Calcutta Jewish Girls’ School (JGS),1 currently home to over 1,100 students, has come to be 90 per cent Muslim. Many of the girls in attendance are first-­generation learners. The Calcutta Jewish community, with about 4,000 community members in the early 1950s, rapidly declined as community members emigrated. In the 1970s, there were fewer than 600 Jews and today not even 20 Jews remain in the city. Most are very elderly. The very few Jewish community members left in Calcutta have been open to receiving a majority of Muslim girls amongst the students of the JGS, due in part to a history of close relationships between the Calcutta Jews and other communities. While outside of India, a Jewish school with a majority Muslim student population might be considered unique, this transition has gone largely unnoticed in a still somewhat cosmopolitan Calcutta. Ever since the days of the Raj, many of the city’s finest schools have been missionary schools; students from all communities have vied to attend them. Catholic and Protestant schools are still highly prized as centres of excellence, though no other schools are now equally as good. In the Christian/Catholic schools, too, the majority of students are not Christian. English medium education in Calcutta remains largely secular. In this chapter, I analyse the shifting composition of the student body at JGS from the time of its founding in 1881 to the present.2 In 1953, political, economic and practical compulsions led JGS to admit not only Jewish students but also students from other communities. This was not the result of a deliberate school policy, but rather a function of the changing dynamics of the neighbourhood in which the school is located and of the emerging educational aspirations of middle- and lower middle-­class Muslim families.

A brief history of the Jewish Girls’ School Education for Jewish girls paralleled the development of girls’ education for other communities in Calcutta. In 1881, members of the Jewish community, concerned about the proselytization in mission schools, opened the JGS. At first, the school was located in a residential home on Ezra Street – a very Jewish area at that time, as denoted by the name of the street. While JGS maintained a more or less British curriculum, the school’s mission aimed to provide its students with a

116   Jael Silliman Jewish education. Students appeared for the Cambridge examination, and JGS was recognized as a European school, but the school atmosphere was relaxed, informal and Baghdadi in character. At first, both boys and girls studied at the school. In 1883, JGS had a student body of 115 girls and 70 boys. The school was given a European classification that was temporarily withdrawn and then restored (Ezra 1986:364). The students did not wear uniforms and the teachers taught from comfortable armchairs. Students studied the Torah and the Prophets and recited their prayers in Hebrew. While Jewish teachers remained responsible for religious education, almost all the other teachers were Anglo-­Indians, as were the principals. Regina Guha was the first Jewish principal. On completion of her Law degree, Regina Guha applied to be a pleader at the Calcutta Bar in 1914. She was refused on the grounds of being a woman. It was then that she decided to serve as a Principal of the school (see “Women Pioneers and Legal Cases” in Recalling Jewish Calcutta, 2017). The elites of the Jewish community sent their daughters to Loreto House, a Catholic school, while some sent theirs to Calcutta Girls’ School if it was closer to where they lived – and if the families concerned were less observant. Those who lived in the vicinity of Calcutta Girls’ School, sent their children there. While the community’s middle class constituted the majority of its students, poorer members had their children’s education and boarding highly subsidized or free. In 1929, under the direction of E.M.D. Cohen, JGS’ visionary and driving force, a new and elegant three-­floor building was constructed to house the school. It was located on Pollock Street, opposite the Beth El Synagogue and in the heart of the Jewish community. The premises on Park Street, a castle-­like building with a garden, were used for the school’s administration. Its first floor served as a hostel for community members whose daughters needed a good study environment. The hostel was supervised by a Jewish warden. Board and lodging was either free or heavily subsidized by Jewish community funds and members of the community. The JGS excelled under the leadership of Miss Ramah Luddy, who served as principal from 1929 to 1964. Upon returning from England in 1929 with a Master’s degree in Education, she enforced greater discipline, introduced uniforms and physical education, and made gym mandatory. During her tenure, enrolment rose to 300 Jewish girls in attendance. Under her direction, students performed very well in the state exams and in extracurricular activities and sports. In 1962, Miss Luddy was still the principal when JGS was relocated to larger premises on Park Street, where most of the Jewish community had shifted by then. The Gubbay family provided funds for the construction of a three-­storey building with classrooms and a playground. As the new school was being built, the community peaked in size, added to by Jews who had trekked from Burma to Calcutta during the Second World War. Ironically, a combination of national and global events in the 1940s and 1950s led to a swift dispersion of the Calcutta Jewish community. As Calcutta’s Jews began emigrating in increasing numbers to Israel, the UK, America, Canada and Australia, JGS, in its new premises, became all but devoid of Jewish students.

Jewish Girls’ School, Kolkata   117

End of an era: admitting non-­Jewish students Recognizing that the number of Jewish students was fast dwindling, in 1953 the JGS Management decided to admit non-­Jewish students. The school, formally registered under the Societies Registration Act, included a diversity clause in its objectives within the governing memorandum of understanding: … [to] provide, establish, and carry on a school or schools, and/or hostel or hostels for the education and/residence of children professing the Jewish faith and domiciled in India, with liberty to extend these benefits to children of other faiths and domiciles, subject to such rules and regulations as to admission.… (Ray 2001:83) The wooden plaques in the school hall list the students who graduated with the Senior Cambridge School Certificate. The first non-­Jewish girl listed as having graduated was Anita Mukherjee (1962) followed by Ratan Madan (1963). Sarah Silas, who attended JGS from 1959 to 1971, recalls: “In my class we had Muslim, Christian, Bengali, Sindhi, Gujarati, and a couple of Jewish children – there were many more Hindu than Muslim children.”3 Despite there being non-­Jewish students, the Jewish environment that Miss Luddy had nurtured for almost four decades prevailed. Though she formally retired in 1964, Miss Luddy served as an advisor to the school. After 1964, she remained a special advisor to the school and was responsible, along with Norman Nahoum, for interviewing and hiring Miss Chaudhuri, a graduate of Loreto College. Thus, the “Jewishness” of the school – its traditions and culture – remained intact when Miss Mitter, a Bengali, succeeded her. According to Sarah Silas: Even though there were only a few Jewish students in the school, it always felt like a Jewish school because we still followed Jewish traditions and the non-­Jews and the Jews were like family … I never felt it was non-­Jewish because we had non-­Jewish students … in the morning at assembly we sang Hatikva, said the Shema, Adon Olam, and Psalm 23 – the Lord is My Shepherd was recited every day with the non-­Jewish students joining us. There was always common courtesy and mutual respect between all students, regardless of being from different religions. To this day, I still maintain very close friendships with many of my Jewish and non-­Jewish friends from my school days. Sarah Silas remembers a time when there were just two Jewish girls in a class of about approximately 15 students; Hebrew and Scripture were offered in the school as long as there was still a Jewish teacher to teach the class. When Miss Rodda retired in the 1970s, however, classes in Hebrew and Scripture came to an end.

118   Jael Silliman Miss Anita Chaudhuri, a teacher at JGS who joined in 1978 as a part-­time teacher, straight after graduating from Loreto College, recalls that the class size then was very small, with about 17–20 children in each class. She recollects by name the handful of Jewish girls who were there.4 Esther Hazarika, who graduated in 1980, also recalls the atmosphere at that time: When I was at the JGS Mrs. Navi and Mrs. Solomon [Jewish women] were in charge of the pantry and kitchen. There were a few Jewish girls in my class – 8 out of the 22. The others were Bengali, Punjabi, Rajasthani and Muslim. The school maintained a very Jewish status and energy. Jewish hymns were sung in the morning before we went to class. We used to say a prayer before and after eating. The relationship between Jewish and non-­ Jewish students was excellent: harmony, equality, love and kindness. I still have all of my friends. We are in touch. When I am in India I meet them. Thanks to Facebook, I found so many of them.5 By the mid-­1980s, a decision was made by the principal, Mrs Patel, along with Norman Nahoum to increase the size of the student body as the premises could accommodate many more students. Classes were extended to two sections each, and the number of students per class was increased. The school now has 1,100 students. Most likely this decision was based on making the school self-­ supporting. Abeda Razeq, a student at the school from 1987 to 1992, recalls the student composition in those years. She states: “It then had Muslim, Sindhi, Bengali, and Marwari students … at that time, Muslims were a little more than half [of the student body].”6 It was from the early 1990s onward that there was a steady increase in Muslim student enrolment. This trend within JGS is consistent with Muslim students’ enrolment in missionary and secular schools, especially when they are located in Muslim areas. Until today, there are schools solely for Muslim girls, and some Muslim girls attend madrasas, but these do not use English as the medium of instruction. For example, the Anjuman High School is a Muslim school but it is the Urdu medium of instruction. Miss Chaudhuri recollects that in the early 1990s many of the Muslim students entering the JGS were poor and lower middle class. Most lived in the vicinity and came from families that aspired to provide their daughters with a good education at a school where English is the medium of instruction. Miss Chaudhuri explains the process through which the school became predominantly Muslim over the next 25 years: since many of the ex-­students had a positive association with the school, they have chosen to send their daughters to JGS and encouraged extended family members to do the same. Another attraction has been that the fees charged by JGS were and still are substantially lower than those charged by other schools where the language of instruction is English. According to Abeda Razeq (student, teacher and now Vice Principal of the JGS) the JGS has also built a reputation among conservative Muslim parents for being a safe space for their daughters where they can maintain their community identity: “Since generations

Jewish Girls’ School, Kolkata   119 of Muslim students have passed through [the school], people in the community have trust that they can send their daughters there without any fear.”7 While most girls are from lower middle-­class to middle-­class families, positive perceptions and the good academic reputation of JGS within the Muslim community has led to enrolment of girls from affluent homes too. Many students come to school dressed in salwar-­kameez and hijab. Once in the school, they change into their uniforms. It is common to see burqa-­clad mothers coming to collect their daughters at the end of the school day. Nowadays the wealthier girls in the school are dropped to school and picked up by car. Abeda Razeq also describes changing aspirations among the students: … increasingly, they are turning out to be aspiring achievers. Unlike a generation ago, very few seem resigned to the role of merely a home-­maker. The number of students who go into the professional world after finishing education is steadily increasing. In turn, teachers at the school contribute to these aspirations by searching for  opportunities to expand students’ horizons. The teachers at the school are Hindu, Christian and Muslim, with the majority being Hindu. They encourage students to participate in inter-­school activities, debate, song, dance and other

Figure 7.1 Jewish Girls’ School Carnival, Kolkata, December 2018 (courtesy Kingshuk Chatterjee).

120   Jael Silliman competitions – all of which give these girls an exposure that is mostly unavailable in their homes. The students have performed very well at these inter-­school meets. JGS has stood first in the Horlicks Inter-­school Competition over the past four years. It has also hosted other schools in prestigious inter-­school events such as debating and quizzes. Many of the graduates go to the top colleges in Calcutta like Loreto College, Maharani Birla and St Xaviers. As teaching enables them to combine their home duties with their professional aspirations, many of the young women opt for teaching careers. Thus, over more than 30 years (1985–2019), the JGS student body has become predominantly Muslim as a function of Calcutta’s changing demographics, the rising aspirations of Muslims to better educate their girls, and the openness of the administrators of the Jewish community to changes in student enrolment, class size and religious affiliation.8

Jewish in name and on special occasions Over time, as is to be expected, the Jewish character of the school has faded. While a Jewish Board was accountable for running the school – the Nahoum brothers, from the family of Nahoum’s Confectioners served on the Board and as Presidents of the school – the day to day operations of the school were run mostly by a series of principals who reported directly to the Nahoums. As a result, except for the fact that the school still observed significant Jewish religious holidays, there was very little in the way of Jewish culture or tradition to distinguish JGS from other schools in the city. There remains a Maghen David (Star of David) on the pocket of the shirt of the school uniform and the same on the school diary. However, the prayers in Assembly and the school diary are multi-­denominational and similar to those in other secular schools.9 It is only on special occasions, such as the 125th anniversary of the school, when its Jewish heritage is celebrated. At that time the principal was Hindu (as all but one of the principals have been to date) and the student body was predominantly Muslim. Sarah Silas recalls the invitation she received to attend the school’s 125th anniversary in 2006.10 Miss Das, then the school coordinator, invited Sarah who was living in Canada but made a point to be there for the occasion. She says: When I attended the anniversary function, I was mesmerized by what took place in the concert. There was not a single Jewish student but I was pleasantly surprised and touched by these non-­Jewish girls singing in Hebrew, and they even sang the Hatikva. They did Jewish folk dances. What beautiful dancing! And what was so impressive was that even though the girls were dressed as boys for the dances that required partners, we couldn’t tell they were actually girls. They also did dances from every state [in India] and had brilliant costumes … during my speech I mentioned my teachers, and many of my teachers who were in the audience were delighted to stand up and be recognized.

Jewish Girls’ School, Kolkata   121 In 2014, I personally attended the Independence Day Celebrations at the school. The students performed dances and songs from each state of India to celebrate the nation and its diversity, unfurled the flag and sang the national anthem. The Independence day celebration at the JGS was very much in keeping with other celebrations of patriotism across the City’s schools. While the teaching staff is multi-­denominational, Miss Chaudhuri comments that as Muslim girls are becoming more qualified, the number of Muslim teachers in the school is increasing. The Vice Principal, Abeda Razeq, is both Muslim and an alumna of the school. Since both the Nahoum brothers passed away, the Board has been composed of the handful of Jews left in the city, and they are taking a greater interest in being more actively engaged in school affairs.11 The school, for all intents and purposes, is run as a minority secular institution. Abeda Razeq states: The parents are unlikely to know much about the Jewish history of the school. The students are aware that this institution was an important component of Jewish community life from the 1880s, set up to provide education to the under-­privileged of the community, and there was a hostel for Jewish students. They also know that when the number of Jewish students declined, the school was opened up to those coming from other communities to give them the same gift of education.12

Implications: teachings on multicultural engagement from Calcutta Muslim girls attending a Jewish girls’ school may be considered exceptional outside India. To see burqa-­clad mothers escort their daughters to and from the school and to see Muslim girls nonchalantly wearing a smart uniform that consists of a skirt and striped blouse that sports the Star of David, garners attention abroad – especially in these increasingly polarized times. However, in Calcutta and in much of urban India to this day, minority schools – especially Christian schools – are still sought after by members of all communities. In Calcutta’s cosmopolitan past, many minority communities thrived – Anglo Indian, Jews, Parsees, Armenians, Muslims, Goans and Chinese – and maintained deep and binding professional and personal ties among each other and with the mainstream community. Jews and Muslims, in particular, enjoyed deep friendships and were bound together by their somewhat common dietary practices.13 For generations, the caretakers of Calcutta’s three synagogues have been Muslims (Borpujari 2014); Muslims, as well as Hindus, are the guardians of the cemetery. The convergence of dietary habits often led to Muslim cooks being employed in Jewish homes. Through these and other relationships, abiding friendships and ties remain strong and there is a legacy of goodwill between the two communities (cf. Silliman 2016). As a result of this legacy, lower middle-­class Muslim girls that came to be the primary beneficiaries of JGS had never been considered a problematic issue, even by conservative members of the Jewish

Figure 7.2 The Geniza (storage area for worn-out holy books and papers prior to burial) in Narkeldanga Cemetery, Calcutta, 2015 (courtesy Prabir Purkayastha).

Jewish Girls’ School, Kolkata   123 Community. In turn, to date, the school’s Muslim students have not been polarized by events in Islamic nations, including Israel–Palestine relations. The Jewish Girls’ School has continued to provide a quality education in the past decades. This is a testimony to the Jewish community’s commitment to continue this educational service for the benefit of students, regardless of their religious or class affiliations. Their education at JGS has enabled them to build professional careers that have been a tribute to the school’s reputation. The education provided by, and in the name of, the Jewish community testifies to the persistence of multicultural tolerance and engagement in the city. The continuing close ties and good working relationships between Muslims and Jews is important to acknowledge, especially for those who choose to see Jewish and Muslim interests as antithetical to one another.

Notes   1 For more information on the JGS and for visuals, see the exhibit on Community Institutions at For more on the school’s principals, administrators and benefactors, use the same link to access Women Pioneers where both Miss Ramah Luddy and Miss Musleah are featured.   2 I wish to thank Abeda Razeq, Sarah Silas and Anita Chaudhuri for the information they shared regarding the school and for their insights on its changing character and composition. I also thank Anuradha Chatterji and Shikha Bhattacharjee for their helpful suggestions and insights.   3 In 2015, I held an extensive interview with Sarah Silas – now Sarah Brown who lives in Canada – about her time at both the JGS hostel and the school.   4 Miss Chaudhuri remembers Eva and Esther Hazarika, Malka Levy and Ruby Navi. She believes Malka Levy was the last girl to graduate in about 1982. At that time there was the Israel family who were in the kindergarten which had boys and girls attending.   5 Esther Hazarika now lives in Israel. She had her wedding reception in the school hall. I asked her questions about her years in the JGS via email and Facebook (2015).   6 Abeda Razeq is now Vice Principal of the school and is active in its Alumnae Association. She responded to a series of questions in July 2015. I have also spoken with her about JGS on many other occasions.   7 In addition to several conversations with Abeda, I sent her questions which she responded to in writing (June 2015).   8 As a member of Calcutta’s Jewish community (Silliman 2001), I am glad that the school has been opened to a class of girls who might otherwise not be able to obtain a quality education.   9 The 2015 school diary contains the National Anthem and a patriotic pledge to India, followed by the Vande Mataram, the school prayer, and the school song, English Prayers (All things bright and beautiful, Do it now, When I needed a neighbour and We shall overcome), Hindi Prayers (Aye Malik Tere bande hum, Tumhi ho Mata, Sare jahan se accha, Hamko man ki shakti dena, Hum honge kamyab) and Bengali Prayers (Ek sutre, Hao dharamete dheer, Dhano dhanne, Aguner parashmoni, Anando Loke, Hridaye premer pradeep jalo) are included. Many of these very prayers were featured in my own Catholic-­school education in the 1970s. 10 Sarah Silas graduated with distinction and also excelled in extracurricular activities. 11 While there are a few Jews running the school, as it was under the leadership of the Nahoums, none of them have any educational background or appropriate qualifications. The last President of the school, Flower Silliman, was an educator and alumnus

124   Jael Silliman of the school, but internal politics at JGS forced her to step down. She still remains the President of the Alumnae Association. 12 While Abeda Razeq is knowledgeable about the school and its history, the hostel – and not the school – was set up for under-­privileged students. 13 The Nahoums had friends from all communities, including some very close Muslim friends.

References Borpujari, P., 13 October 2014, “Muslim Families Look after Kolkata Synagogues”, Al Jazeera­india-look-­jews-kolkata­synagogues-2014101372153836885.html. Ezra, E.D., 1986, Turning back the pages: A chronicle of Calcutta Jewry, vols.  I & II, Brookside Press, London. Ray, D., 2001, The Jewish heritage of Calcutta, Minerva, Calcutta. Recalling Jewish Calcutta, 2017, Digital Archive, Silliman, J., 2001, Jewish portraits, Indian frames: Women’s narratives from a diaspora of hope, Seagull Books, Calcutta. Silliman, J., 2016, “The Everyday Practice of Acceptance: The Baghdadi Jews in Calcutta’s Cosmopolitan Landscape (1930s–1970s)”, Journal of Indo-­Judaic Studies, 15, 71–89.

8 Sport, gender and socialization The experience of Jewish and Parsee women in colonial and post-­colonial Bengal Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya Sport is a mirror of society, reflecting the strong beliefs, interest, enthusiasm and excitement of men, women and different social classes as spectators, performers or both. Sport occupies a central place in the social life of most communities throughout the world. However, even in the twenty-­first century, as Bernstein and Galily (2008) argued, there is still a perception that women are not accepted as an integral part of the world of sport. The marginalization of women’s sports is clearly indicative of patriarchal ideologies in sport, according to which masculinity is celebrated and male values are asserted and viewed as heroic; whereas female muscularity is considered cruel and undesirable. Despite such sociological constraints, women of different cultures around the world are able to express and develop their identities through sport. The Honourable Minister Mr Prasad not only praised the extraordinary accomplishments of Indian sportswomen such as wrestler Sakshi Malik, shuttler P.V. Sindhu and gymnast Dipa Karmakar in the Rio Olympics, but also emphasized how those women have acted as stimulus for women’s emancipation in the country. In recent years, around the world, a great deal of research has been conducted within the field of sports studies to find out whether women are capable of competing at the same level as men. In this chapter, I will concentrate on the sociological restraints that have created impediments for women’s involvement with sports in Bengal. The chapter starts by underlining the differing sporting activities, sporting interactions and challenges faced by Jewish and Parsee women, the two distinct minority communities who made a special contribution to the city of Calcutta, the commercial capital under the British Raj in colonial Bengal through the post-­ independence era. Although Calcutta was home to several minority and majority ethnic groups from its very inception, for the present contribution I have deliberately selected the two above-­mentioned minority communities because of their similar traits. In the context of colonial Calcutta, both the Jewish and Parsee communities enjoyed success as merchants, were very receptive to British education, were endogamous, spoke a different language in their respective homes and followed strict religious rites, thereby maintaining their ethnic identities in a cosmopolitan city. The upper and middle classes of these two communities shared anglicized values, culture, language, lifestyle, thereby

126   Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya demonstrating an ethos of acceptance and accommodation. The community ethnic identity was further reinforced by both minorities in the community clubs, which were established for socializing and included sporting and other activities. However, in both communities, it should be pointed out that the lower-­middleclass members were not as westernized as the elites of the communities, a fact which restricted their sporting practice to some extent. The chapter, then, will comment upon the role of socializing agents in female sport involvement and the constraints faced by them with special reference to the Jewish community, and how their experience differed from the Parsee community.

Jewish and Parsee women in sport The Parsees, an ethno-­religious minority, came to India from Persia around 1,200 years ago and led a secluded agricultural life in the Gujarat region. With the coming of the British, this minority group was significantly transformed into an entrepreneurial community. Gradually, they settled in Calcutta, the commercial capital of the British from 1767 onwards (Madan 1990). Similarly, the Arabic-­speaking Baghdadi Jewish community settled in Bombay, Calcutta and Rangoon, the leading port cities of British India. Unlike the Cochin Jews and Bene Israel, the Baghdadi Jews were never indigenized. Abraham argued that the Baghdadi Jews formed a close-­knit, conservative, orthodox community and considered themselves to be immigrants/aliens in British India (1995:4). They arrived in Calcutta as traders, financers and industrialists by the late eighteenth century (Chowdhury and Chaliha 1991:52; Silliman 2001:15). It is interesting to note that both the Jewish and the Parsee communities were loyal British subjects and supporters of colonial rule. The Baghdadi Jews, in fact, adopted a Judeo-­British identity (Abraham 1995:8–9). The Parsees were the most Anglicized community in India, and were total anglophiles (Luhrmann 1996). This strong Anglo orientation motivated these two communities to adopt different aspects of colonial culture like its literature, music, dress, and sports and athletics (Silliman 2001:19–20). However, Bhattacharya (2004:505) offered a convincing argument that, due to their more privileged background, the anglicized women of the Baghdadi and Parsee communities engaged in recreational sport, emulating the lifestyle of British women who played table tennis, hockey, basketball, and so on in different British clubs. Bhattacharya (2004:505) further explained that the Jewish women played games such as badminton, hockey and basketball in the Judean Club, which was established in 1929 to organize cultural, social and recreational programmes for Jewish adults. So, for the Jewish community, until the 1930s, sport was just getting together with friends and having a good time, an attitude that ensured female participation as well. This was also true for the Parsees in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (Darukhanawala 1935). Thus leisurely sporting practice, which was only confined to the European and Anglo-­Indian communities, gradually became visible among the anglicized Parsee and Jewish women. The games prescribed for the womenfolk by these two communities were badminton, table tennis, tennis,

Sport, gender and socialization in Bengal   127 basketball and hockey, games considered suitable to be played appropriately by the women as per the standards of the time. The women of these two communities began to participate in competitive sports at a much later date. Bhattacharya (2004:506) noted that the Parsee women gradually took to intra-­club, inter-­club, national and international competitions. Some Jewish women also participated at the national level and international levels, but their participation was limited to their respective community clubs and organizations because the Jews placed a high value on the preservation of their community identity. Biswas (1991:128) stated that, in 1934, the first lawn tennis tournament was organized in Calcutta and women were not allowed to participate. However, that same year, the Parsee Sporting Club organized the first ladies tennis tournament on its premises. Bhattacharya (2004:506) noted that the Jews were not at all involved with lawn tennis. However, beginning in 1946, the Jewish women played table tennis in matches organized by the Jewish Athletic Club. They were mainly engaged in intra-­club competition and Esther Moses was a very prominent player. They also participated in the All-­Bengal Table Tennis Championship, of which Miss Bunny Sen and Miss Ramah Luddy were the winner and runner-­up, respectively, of women’s singles events in the 1940s (Raz 2014). Unfortunately, the club was closed by 1950 due to financial difficulties and thus the table tennis competition had to be dissolved within four years of its inception (Ray 2001:117–119). The Judean Club also organized intra-­club table tennis championships. In one such championship held in May 1939 in Calcutta, Miss H. Benjamin and J. Ferris beat Miss Sally Luddy and F. Ezra (Raz 2014). This club also could not continue with the championship for long. From 1962 through 1983, the Parsee ladies also played table tennis on the club premises, although table tennis, along with badminton, had been introduced by the Calcutta Parsee Club for the Parsee ladies in 1953. The Parsee ladies participated actively in various championships like the North Calcutta Table Tennis Championship, the Central Calcutta Open Table Tennis Championship and the All-­India Girls’ School Championship. Parsee girls like Daisy Kapadia, Kamal Kapadia, Aban Medhora and Jimmy Medhora also won accolades in table tennis during this period (Bhattacharya 2004:518). The activity of the Calcutta Parsee girls was hardly of any significance in badminton, but as emphasized by Bhattacharya (2004:522), this sport became quite popular among the Jewish women with the opening of a badminton section at the Jewish Athletic Club in 1949. For instance, on 16 December 1949, an exciting match was played between the Agarpara and Jewish Athletic Club teams. Ten years later, in 1959, 19-year-­old Maisie Sadka won the women’s singles competition against Miss Jean Smith at the State Badminton Championships held at the Eden Gardens Indoor Stadium (Chakrabarti 2014:89). It is unfortunate that despite the achievements of Jewish women in badminton that sport could not be continued by the Jewish community for a longer period. (Bhattacharya 2004:522). The world of sports and leisure was a medium through which Jewish people socialized within the community. Badminton was such a sport and brought the

128   Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya community closer during family gatherings. There were badminton matches between men and women and there was a mixed badminton group in Calcutta. This sport was so popular that the extended family of Esmond Ezra used to play this game at their house on festive occasion and at family get-­togethers, in which other members of the community also participated equally (Raz 2014). Bhattacharya (2004:515) noted that the Jewish women of Calcutta, like their Parsee counterparts, also played basketball. From 1940 onwards, the Calcutta Jewish women played basketball in the Jewish Girls’ School, the Jewish Athletic Club, the Maccabi Club and other community facilities (Bhattacharya 2004:515). Similarly in the 1940s, the Calcutta Parsee Club introduced basketball for ladies and, by 1946, the Parsee ladies had won the first division championship of the Women’s Basketball League (Bhattacharya 2004:506). At that point in time, European and Anglo-­Indian women dominated this sport, but Parsee women soon not only started competing with the former, but also defeated them. Interestingly, by 1967, Parsee women teams played in the A, B and C divisions of the Calcutta Women’s Basketball League. They represented Bengal in the  Nationals, pre-­Asiad and Asiad matches and played visiting international teams like the Zambian women’s basketball team (Bhattacharya 2004:506). Bhattacharya (2004:515) further argued that the years 1965–1985 can be considered the golden period of the Calcutta Parsee Club’s Ladies Basketball Team, as the Parsee girls dominated women’s basketball in Bengal during that period. Parsee women also held significant administrative positions in both the Women’s Basketball Association of West Bengal and the West Bengal Referees’

Figure 8.1 Restored Beth El Synagogue interior, Kolkata, December 2017 (courtesy David Ashkenazy).

Sport, gender and socialization in Bengal   129 Association, thereby preserving their elite consciousness (Kulke 1974:262; Nandy 2000:53). Unlike the Parsees, the Jewish women were limited to intra-­club, inter-­club, intra-­school and inter-­synagogue basketball competitions. The most contested match, which attracted the attention of the entire Jewish community, was the inter-­synagogue basketball competition. In fact, the first inter-­synagogue Jewish basketball match played between Maghen David Synagogue and Beth El Synagogue on 20 June 1948 on the premises of the Jewish Girls’ Hostel had an energizing effect on the entire community, who waited eagerly for the result of the match. Significantly, after a closely contested game, the Maghen David Synagogue won by 15 points under the captaincy of Miss Esther Lelah, a very prominent sportsperson in the Jewish community at that time (Bhattacharya 2004:515). Other players on that team were Miss Esther Aaron, Miss Seemah Ferris, Miss Ethel Morris, Mrs M. Tassie, Miss S. Ashkenazi and Miss Renee Lelah. Miss Hebe Solomon was the captain of the Beth El team and other players on that team were Sylvia David, Violet Joseph, Sheila Cohen, Seemah Cohen, Esther Moses and Seemah Judah (Ray 2016:162). In fact, it seems that such matches not only had the potential to further reinforce the strong bonds of this close-­knit community, but also facilitated intense socialization of intra-­community forces. This inter-­synagogue match is also significant when viewed from another important angle. Following Chakrabarti (2014:81), it can be said that there was severe inter-­synagogue rivalry in the community and matters even dragged to the courts. The establishment of Maghen David Synagogue, the most splendid synagogue in the East, in 1884 led to the removal of religious articles from Neveh Shalom Synagogue to the former and the congregation of Neveh Shalom became that of Maghen David. In 1886, Chakrabarti (2014:81) further noted that the Beth El Synagogue was rebuilt on a lavish scale to compare favourably with Maghen David. According to Chakrabarti (2014:81), in 1914, bitterness between these two sections of the community culminated in legal proceedings (Maghen David v. Neveh Shalom) over a matter of ownership of warehouses and the matter was finally settled in the courts several years later. Thus, it seems that the inter-­synagogue match was the manifestation of the rivalry that existed between the synagogues, which made it the perfect platform for settling inter-­synagogue enmity. Compared to basketball, the Jewish women’s hockey team, as argued by Bhattacharya (2004:519), was much better because it competed with non-­Jewish teams. For example, the A and B division teams of the Jewish Girls’ School competed in the Women’s Hockey League in November 1937 (Hindustan Standard 6 November 1937). Similarly, in 1952, the Maccabi Club’s girls’ hockey team played in the senior women’s league (Silliman 2001:113). The Jewish girls’ hockey team included players like Rachel Sally and Ramah Luddy and was the youngest team in women’s hockey in February 1936. Miss Ramah Luddy, who was then only 16 years old and a pupil of the Jewish Girls’ School, was a promising athlete and a good hockey player. There were other noted

130   Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya Jewish players like Noreen Ezra and Sally Luddy who represented Bengal in the All-­India Tournament (Joshua 2014). There were various teams of Jewish girls who participated actively in the league matches of the Women’s Hockey Association of Bengal like the Jewish Sports, Jewish Girls Reds and Jewish Girls Blues who played against teams like Blue Triangle, Hai Girls, Wanderers Reds, Wanderers Blues, Blue Birds, Rovers and Hornets during the 1933–1934 season (Berson 2014). The Maghen David Synagogue’s girls’ hockey team was also active during that period (Joshua 2014). The Jewish Athletic Club also organized hockey teams that represented the club at all major tournaments (Ray 2016:162). In 1947, the Calcutta Parsee Club introduced hockey for ladies. Bhattacharya (2004:519) has informed us that from 1965 to 1974, the women’s hockey team of that club participated in various tournaments like the Asian Women’s Hockey Championship, the National Women’s Hockey Championship, Junior and Senior Nationals, friendly matches with Japan, and the like. During this period, teams from this club were also the champions of the A and B Divisions of the Calcutta Hockey League and winners of the Lady Tegart Shield and several other similar competitions. Shireen Contractor, Kamal Kapadia, Beroze Bilimoria, Rashna Dubash and Meher Sutaria were a few of the noted hockey players of the Calcutta Parsee Club. In fact, Shireen Contractor became the first Parsee girl from Bengal to represent India in any sport when she played for India in the Asian Women Hockey Championship in December 1967 in New Delhi (Bhattacharya 2004:519). Thus, it needs to be mentioned that hockey was a sport where the women of both Jewish and Parsee communities participated outside their communities. It appears that the co-­existence of exclusive and shared community cultural space of these two communities was well reflected through hockey. The game of hockey thus created a common bond not only between the Jewish and Parsee communities, but it also connected these communities with women of other communities, who had nothing else in common, and who might have had no reason to interact with one another in the past. It should also be noticed that although the Parsee women were competing with the European and other communities in sports like badminton, table tennis, tennis, basketball and hockey, the Jewish women had to restrict their engagement with these sports to intra-­ club, inter-­club, inter-­school and inter-­synagogue competitions. Cricket being a male preserve, the Parsee community started ladies cricket at a much later period on the premises of the Calcutta Parsee Club. From 1973 to 1975, Parsee women represented Bengal and India in different cricket tournaments. Mention can be made of excellent women cricketers like Rashna Dubash and Shireen Kiash who contributed immensely towards this sport (Bhattacharya 2004:521). However, Ray (2016:162) argued that there is little reference to women’s cricket in any of the Jewish clubs even though a Jewish cricket club for men was formed in 1873 under the guidance of Aaron N.E. Judah. Bhattacharya (2004:522) argued that the Jewish community preferred to encourage swimming as a sport for women. She further noted that swimming was recommended for all ages and became quite popular among the elite Jewish families (Bhattacharya 2004:522). Perhaps, swimming was prescribed because unlike cricket, it was

Sport, gender and socialization in Bengal   131 neither a masculine game nor primarily a male preserve and so it was not hard for the patriarchal society to grant its approval for women’s swimming. Moreover, the elite Jewish families emulated the British cultural values and, in line with that, Bhattacharya (2004:522) noted that they enjoyed all the amenities of upper-­class life in Calcutta, including swimming. It needs to be highlighted here that the Baghdadi Jews of Calcutta, like members of other Jewish communities of the diaspora, always had to grapple with the multifaceted issue of their identity. Although in the physical sense, Calcutta was home to the Baghdadi Jews, politically and spiritually, as argued by Chakrabarti (2014:166), the community members always remained outsiders. When the Baghdadi Jews settled in British Calcutta, they could not identify with the larger Indian population and the unfamiliar ways of Indian life. Besides, due to the fact that their skin was relatively light in colour as compared to the rest of the population, they could remain distinct and separate. The Jews realized that by maintaining close ties with the British rulers, they would be able to expand their business operations because salary scales for “Europeans” were different from those for “Natives”, as pointed out by Chakrabarti (2014:166–167). Gradually, they aligned with the British rulers of India and most of these Baghdadi Jews assumed a European lifestyle, which was manifested in their varied sporting activities in the community’s clubs. In fact, in the twentieth century, when the community had become more anglicized, the wealthy families had their own bungalows like Brighton Villa in Gopalpur and several bungalows, including Bilati Bungalow, in Mudapore. By that time, swimming at the beach had also become a popular pastime of the elite Jewish communities (Recalling Jewish Calcutta 2014). Another distinct example could be that of the Riverside Agarpara, a bungalow owned by the members of the B.N. Elias family, which had all kinds of facilities like swimming, croquet, a huge doll house on the enormous lawns, tennis and badminton (Recalling Jewish Calcutta 2014). However, it should also be noted that the members of the community, irrespective of their social strata, enjoyed outings like picnics, visits to the zoo, swimming and drives. Since everyone did not have access to Riverside Bungalow, in tune with the community spirit, the Agarpara tank and its grounds were used as a picnic and swimming spot. One also needs to note that leisurely sporting activities were the preserve of the wealthy and middle-­class members of the community. Although by the twentieth century the community had become quite prosperous, half of the community was still poor and dependent on Jewish charities, as depicted by Silliman (2001:28). The other half of the community was comprised of middle-­class and wealthy individuals. The daughters of the wealthy families attended schools like Calcutta Girls’ School, Welland Goldsmith, Pratt Memorial, Loreto House and La Martiniere and were active in the sporting activities of those schools. The poor and middle-­class girls attended Jewish Girls’ School and could engage in sports through their affiliations with various community clubs and schools (Chakrabarti 2014:71). It is also significant, as Chakrabarti (2014:179) argued, that anglicization was less complete further down the social structure of the  Jewish community of Calcutta. The lower-­middle-class members of the

132   Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya community had a distinct Judeo-­Arabic orientation, speaking mostly in Arabic, wearing Middle Eastern clothing and consuming Iraqi Jewish food. Their children went to Talmud Torah (extra-­curricular school for Jewish studies), learned Hebrew instead of English and, unlike the westernized elites, interacted only with other members of the Jewish community. In contrast, by virtue of their attending European schools, the daughters of the westernized elites could interact with the girls of the Anglo-­Indian, Parsee and elite Bengali communities. However, such interaction was confined to the domain of school because the Jewish community had a very insular life. Thus, despite the westernizing influences, the Jewish Girls’ School had all Jewish students, all Jewish teachers (except the gym teacher and the kindergarten teacher who were Anglo-­Indians), and followed the Baghdadi dietary habits of kashrut (not mixing dairy and meat products in the same dish) and other religious rules and regulation of the community (Chakrabarti 2014:66; Silliman and Tranz 2015). Like the Baghdadi Jews, the members of the Parsee community were loyal British subjects who believed in the benefits of British rule. The British also favoured these communities, along with the Armenians, because they knew that, as minority communities, they would not be able to pose any threat to the British Raj. Beginning in 1835, the British government followed a policy of anglicization and, eventually, there was greater involvement of Indians in the bureaucracy and the army and elite Indians were introduced to British sports (Stoddart and Sandiford 2001). As Bhattacharya (2004:524) observed, the English enthusiasm for sports was imitated by the Parsees and the compradors and, gradually, sports became part of the anglicization process in India. Like the Baghdadi Jews, the Parsees were also a close-­knit community and the women of that community were quite progressive and westernized. In fact, in a personal interview in 2017, Mr Tweena stated that the Baghdadis, like the Bene Israel, had singled out the Parsees as the community that was the closest to them among the other Indian religious groups. The Calcutta Parsees were eager to send their children to study in the Jewish Girls’ School, whose mission was to provide instruction in Hebrew religious principles along with standard English education. However, the Jewish community chose to live in a very self-­contained world, in order to preserve their identity. The members of the Jewish community wanted to live apart from those around them, so they built their own educational and social institutions, while maintaining good relations with their neighbours. Thus, for many years, the community did not allow Parsees to attend the Jewish Girls’ School. Ray (2016:148) argued that it was not until the early 1940s that the school allowed the first non-­ Jewish student, a Hindu girl. Ray (2016:151) also noted that from 1956 onwards, non-­Jewish girls were permitted to attend this school. In a personal interview with the author, Mr Tweena (2017) noted the appearance of the name “Ratan Madan”, a Parsee girl’s name, for the first time in the school final record for 1961, as seen on the board displayed in the hall of the Jewish Girls’ School. Sporting interactions between the women of these two communities were rare  because although anglicization had entered the social fabric of the Jewish community, the religious customs and rituals of that community remained

Sport, gender and socialization in Bengal   133 conservatively Middle Eastern (Silliman 2001:33). Bhattacharya (2004:506) noted that even when the Jewish girls were encouraged to join clubs, their activities were confined to community clubs and organizations. So, in most cases, they interacted with the Parsee girls in sports outside of the community. For instance, Bhattacharya (2004:525) stated that the girls of the wealthier Jewish families used to study at the Loreto House School, where they played basketball and hockey with upper-­class British, Anglo-­Indian, Armenian, Parsee and other aristocratic Bengalis from the early twentieth century. Similarly, in her reminiscences of her days in Calcutta, Seemah Ferris Berson recounted that she used to interact with girls from various ethnic backgrounds including Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Parsees, Chinese, Japanese and others by virtue of her attendance at the Methodist School, which was situated near her house. As a student at that school, Seemah used to play with the girls of other communities. In addition, before she left Calcutta for London in 1951, she played basketball, table tennis, grass hockey, towli (backgammon) and other games with Jewish girls in community clubs like the Maccabi and the Judean. When she returned two years later, in 1953, she served on the Social Committee of the Judean Club and continued the socialization process through her involvement in the sporting activities of the community’s clubs. But nowhere do we find that Jewish women were involved in leisurely sports with non-­Jewish women either within or outside the community clubs. In competitive sports, they had to interact with people from outside the community, but those interactions were quite infrequent. Going to the races was a very popular pastime of the Jewish community despite the major race day being Shabbath (Saturday). Flower Silliman mentions that the Calcutta Jews loved horse-­racing and betting and that somehow they fulfilled their desire to bet on the holy day (Silliman 2014). There were those who managed to place their bets before sunset on Friday, but there were others who broke Shabbath and went to the races. It is interesting to note that those Jews who were not shomer Shabbath (sabbath observant) were present at the races on Saturdays together with members of other minority communities like the Parsees, Anglo-­Indians and Armenians, as well as many foreigners and even Maharajas and Maharanis of British India (Recalling Jewish Calcutta 2014). One can thus notice interaction between the Jewish and Parsee women outside the community at the racing grounds of Calcutta. Apart from races, the community also enjoyed a number of indoor games like cards, towli (backgammon), boxing and weight-­lifting. The elite women of the community enjoyed playing mah-­jong, a game introduced from China during the years of the opium trade (Jinxia 2003). The elite Parsee women also played mah­jong with the women of Jewish community in one another’s homes after lunch, another example of interaction between the two communities. This interaction was possible because these two communities resided in the same neighbourhood. Ray (2016:129) stated that from 1900 to 1950, before they moved to South Calcutta (where the British lived), the Baghdadi elite resided in the “grey town” of the city with other minority communities like the Armenians, Anglo-­Indians, Greeks, Portuguese and Parsees.

134   Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya The women of the Jewish and Parsee communities did not interact in the sporting arena to that extent because, as a religious minority, Chakrabarti (2014:179) argued, the Jews were always worried about assimilation and they distinguished themselves from the surrounding Hindu, Muslim, Christian and other communities by maintaining their foreign origin and distinctive religious customs and traditions. Thus, while the elites of all communities, including Parsees to some extent, interacted freely with each other, the Baghdadi Jews preferred to retain their Jewish identity in their small world and avoid interaction with Europeans or Indians. Although they had good relations with both the British and the Indians, they rigidly maintained their cultural and religious differences (Chakrabarti 2004:179). The sporting performances of the Jewish and Parsee women started deteriorating a few years after the independence of India due to the dwindling numbers of members of these communities in Calcutta, as noted by Bhattacharya (2004:523). Both of these communities traced their economic rise, prosperity and social status to the British regime and became progressively more marginalized in post-­independence India (Kulke 1974:234; Silliman 2001:176). Both communities had trouble with the thought of India as a nation without the British under whom they had thrived and, believing that they had no prospects in India, settled in Europe (England), North America (Canada and the USA) and Australia; a similar trend was noticed among Anglo-­Indians (Silliman 2001:81). Among the Parsees, there was a trend (Kulke 1974:39–40) of migrating from Calcutta back to Bombay, which became the nerve centre of business with the independence of India. Meanwhile, the Jews were threatened by Hindu–Muslim riots and the nationalization of the banks and so decided to take advantage of the British immigration policies for residents of former colonies and leave the country (Marks 2013). The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 opened up an additional avenue for Jews to leave Calcutta for the Promised Land. Ray (2016:178) emphasized that while the first group of Indian Jewish youth reached Israel on 23 July 1950, the affluent Jews preferred the English-­speaking countries of Europe, the USA and Australia. With such large-­scale emigration, the intra-­community sporting activities suffered greatly. Ray (2016:148) pointed out that the Jewish Girls’ Hostel, which at one time had 68 children, was left with 17 pupils in 1968 and, by 1971, had only four. Under such circumstances, the distribution of prizes to Jewish students and organization of sporting events for Jewish students had become a distant dream.

Socializing agents in sports: Jewish and Parsee women Sport is an agent of socialization which facilitates not only recreation, but also inter-­personal interaction and numerous opportunities for all-­round development of personality. In fact, there are various agents of sports socialization like the family, parents, school, clubs, coaches, peers, media, and the like. The women of both these communities were also oriented towards sports through various agents. The local Jews did not mix with the people of other communities of

Sport, gender and socialization in Bengal   135 Calcutta. So they formed their own exclusive clubs and associations for preserving their customs, traditions and heritage. The Parsees of Calcutta were socially mobile within the colonial framework (Bhattacharya 2004:524), so they became the pioneers of British sport in India. With that objective, they carved out a unique forte in the city’s life through their sports club, which was called the Calcutta Parsee Club and established on 4 November 1908, exclusively for men. Gradually, the club opened its doors to all members of the community, including children, women and men residing permanently or temporarily in the city, who engaged in various sporting activities like cricket, hockey, football, basketball, table tennis, tennis, badminton and chess, as well as annual social events (Bhattacharya 2004). Similarly, the Jewish community had various socializing agents which helped the members of that community in their involvement with sports. The socializing agents that promoted sports and athletics among the Jewish women were the various socio-­cultural clubs and schools of the community like the Habonim Club, Judean Club, Maccabi Club, Jewish School Boys’ Club, Jewish Athletic Club and the Jewish Girls’ School. Ray (2016:158) commented that through the amalgamation of two study groups started by Miss R. Luddy for conducting research into post-­biblical history and Jewish literature, the Judean Club was formed in 1929. This club was dedicated to the socio-­cultural development of young Jews and so along with the organization of dances, picnics and parties, by 1953, the club’s activities included support for Maccabi (Jewish Sports Organization) and other Jewish organizations. Chakrabarti (2014:92) noted that the Jewish Athletic Club ran the Sports Section of the Judean Club. The Jewish community encouraged swimming as a sport among the women and so the Jewish Youth Council organized a swimming gala for both sexes, which was followed by a dance at the Judean Club on 7 July 1951 to raise funds for the improvement of sport within the community (Bhattacharya 2004:522). From 1930 through the 1960s, the main attractions of the club were billiards and a card room and, interestingly, many Calcutta billiard players learnt to play billiards at this club. In fact, Ray (2016:159) stated that, from the 1960s, the club was no longer exclusively for Jews. Non-­Jewish members were allowed to participate in the club’s activities, but they were never given full membership rights, in order to preserve the club’s Jewish identity. Thus, it seems that the women of the community were not allowed to interact with non-­Jews for fear of intermarriage and also because the women preserved the community identity. Mrs Cohen noted that daughters were always considered as in need of protection and were sheltered and cared for accordingly (Silliman and Tranz 2015). However, within the community, women were encouraged, along with men, to play poker, bridge and rummy in the card room of the Judean Club. Evidently, Miss Ramah Luddy was often seen at the poker table playing a hand (Raz 2014). However, as Ray (2016:159) has informed us, the club was unfortunately closed down in 1970–1971 because there were only six members left by 1970. In April 1951, the Maccabi Club was established to uphold sports among the members of the Jewish community, but the club originally had no premises so they affiliated themselves with the Calcutta Zionist Centre, which took over the

136   Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya grounds of the Judean Club three times a week for badminton, table tennis physical training, boxing, hockey, disc hockey and basketball (Raz 2014; Ray 2016:159). This club encouraged girls to play matches against other clubs. The girls participated in the table tennis tournament organized by the Women’s Sports Association and the club’s hockey team played in the Senior Women’s League (Ray 2016:159). Bhattacharya (2004:519) argued that the Jewish community preferred outdoor sports for women, especially basketball and hockey, and so every Sunday morning at the Calcutta maidan, coaching was religiously provided for the women members of the community. Raz (2014) noted that both the ladies’ basketball team and the ladies’ hockey team were coached by Nat Zachariah. Bhattacharya (2004:519) further claimed that apart from Nat Zachariah, Messers M. Issacs and J. Joshua and Misses P. Gubbay and H. Solomon not only provided training to the women of the community, but also encouraged them to participate in competitions, socializing these women into the world of sport. Apart from the community clubs, the Jewish Girls’ School also acted as an active socializing agent towards the participation of Jewish women in sports. The Jewish Girls’ School, which was established in 1881, provided all types of sporting amenities for its students. Flower Silliman, a Calcutta Jewish woman who studied in the Jewish Girls’ School, talked about the two playgrounds (one smaller cemented courtyard and the other bigger ground for playing basketball) at the Jewish Girls’ School. She also said that Bolek Rembaum, a young and enthusiastic basketball and hockey coach, trained the girls who played vigorously and developed a keen interest in the game under his proficient supervision (Silliman 2001:113). The school regularly organized annual sporting competitions for the students, to socialize the girls towards sports. Those competitions were not always held on the school grounds, perhaps in order to accommodate more participants. For instance, on 12 February 1938, the completion was held on the Mohanbagun grounds and the individual champions were Misses Sylvia Issac and Mozelle Rassaby in the junior and senior sections, respectively (Chakrabarti 2014:87). Apart from the coach Bolek Rembaum, Miss Ramah Luddy, the principal of the school from 1929, also acted as an active socializing agent when she introduced formal physical education into the school and made it mandatory for all of the girls. She also introduced a few games, like netball and badminton, and led an active Girl Guide troop that went on camping trips outside Calcutta (Bhattacharya 2004:523). The Jewish Girls’ School and its teachers thus acted as strong socializing agents in women sports. Another very significant agent that influenced sports within the community was the Zionist Movement. The Zionist Movement, which was founded in 1897 by Theodore Herzl, advocated the return of Jews to the Land of Israel or Palestine (Eretz Israel) (Chakrabarti 2014:152). This movement aimed to create a feeling of national consciousness by constructing a Jewish national identity. Most of the young Jews of Calcutta who dreamed of going to the Promised Land were self-­made Zionists. Under the initiative of Miss Sally Meyer and Miss Sally Gubbay, Habonim Club, the Zionist youth

Sport, gender and socialization in Bengal   137 group, was started in Calcutta in 1930 and that club served as a meeting place of young Jews for socio-­cultural activities (Chakrabarti 2014:153; Ray 2016:157). The Zionist Movement emphasized the notion of a “sound mind in a sound body” and following that theory, the younger generation of the Calcutta Jewry considered physical education and sports to be an important component of the movement’s agenda. In fact, integration in gymnastics and sport was part of the process of Jewish mobility in society at large. Thus, scouting and camping expeditions were organized by the youth groups, such as the pioneer group of seven formed in 1943, which left for Israel in 1945 (Chakrabarti 2014:155). With possibly the same objective, Miss Ramah Luddy, the principal of the Jewish Girls’ School and an active Zionist, not only organized the Young Peoples’ Congregation in 1945, but also made physical education a mandatory part of the curriculum of the Jewish Girls’ School. In fact, physical education was an integral part of the curriculum at the schools and colleges of Bengal in the twentieth century and women’s sports were encouraged through a structured curriculum of physical education (Bhattacharya 2009). There was a strong interplay between the Zionist Movement and the Jewish Girls’ School. It needs to be mentioned here that sports centres had deep-­rooted ties to political centres of power. The Jewish Girls’ School, which was an active sports centre, may have acted as a positive platform for the Zionist Movement and, in fact, the second annual physical display was arranged by the Zionist Institute of Physical Perfection at the Jewish Girls’ School auditorium on 9 July 1938 (Chakrabarti 2014:89). The arrangements were made by Joe Solomon, the director of the institute, and Nissim Marshall, its honorary secretary, and included every branch of physical culture: boxing wrestling, weight-­lifting, acrobatics, juggling, jiu-­jitsu, Roman rings, parallel bars, posing and other feats of strength (Chakrabarti 2014:89). Bhattacharya (2004:522) also highlighted the fact that from its inception in 1946, the Jewish Youth Council emphasized the need for physical training for both sexes. Perhaps, this Council was also emphasizing the theory of cultivation of body and mind as envisaged by the Zionist Movement. In fact, it needs to be emphasized that camping and scouting trips were well thought out to prepare Calcutta Jewish youth for ground-­breaking work in Palestine (Chakrabarti 2014:156). In this context, it can be mentioned that the Habonim Club used to regularly organize sporting events, picnics and camps for is members not only to socialize and train them in physical labour, but also to intensify comradeship and develop leadership skills among the youth. For example, in May 1948, the Habonim Club organized a summer camp at Puri that was attended by 40 members. Under the guidance of Joe Shohet, the physical instructor, games such as carom, baseball, basketball, other tournaments, sea-­ bathing, a campfire and a tea party were arranged, actively socializing these youth towards the fulfilment of the goals of the Zionist Movement (Ray 2016:157–158). Chakrabarti (2014:156–157) argued that the Jewish women of Calcutta were also active in Zionist work and were further mobilized by the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), which opened a Calcutta

138   Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya chapter at 3 Madge Lane in Calcutta. The Zionist Movement created a sporting culture for the Jewish community and thereby actively encouraged and facilitated women’s sports. In fact, Zionist consciousness created a strong nationalism, which gave a lot of stress to body culture leading to the establishment of a youth council and sports club. Although sports were not the primary objective of the movement, they invariably became an important tool for cultivating the spirit of nationalism and thus acted as a very strong socializing agent. Thus it can be argued that the socializing agents in sports not only strengthened the community ties through sporting activities, but also brought together the anglicized elite women of both the communities, who shared a common bond of friendship, intimacy, trust, affection, sense of belongingness and participation in the playgrounds located in the common schools where they went. Although the Jewish women were neither allowed to go the Parsee club, nor were the Parsee women allowed to enter the Maccabi or Judean club, they could visit each other’s homes and engage in indoor games. Competitive sporting interaction between the two communities was difficult to trace, however intra-­club sporting activities of both the communities facilitated the unification of separate individuals into a group fostering community bonding and ethnic identity. Unlike the women of Jewish community, however, the Parsee women interacted more with the outside world through their involvement with competitive sports.

Conclusion The aim of this chapter was to portray the sporting culture that was prevalent among the women of two minority communities of Calcutta (namely, the Parsee and Jewish) in the colonial and post-­colonial periods. The various socializing agents in sports inspired the women of these communities to engage in sporting activities. This chapter emphasized how the Jewish community, particularly through their diverse community clubs, schools and, finally, the Zionist Movement, significantly contributed to women’s participation in sports. The sporting activities, challenges, interaction and socialization through sport differed between these two communities from time to time. The sporting journey of these two communities began during the heyday of the British Raj in the city and started dwindling gradually with India’s independence. In this respect, it needs to be mentioned that from 1835 onwards when the British expressed the policy of anglicization, they introduced elite Indians to British sports. Quite naturally, the Parsees imitated the Englishman’s enthusiasm for sports and became pioneers of British sport throughout India, including Calcutta. However, it is strange to note that the Calcutta Parsee Club opened its membership to ladies only in 1932 and not in 1908 when the club itself was established. Following Bhattacharya (2004:525), it can be said that a strange dichotomy was prevalent within the Parsee community, whereby on one hand they were enormously anglicized (organizing dinners and evening parties in English style) and on the other, they adhered to the traditional value system of group solidarity along with a number of effectual social norms (celebrating Nauroz, Parsee New Year and

Sport, gender and socialization in Bengal   139 following traditional customs during marriage). Under such circumstances, the club authorities perceived that it would be quite difficult for women members to break communitarian norms and participate actively in competitive sports and hence they could only engage in leisurely sports. The community as a whole also believed that participation in sports might lead to progressive secularization leading to inter-­community marriages which could be detrimental to the interests of the group solidarity of the community as argued by Bhattacharya (2004: 525). It was only much later under the pressure of the younger generation and the initiative of the Calcutta Parsee Club that the Parsee women were not only permitted entry into the club premises but were also allowed to engage in competitive sports. Like the Parsees, the Baghdadi Jewish community also followed rituals and religious practices which were conservatively Middle Eastern. Until the first half of the twentieth century, as depicted by Silliman (2001:33), the women by custom used to veil their faces outside the four walls. In fact, it was only under the influence of western education in the inter-­war period that the women of the community started discarding their veils. Thus, as argued by Bhattacharya (2004:525) sporting consciousness and participation came at a much later date among the women members of the community. Like the Parsee community under the pressure from the young generation and sports socializing agents such as the Jewish Youth Council, the Maccabi Club and so on, sports became popular among the female members of the community. Despite such inventiveness, the community remained inflexible and self-­contained still adhering to Jewish Laws and Baghdadi customs. Therefore, although the girls were encouraged to join clubs, their sporting activities unlike the Parsee women were confined to the community clubs and organizations. Bhattacharya (2004:525) further argued that class, too had a formative influence on Jewish women sports. It is because the girls of the wealthier families in the community used to study in the Loreto House School, where they played basketball and hockey with upper-­class British, Anglo-­Indian, Armenian, Parsee and other aristocratic Bengalis from the early twentieth century. However, such opportunities were denied to the poorer sections of the Jewish community. Thus, women of both the communities faced more or less similar sociological constraints in their involvement and participation with sports under the British Raj in Calcutta. The altering power equations between the colonizer and the colonized also contributed to social stratification in sports based on gender and race. The Parsees and Jews, as argued by Bhattacharya (2004:527), while identifying with British ways and customs, never considered themselves to be totally British nor did the British accept them as Britishers. Besides, as Bhattacharya (2004:527) says, they did not identify themselves as “colonized” nor were they hated by the British. Further, as Bhabha (1994:85–92) would say, the desire for mimicry (of British ways) was strong in both the communities because they vehemently refused assimilation into Indian society. Therefore, their guiding principle of non-­integration with the larger Indian society and the fact that they were not

140   Suparna Ghosh Bhattacharya being hated like their Bengali counterparts helped them to create a niche in the sporting arena, despite the challenges which they had to face within their respective communities. Nevertheless, it could be suggested that one important commonality alleged by the women of the two communities was a collective struggle for identity against male domination.

References Abraham, M., 1995, “Marginality and community identity disintegration among the Jews of India”, in N. Katz (ed.), Studies of Indian Jewish identity, Manohar Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi. Bernstein, A. and Galily, Y., 2008, Games and sets: Women, media and sport in Israel, Indiana University Press, Bloomington. Berson, S.F., 2014, “My erstwhile memories of Calcutta”, in Recalling Jewish Calcutta, viewed 18 June 2017 from david_h_cohen. Bhabha, H.K., 1994, The location of culture, Routledge, New York. Bhattacharya, S., 2004, “Women in sport: The Parsis and Jews in twentieth-­century India”, International Journal of the History of Sport 21(3–4), 502–529, viewed 25 March 2018 from Bhattacharya, S.G., 2009, “Physical education in the curriculum: The case study of Bethune College”, International Journal of the History of Sport 26(12), 1852–1873, viewed 25 March 2018 from DOI: 10.1080/09523360903172440. Biswas, K., 1991, Eei Nagarir Nari Katha, Firma KLM, Calcutta. Chakrabarti, K., 2014, Glimpses into the Jewish world of Calcutta 1978–1948, Readers Service, Kolkata. Chowdhury, P. and Chaliha, J., 1991, “The Jews of Calcutta”, in S. Chaudhuri (ed.), Calcutta, the living city, vol. I: The past, Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Darukhanawala, H.D., 1935, Parsis and sports and kindred subjects, published by the author, Bombay. Hindustan Standard, 6 November 1937. Jinxia, D., 2003, Women, sport and society in modern China: Holding up more than half the sky, Frank Cass Publishers, London. Joshua, R., 2014, Recalling Jewish Calcutta, viewed 25 March 2018 from www.jewish Kulke, E., 1974, The Parsees in India, a minority as agent of social change, Weltforum Verlag, New Delhi. Luhrmann, T. 1996, The good Parsi: The fate of a colonial elite in post-­colonial society. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Madan, C.J., 1990, “The Parsis of Calcutta”, in S. Chaudhuri (ed.), Calcutta, the living city, vol. II: The present and future, Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Marks, Z., 2013, “The last Jews of Kolkata”, viewed 27 January 2017 from www.thejews­kolkata-2/. Nandy, A., 2000, The Tao of cricket: On games of destiny and the destiny of games, Oxford University Press, New Delhi. Ray, D., 2001, The Jewish heritage of Calcutta, Minerva Associates Publications Private Ltd, Calcutta. Ray, D., 2016, The Jews of India, Renaissance Publishers Pvt. Ltd, Kolkata.

Sport, gender and socialization in Bengal   141 Raz, A., 2014, “Sports in the Jewish community late 1930s and 1940s”, in Recalling Jewish Calcutta, viewed 18 June 2017 from Recalling Jewish Calcutta, 2014, A note on social life: Social and cultural life, viewed 17  February 2017 from­note-on-­ social-life. Silliman, F., 2014, “Betting small time in Calcutta (1935–60)”, in Recalling Jewish Calcutta, viewed 17 February 2017 from cul_life/the-­races. Silliman, J., 2001, Jewish portraits, Indian frames: Women’s narratives from a diaspora of hope, Brandeis University Press, Kolkata. Silliman, J. and Tranz, M., 2015, “Meet the last Jews of Calcutta”, Time, 1 April 2015, viewed 14 February 2017 from­jews-calcutta. Stoddart, B. and Sandiford, K.A.P. (eds), 2001, The imperial game: cricket, culture and society, Manchester University Press, Manchester.

Part V

Print and digital dissemination

9 Jewish press in India in Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic as an indispensable source for the history of Iraqi Jews in the nineteenth century Zvi Yehuda There is no community archive of the Jewish community in Baghdad, which constituted 80 per cent of the Jews of Iraq, at the end of the nineteenth century. Interestingly, the main source of information about the Jewish community in Baghdad and Iraq in the second half of the nineteenth century can be found in the following Jewish newspapers published in India in the Baghdadi Judeo-­ Arabic: Doresh Tob le-‘Ammo, published in Bombay from 1855 to 1866; Mebasser, published in Calcutta from 1873 to 1877; Pēraḥ, published in Calcutta from 1878 to 1889; Magid Mesharim, published in Calcutta from 1889 to 1899; Shoshana, published in Calcutta in 1901. Since the Ottoman authorities refused to allow the publication of a Jewish newspaper in Baghdad, it was the newspapers published in India that served as the means of expression not only for Baghdadi Jews in the Far East but also for the Jews of Baghdad, who regularly sent these newspapers reports about events in the community, both via reporters stationed in Baghdad and via members of the community itself. These newspapers also constituted means of communication whereby Iraqi Jews passed on information to their relatives and acquaintances in the Far East. The newspapers had a large readership among Iraqi Jews in the Far East, in Iraq and in the Holy Land, and to a lesser extent in other countries, especially England. The publication in India of an organ giving expression to Iraqi Jews had an advantage over the publication of a similar newspaper in Baghdad, because in India Jews from Baghdad were able to express themselves freely on disputes they had with the local authorities in Iraq and did not have to fear that they would be persecuted for this. The information found in these newspapers is almost on every subject: education (traditional and modern), economy (poverty, crafts and commerce), religion (conversion to Islam, observance of Sabbath, synagogues), spiritual and lay leadership, community organization and institutions, crimes and disasters.

146   Zvi Yehuda From the end of the 1870s an increasing number of reports published by Baghdadi Jews in the Judeo-­Arabic newspapers in India deal with the social contacts that these Jews maintained with Muslims. The increase in the number of such reports may well be due to the political changes that had taken place in Baghdad at the end of the 1860s, when Midhat Pasha, a major reformist figure in the Ottoman Empire, was appointed as governor of Iraq (1869–1872). This was the period when the Ottoman reforms (tanzimat), that granted equality to all religious communities without intervening in their internal structure, began to be implemented in Iraq; foundations were laid for the rule of law, including the establishment of the appropriate administrative and legal institutions. This activity continued also after Midhat Pasha left Baghdad and helped Jews become aware of the equality that they had been granted. They now had the confidence to stand up for their civil rights and to demand them from the Turkish authorities. Jewish awareness that they were now equal under the law and that they, as citizens with the same rights as Muslims, had the opportunity to take Muslims who attacked and harassed them to court, brought about a large increase in complaints by Baghdadi Jews against acts of harassment, robbery and theft, even in minor cases. This new state of affairs deterred Muslims from attacking Jews and forced them to seek ways to cooperate with and become reconciled to them, even in tense times, in order to avoid as well they could the need to appear before the Turkish courts, where they were liable to be sentenced to whippings, prison, and heavy fines and bribes. Jews now also dared to respond in kind to their attackers (Yehuda 2017:13). Baghdadi Jewry’s improved political and legal situation also affected their social relations with Muslims in various domains. Jewish sources published in the Judeo-­Arabic newspapers in India tell of cases where Muslim residents protected Jews from attacks by other Muslims, whether soldiers, policemen, clerics or simple people. Muslims maintained social ties with Jews and engaged in social activities together. We also have reports of young Jews and Muslims who went to brothels together. Social contacts between Jewish and Muslim friends and neighbours included participation in each other’s family events. Jews and Muslims invited each other to weddings, circumcision ceremonies and parties with music on holidays. The closer social ties between Jews and Muslims also gave rise to cases of mutual assistance.1 Reports from Baghdad published in the Judeo-­Arabic press in India tell also of the existence of cooperation in crime; many reports contain acts of theft and robbery committed by Muslims against Jews, do not ignore the existence of Jewish thieves who stole from both Jews and Muslims and of gangs of Jewish and Muslim thieves who acted together and targeted Jews and Muslims indiscriminately. The rise in the city’s Jewish population also had the effect, in addition to strengthening social ties between Jews and Muslims, of causing Jews to move into Muslim neighbourhoods. As a result the religious barriers were occasionally broken and some Jews, usually women, went to live with Muslims and married them. A phenomenon that caused the community greater concern was the many

Jewish press in India   147 cases in which Jewish men converted to Islam because of quarrels within the family, debt or for financial remuneration from the authorities. As a result the Jewish leadership appointed a special commission for finding a solution in consultation with the Turkish administration. The burgeoning social contacts between Jews and Muslims in Baghdad aroused concern among the rabbis, guardians of religion and social morality in the Jewish community. They issued repeated warnings and attempted to close the breaches that had formed in the walls of Jewish religious and ethical observance. Muslim society also condemned the laxity of religious observance among Baghdad’s Jews, because it feared that this would also cause young Muslims to cease to respect the Muslim religious framework. In fact, the rabbis used Muslim condemnation as an argument in their exhortations to Jews to be more observant. The Turkish authorities in Baghdad helped prevent people from breaking away from the Jewish and Muslim religious frameworks. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Judeo-­Arabic newspapers in India ceased publication and no other sources of such information exist. Below I will present sources on three subjects in Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic published in these newspapers transliterated and translated into English: emigration to Baghdad in the nineteenth century; the first vocational school for Jewish girls in Baghdad; and the Jewish Boys’ School Band in Baghdad. The texts are written mainly in Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic, but include also Baghdadi Muslim-­ Arabic and Hebrew words and sentences, sometimes with errors. The transliterated texts are presented in the appendices, as they were published in the newspapers, without corrections. The English translation of the sources is produced from my translation into Hebrew. The transcription and transliteration of these texts is based on Mansour (1991:21–22). In order to clarify the background of the text and to have objective understanding of the events, I will include short introductions to the cases based on the Alliance Israélite Universelle (henceforth AIU) archive and other relevant sources.

Emigration to Baghdad in the nineteenth century In the nineteenth century all of Iraq but especially Kurdistan suffered from catastrophic floods, droughts, famines and epidemics that devastated the region, undermined the economy and claimed numerous victims. In some cases, such catastrophes occurred one year after another, in which case the inhabitants were forced to leave their homes and wander. In Kurdistan, extended periods of famine had more serious consequences for the populace than elsewhere in Iraq, including the cities of Baghdad and Basra, which were located on rivers and could therefore obtain grain supplies from the Far East. The Kurdish populace, in contrast, was located far from maritime commercial routes and depended for its grain on the local growers, whose fields were irrigated by rainfall. Furthermore, until the middle of the nineteenth century the Jews of Kurdistan could not obtain assistance from the communities in Baghdad and Europe, because Baghdad at the time possessed only a relatively small Jewish community

148   Zvi Yehuda and the Kurdish community has relatively little contact with it or with the communities in Europe. In the second half of the century the situation changed dramatically. In 1864, a branch of the Parisian organization AIU opened in Baghdad and the Jews of Kurdistan turned to the Baghdad community, which had grown in size and importance, and to the Jews of Europe for help. The assistance which the communities in Kurdistan received helped them through the most difficult periods, but did not put a stop to the large wave of immigration from Kurdistan to Baghdad (Yehuda 2017:57–65). The arrival of a large wave of immigrants from Kurdistan to Baghdad throughout the nineteenth century forced the local Jewish community to see to their absorption. When they arrived in Baghdad the immigrants were penniless, hungry, in tatters and ill from the famine they had experienced at home. According to the reports, the Jews who came to Baghdad were among the poorest in Kurdistan, who were the first to leave in times of economic trouble and to seek refuge in the big city. Upon their arrival in Baghdad the local Jewish community helped them in their first steps; its members purchased food for the hungry migrants and found them temporary lodging in synagogues and Torah schools. Subsequently, the community had to supply them with clothes and find permanent housing (Yehuda 2017:65–71). Text 12 News from Baghdad, by our correspondent in Baghdad, Thursday, 15 Kislev 5648 [1 December 1887] … we have already written that in the Kurdish towns and villages prices rose and there was famine. This is the reason why the poor [Jews] among them are coming to us, they, their wives and their children. Some of them come on foot and others on rafts on the [Tigris] River, naked and lost from the cold. This week a large group came. They were hungry and as soon as they arrived bread and other necessities were purchased for them with the kolel’s [community’s] money. They ate and went to sleep in the Torah schools. They had no bed sheets and covered themselves with the schools’ rugs. The next morning one of them died. On the day after that another one died. We wrote before that since the Jewish New Year [19–20 September 1887] many [Kurdish Jews] came and camped in the alley of the synagogues. The community rented houses for them and put them there. Now they also rented houses for the [new] immigrants and put them there. But they still lack clothing; the poor wretches still need garments. But not a week goes by without another group coming, who are also in need of housing and food. (Pēraḥ 1887:210) In a lengthy article sent by the reporter in Baghdad of the Calcutta newspaper Magid Mesharim, he describes a sophisticated robbery in the home of a wealthy

Jewish press in India   149 Jew that was planned and executed by Kurdish Jews who worked as servants in the home of that Jew and his neighbour. The rich Jew did not trust his servants and every night carefully locked the house door and kept the key with him. The theft, which included the dowry of the house owner’s daughter, was committed by the servants of the two homes together, who smuggled the valuables out through the neighbouring house. The case was investigated by the authorities, who discovered the perpetrators and found the stolen goods as they were being distributed among a number of people and after some of them had already been sold. All those involved in the theft were arrested and interrogated. The reporter ended his article with the following harsh words about the Kurdish immigrants in Baghdad. Text 23 News from Baghdad, by our correspondent in Baghdad, Thursday, 20 Adar 5658 [14 March 1898] In short, all the despicable evils are revealed among them … these Kurds multiply from one day to the next. They come to Baghdad. In Baghdad there are ninety percent or more Kurdish servants, and only ten percent of them are residents of Baghdad or are Persians. Their [evil] deeds are impossible to describe. We can accept everything they do, but not the plots of theft from their masters’ homes. That is unthinkable. That is all that they lack. The only thing we can say about these people is, “May God have mercy”. (Magid Mesharim 1898 (25))

The first vocational Jewish girls’ school in Baghdad From the very beginning, the AIU’s educational activities in Iraq were met with reservations on the part of the community’s leadership and rabbis. Although they were in favour of providing a modern education for their children, they opposed the AIU’s desire to “advance” and “develop” Iraqi Jews in the spirit of the Christian West and French culture, without taking into consideration the community’s social structure and cultural heritage, or to the great influence which the surrounding Muslim society had on the Jews’ social and cultural life. Indeed, the Jews still retained a conservative social framework, and the surrounding Muslim society and Muslim authorities were also very much opposed to changes in Jewish society, lest such changes be copied in Muslim society itself. While the AIU’s representatives wished to use education as a tool for bringing modernization into the life of the Jewish community and to transform Iraqi Jews’ traditions and culture, the community itself wanted to provide its children with a modern education, but they also wanted to retain their unique culture and tradition. The attempts made by the AIU-­appointed headmasters in Baghdad to give their students a more Western appearance – cutting off their side locks and beards, adopting French attire and speech, and changing the behaviour of Jewish

150   Zvi Yehuda girls and women – were met with great resistance on the part of the community’s leaders and rabbis, who perceived in these changes a threat to Jewish society and to Jewish survival in a Muslim environment. The opponents of the AIU’s activities also inquired as to why the Iraqi Jews needed a cultural change in the spirit of the Christian West. Was their culture and tradition so undesirable that it had to be replaced by another culture? And, in what is Christian culture – which strives to make Jews abandon their own faith – superior to Arab-­Muslim culture, in which the traditions of all the monotheistic faiths are nominally respected? (Yehuda 1996a:134–135). This was the atmosphere when, at the beginning of 1886, the first vocational school for Jewish girls opened in Baghdad. The first modern Jewish school in Iraq opened in Baghdad at the end of 1864. The school was founded by the local Jewish community, but shortly after it opened the community asked the AIU to take over its administration. The community realized that its young people needed to be familiar with European languages if they were to be capable of engaging with international trade and of working with European powers to improve their political situation (Yehuda 1996a:134–135). But the rabbis and community leaders in Baghdad opposed providing Jewish girls with a formal education, fearing that it would encourage immodesty and immorality. True, mixed classes existed in traditional education in Baghdad, but only until the age of eight, when girls were completely separated from boys, under the influence of the surrounding Muslim society. For the French-­educated administrators of the boys’ school, this separation and its attendant customs were perceived as contributing to the backwardness of Jewish women in Baghdad, and of Jewish society in general. They believed that, “the Baghdad community will not be able to improve its social situation until the girls will receive a modern education” (Cohen 1885/1886:50–56) since women’s social status was low, which is something that a modern education could change drastically. The representatives of the AIU concluded that the modern education that it provided the boys in the Jewish community would remain without effect as long “as the boy, upon returning home from his school, receives the habits and culture that his mother gives him”.4 These were the arguments with which I. Louria, the principal of the boys’ school, and the English teacher Morris Cohen, urged the managements of the AIU in Paris and the Anglo Jewish Association (AJA) in London to support the establishment of a vocational school for girls in Baghdad. After the organizations agreed to provide the necessary financing, the school opened at the beginning of the year in 1886, despite the Jewish community’s opposition. Many Baghdadi Jews came to register their daughters to the school; however, budgetary constraints made it possible to accept only 30 students, who learned in a private home that was converted to a school. In order to weaken the community’s opposition, the school maintained strict separation of the sexes, and forbade men to enter; the school only employed women, including three female teachers who taught sewing, embroidery with gold filament and general embroidery. Each subject was taught for two hours every day. The materials that were required for

Jewish press in India   151 the lessons were thread, gold filament and calico, a plain-­woven textile from cotton cloth imported by Baghdadi Jews from India.5 However, despite the strict separation of the sexes imposed by the school in accordance with social norms in Baghdad, the Jewish community’s rabbis and leaders, as well as hundreds of ordinary members, attacked the school. The rabbis and powerful members of the community signed a haskama (agreement) against opening an askōl (modern school) in which girls would gather to learn crafts. In addition, they disseminated a proclamation in all the synagogues of Baghdad in which they forbade Jews to send their daughters to the school, and threatened to punish the students there by refusing to marry them or to write their marriage contract, such that they would remain unmarriageable all their lives. The proclamation was published in March 1886, shortly after the school opened. At the time the AIU representative in Baghdad still thought that “as long as there is money to maintain the school and pay the students the opponents will not succeed and the parents will continue to send their daughters to the school” (Cohen 1885/1886:50–56). Indeed, most of the students returned to the school.6 However, the rabbis, headed by former chief rabbi, Elisha Dangoor, refused to participate in financing the school, which they strongly opposed due to their fear that it aimed at changing the community’s traditions and customs. The AIU succeeded in running the school despite the rabbis’ opposition, but eventually agreed with the recommendation of its representative in Baghdad that a vocational school that did not teach general subjects would not bring about the desired change in the status of Jewish women in Baghdad. Without the support of the AIU and the Jewish community, the school was forced to close in July 1886. Shortly afterwards, Silas Sassoon of Bombay, a supporter of the school who was in Baghdad at the time and was dismayed when it closed, asked the president of AIU to open a modern school for girls with courses in crafts. He promised to support such a school on a monthly basis and to find more contributors in Bombay,7 but nothing came of this. After the failure of this attempt by the non-­native AIU representatives in Baghdad to open a vocational school for girls, no further attempt was made in this direction until July 1891, when the principal of the boys’ school at the time, Shaul Somekh, a native Baghdadi and grandson of the great rabbi Abdullah Somekh, opened a training course for Jewish girls in Baghdad with the blessings of the rabbis and community leaders.8 Two years later, in 1893, the first modern school for Jewish girls in Baghdad opened. It continued to function until the Jewish exodus from Iraq in 1951 (Yehuda 1966b:25–43). Below are two articles describing the events surrounding the opening and closing of the vocational school, sent to the Calcutta newspaper Pēraḥ. They reflect the views of the rabbis on this issue, as described above.

152   Zvi Yehuda Text 39 News from Baghdad, by our correspondent in Baghdad, Thursday, 4 Adar II 5646 [11 March 1886] With regard to the school’s French teacher, Israel Louria, he and his people wanted to open a school for girls this week, where they would be taught women’s occupations. They rented a house for the school and hired female teachers to teach crafts such as sewing, tel embroidery, tofi embroidery, embroidery of abayas [full body outer garment] and socks. They also hired a dallal [agent] to recruit girls to learn a new trade. [The Jews of Baghdad] took their daughters to that teacher. We heard that he only accepted pretty girls and did not want to accept girls who were not pretty. He insisted that they must remain in the school for three years and that he would demand of the parents of any girl who left before that time to repay all the expenses that he spent on her. He required that they study a certain trade every two hours. He also notified them that they must wash themselves every day with soap, that he wanted them to be clean, that they braid their hair like European girls, and that they would not be permitted to wear a fēs on their heads, only a yazma like the Europeans, and whoever did not wish to do so would be expelled from the school. When the rabbis and the community’s lay leaders heard this, they said: This shall not be in our community. They wrote an agreement, which the rabbis, the leaders and all the members of our community signed. In addition, the rabbis wrote a proclamation that was read today in all the synagogues.… (Pēraḥ 1886:300) Text 410 News from Baghdad, by our correspondent in Baghdad, Thursday, 4 Menahem 5646 [5 August 1886] A few months ago we wrote that the principal of the [boys’] school Israel Louria … opened a girls’ school … [and following the agreement and the rabbis’ proclamation] they took their daughters out of the school. We also wrote that Israel Louria went to the girls’ homes and asked them why they [their parents] took them out. They said to him: Because the rabbis announced in the synagogues, etc. He said to them: Come, do not fear; what can the rabbis do? So about thirty girls returned to the school. He bought food for them every day so that they would not leave.… Last week he told the girls that they would have to sleep in the school at night and forbade them to go home. Then their mothers came to him and told him that they refused to agree to this, since the children in the boys’ school go home every night to sleep and return in the morning, especially since these were girls. The teacher Israel Louria told them that he insists that they sleep at night in

Jewish press in India   153 the school, so the parents took the girls out of the school. The teacher, when he saw that the girls had left, sold the teaching equipment that he had purchased for them. (Pēraḥ 1886:90) It should be noted that this version differs from the one we have from I. Louria’s letters to the AIU. We may assume that the correspondent reported this version in order to show that Baghdad’s Jews were not prepared to give up their traditions and customs, despite the benefits their daughters enjoyed at the school, such as a stipend, clothes and food, thereby contradicting the claim made by Louria, the AIU representative: that because of these benefits, the people did not obey the rabbis, and sent their daughters to the school.

Jewish Boys’ School Band in Baghdad The next subject published in Calcutta’s Pēraḥ journal concerned a band at the Jewish community’s boys’ school that played with new instruments imported from Europe. This was the first band of its kind in Baghdad. The students were trained within the framework of the apprenticeship department in the Jewish community’s modern boys’ school, run by the AIU. The idea for the band came from Isaac Lurian, a Russian Jew with French citizenship who settled in Baghdad in the mid-­1840s and wished to promote modern education in the community. He was also the head of the AIU branch in Baghdad. Letters in the AIU archive in Paris show that in October 1875, Lurian approached the community’s committee with a proposal to teach military music to a number of trainees. The committee immediately approved it. In his explanation of the proposal, the committee’s secretary, Yosef Eliezer Levy, describes the sad state of musical activity in Baghdad: The people possess no musical knowledge or feeling, and in order to arouse some excitement during the holidays or ceremonies they play simple musical instruments that produce loud, strident notes. If the young trainees would acquire knowledge of military music they would be able to generate some pleasure in the monotonous lives of Baghdadis. In addition it would give them a profession and a livelihood.11 Levy added that Lurian had already made contact with the Ottoman authorities for the purpose of furthering this project. A few months later, in February 1876, Levy described the progress made on the project: that it would put together a group of musicians to learn military music. Most of the students for the 12-man band had already been chosen, and a Turkish officer had been contacted to teach them. The instruments were to be ordered by the committee from Vienna. He gave the AIU the needed funds and asked for its help.12 In another letter, written in April 1876, Levy noted that six music students had already been taught for two months by the Turkish officer.

154   Zvi Yehuda A European Jew who had settled in Baghdad, and whom the committee wanted to employ as a music teacher, died in an outbreak of the plague, and so the committee had to engage the Turkish officer once more. Levy added that the committee intended to add four more trainees to create a ten-­man band.13 From 1880 on, there are reports about the school band. In April, 1880, a report was published in the Arabic newspaper Al-­Janna (Paradise), published in Beirut, concerning a celebration and their performance at the Baghdad Jewish community school, in the presence of the Turkish governor, the military commander, as well as senior officials and notables of all faiths. The newspaper notes that, in addition to the Turkish military band, a band of school children also played (Al-­Janna 1880:1). The school band’s activities persisted until the 1920s. Below we present passages from the news articles sent from Baghdad to Pēraḥ. In the first, we read of how the school band came into being. According to this article, and a letter of the school’s trainee committee chairman,14 the school invested a great deal of money in preparing the band. The costs included the price of the instruments, sending the instruments from Vienna to Baghdad, the teacher’s salary, in addition to the students’ stipend and board. The school also ensured the band members’ security and legal status. As soon as the band began to perform, they became in high demand by Baghdad’s residents, including Muslims, Jews and Christians. It also generated a handsome income, one-­tenth of which the band members were obliged to pay the school in order to defray the expenses that it had incurred. However, after some time, the band members refused to pay the school anymore, because, they argued, it was the Turkish army that had taught it and not the school. The school administration protested and cajoled, but to no avail. Nor did the band accede to the school’s request that it return the instruments that it had loaned the musicians. The school was forced to use cunning and force in order to get the instruments back. The journalist provides a detailed account of the extended, violent struggle between the Turkish security forces and the band members that took place in a house that belonged to the school. The outcome of this struggle was that the instruments were returned to the school, but only after most of them had been damaged by the band members. One would have thought that an incident of this kind would have put an end to the band’s existence. However, the second article, published three years later, clearly shows that the school band continued to exist and to perform with much success and varying players for the city’s residents and at events organized by the Turkish officials. The importance attached to the presence of the band can be learned from an incident at an event of a senior Turkish official, at which the Turkish governor (wali) of Baghdad was present as well. The band members refused to continue to play on the second eve of Passover, because of the sanctity of the day. Yet the host of the event refused to allow them to leave, not even after the Jewish leadership intervened. Only the governor’s intercession enabled the musicians to celebrate the holiday of Passover in their homes. Below are the two relevant articles, which were published in Calcutta in the years 1881 and 1884.

Jewish press in India   155 Text 5


News from Baghdad, by a correspondent in Baghdad, Thursday, 9 Keslēv Hatarmab [1 December 1881] … Mr. Isaac [Lurian] is the senior educator in the Baghdad school, a French citizen and the head of the Society [AIU] at the school. He recruited children, gave them a monthly stipend, taught them to play music and spent a large sum to have them taught well. Everyone wanted to hear them play, even the Muslims and Christians. He takes good care of them, having placed them under the protection of England and France. This man intervenes on their behalf with the authorities and the city’s notables, whether Muslim or not, in every place where they perform. After he taught them [the band], he came to an agreement with them that they would give a tithe of their income to the school. However, for the past two months they have stopped paying [the tithe] to the representatives of the Society.… When the latter [the school] realized that they [the band] were not paying, they called them and said: Don’t be silly. We invested in you and taught you, so why do you refuse to pay [us] the tithe? Why do you behave this way and [in effect] force us to change our attitude towards you? You are dear to us. The children replied: We do not recognize you at all, and we will not pay the tithe to the school. Nor did you teach us; we learned under the command of Mushir Pasha [the Turkish military commander in Baghdad]. So do as you like. The Society representatives answered: You must return to us the instruments with which you play, for they are our property. The players replied: We will give you neither the tithe nor the instruments! The Society representatives waited a week and then filed a complaint with the police commander, asking for soldiers to do their bidding.… A representative of the Society then came to the players and said: I invited some guests to my house and would like you to come and play on Saturday eve. They came to an agreement with him.… On Saturday evening the band came to his house and began to play. But they [the AIU representatives] had someone there who passed along information [about what was going on in the house] to representatives who sat in a café with ten soldiers. The informer came to them and told them that the performance had begun. So they all went to that house, entered, locked the door behind them and said to [the players]: Give us the instruments that you are holding. The players refused.… Finally, they managed to take the instruments out of their hands, but they were all broken. The children [the players] left nothing whole [lacking in damage] in the house.… They also struck the soldiers. When the AIU representatives saw what had happened, they took the broken instruments and left the house. The soldiers continued to fight with the children until both sides became exhausted.… (Pēraḥ 1881:128–129)

Figure 9.1 The Jewish Gazette (Pēraḥ), Calcutta, 9 September 1881 (courtesy Zvi Yehuda).

Jewish press in India   157 Text 6


News from Baghdad, by our correspondent in Baghdad, Friday, rosh ḥōdeš Iyar Hatarmad [25 April 1884] … On the intermediary days of Passover (hol hamoe’d), senior Muslim officials, if they have a wedding, will hold a joyous parade with drums, a dancer and the Jewish school band, beginning on Sunday and lasting the whole week. In the evening the band has to play in the house from Sunday until Friday evening. Last week it was Passover, and Muhammad Efendi, the son of Abdul Jamil Efendi, married off his son Isa Efendi. Muhammad Efendi is the chairman of the Majlis. To the wedding he brought Jewish musicians, chalghi (those who play the santur and those who accompany it are called chalghi). He also brought a Jewish dancer and Jews from the school who play music. They began to play from the beginning of the week on Sunday, the second day of hol hamoe’d of Passover.… On Tuesday, the fourth day of hol hamoe’d they [the musicians] said to Muhammad Efendi: Tonight we have a holiday and we are forbidden to play. He replied: It is impossible to stop playing. I do not accept the excuse of the holiday. You must play from tonight until Friday evening and then you can go. They took them out [of the courtyard of the house] and put them on the roof. They closed the door leading to the roof and thus imprisoned them. The musicians had been imprisoned since the evening, to prevent them from fleeing. They looked down on the street and saw Rabbi Elisha [Dangoor, The Chief Rabbi and Head of the Community] and Rabbi Abraham going away. They thought that they had come, were rebuffed, and left. They shouted out loud: Tonight we have a holiday, why do you imprison us? Free us, we want to go to our families. We are forbidden to play tonight.… When the governor heard this he was very angry. He said: How can they force them to act against their faith (heaven forbid)? Free them immediately! They must not be held up even one minute. So they had to open the roof door and free them. They went home at a run, in great joy. (Pēraḥ 1884:297)

Conclusion The texts from the journal articles presented here demonstrate the great importance that the Judeo-­Arabic newspapers published in India have on the history of Iraqi Jewry in the second half of the nineteenth century. The texts report on events for which there is no local information in Iraq provided by members of the community, either from their personal perspective, or from the perspective of the community’s leaders. The same is true of the confrontation between representatives of AIU and the community’s rabbis and leaders on the issue of the

158   Zvi Yehuda girls’ school. The two parties interpreted the events differently and each party gave different explanations for why the school opened and why it closed. The sources quoted here from Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic newspapers published in India provided exclusive information that could not be obtained elsewhere. Without these sources, important events in the life of Baghdad’s Jewish community – such as the large wave of immigration, the community’s absorption of the immigrants, the relations between the local Jews and the immigrants, and the emerging myths concerning these relations – could not have been known. Other issues, such as European cultural influences, relations between Jews and Muslims, and the preservation of Jewish national and religious identity as reflected in the establishment of the Jewish school band in Baghdad, would have remained in obscurity, were it not for the Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic press in India. Furthermore, through this press, it is possible to obtain a lively impression of Jewish community life in Baghdad at a time of considerable demographic, political, economic and social turmoil. In short, without the sources in these newspapers from India, no exhaustive historical research on the period in question could be possible. Hopefully, this chapter will stimulate students of the history and culture of the Iraqi Jews in the nineteenth century to use these valuable resources in their studies.

Appendix 1 The text in Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic in transliteration is as follows: axbār baġdād min makatibna baġdād ha-­yōm he, 15 kislew hatarmaḥ … sābiq katabna illaḏi bil ḑiyaˤ mal aṭrāf il kurd illaḏi ˤindhum ham ṣār ġala w-­bala w-­min hal sabab il fiqratiyya malhum qaˤdīn yijōn ila ṭarafna wil-­msakīn humma w-ˤyalhum w-­aṭfalhum minhum qaˤdīn yijon zilma ˤala il barr w-­mṣalxīn min ġēr ḥwas w-­jwaˤi w-­minhum qaˤdīn yijōn bil kalakāt fi il šaṭṭ w-­mṣallaxīn w-ˤarianīn w-­qaˤdīn yˤidmōn min il bard li-­msakīn w-­hal sbūˤ jo jafqa kbīra awwal min jo jwāˤi ḥālan aištaru lahum xibiz w-­ġēr min il kolēl w-­aklu w-­raḥu nāmu bil midrašīm w-­frāš ma ˤindhum w-­tġaṭu bil biṣaṭ māl midrašīm w-­awwal yōm ṣabbaḥ wāḥid minhum mayyit w-­ṯāni yōm māt minhum wāḥid lāx w-­lākin sābiq katabna illaḏi min roš ha-­šanā jo kiṯra w-­qaˤdu bil darbūna māl baté knesiyōṯ w-­il jmāˤa qāmu axḏu lahum byūt b-­ijāra w-­qaˤdu bīha w-­hal ḥīn illaḏi jo ham axḏu lahum byūt w-­qiˤdōhum fīha w-­ḑallu mṣalxīn yinrād lahum kiswa li-­msākīn w-­lakin ma akuš sbūˤ il ma qaˤdīn yijōn jafqa w-­qāˤid yinrād lahum byūt w-ˤīši (Pēraḥ 1887:210).

Jewish press in India   159

Appendix 2 The text in Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic in transliteration is as follows: Ha-­Șaˤīr Faraj axbār baġdād min makatibna baġdād ha-­yōm he, 20 adār hatarnaḥ … il miqtaṣir haḏōli il-­krād yōm ˤla yōm qāˤdīn ykiṯrōn yijōn li baġdād l-­ḥēṯ fi baġdād ṣinnāˤ bil miyyi tisˤīn w-­zōd ṣinnāˤ krād w-­bil miyyi ˤašra yṭilˤōn ṣinnāˤ ahil baġdād w-ˤajam w-­afˤāyilhum ma titwaṣṣaf killita bil bāl w-­lākit illaḏi tˤalmu yitwātōn w-­ynihbōn l-­byūt stāḏhum hāyi ma tiji bil bāl hāyi illaḏi tˤūzhum w-­ma lina nqūl ˤla hēk nās illa yiraḥḥem ha-­šem (Magid Mesharim 1898 (25)).

Appendix 3 The text in Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic in transliteration is as follows: Axbār baġdād min makatibna Baġdād ha-­yom 4 adār bet hatarmaw Ēḑa ṭaraf mˤallim il fransāwi māl il askōl illaḏi ismu yisraēl lūrya hiwwi w-­rabˤu qāmu hal sbūˤ yirdōn ysiwwōn askōl māl bnāt illaḏi yˤilmōn lil-­bnāt ṣanāiˤ māl taˤlūm il-­niswān w-­qāmu axḏu ḥōš lil-­bnāt w-­baˤṯu jābu niswān illaḏi yˤilmōn ṣanāyiˤ miṯil xyāṭa w-­naqš il tēl w-­naqš il tōfi w-­naqš il ˤibi w-­jwarīb w-­ġēr w-­qāmu jābu farid dillāl w-ˤṭōnu karwa an ylim bnāt yˤilmōhum ṣnāyiˤ w-­qāmu waddu bnāt li ˤind l-­mˤallim ha-­nizkār w-­smaˤna yqūlōn illaḏi bnēti il lāyqi axaḏa lil-­taˤlūm w-­illaḏi ma lāyqi qāl ma yrīda w-­sawwa maˤhum qawil li ḥad tlaṯ snīn ma ysīr yṭilˤōn w-­illaḏi tiṭlaˤ qabil tlaṯ snīn yrīd min ahla jamīˤ maṣārif illaḏi ṣaraf ˤlēha w-­kil saˤtēn yitˤilmōn fi jins ṣanˤa w-­lākin ykūn nabbah ˤlēhum illaḏi kil yōm yrīdhum yġislōn b-­ṣabūn w-­ġēr qāl yrīdhum nḑīfīn ma wiṣxīn w-­ēḑa nabbah b-­annahu yrīd šaˤar ygidlōnu miṯil li-­franj w-­ēḑa nabbah illaḏi ma ysīr ylibsōn fēs yrīd ylibsōn ˤla rāshum faqaṭ yazma miṯil il-­franj w-­illaḏi ma tirḑa tiṭlaˤ w-­samˤu maˤalat l-­ḥxamīm w-­yeḥide ha-­kahal qālu niḥna hēkiḏ ma ysīr ˤindina w-­qāmu katbu maḑbaṭa w-­mahru bīha maˤlat l-­ḥxamīm w-­maˤlat il-­ gbirīm.… w-­qāmu jamīˤ bne ˤammēnu qaˤdīn ymihrōn bil haskama w-­min ġēr il-­ haskama qāmu maˤalat l-­ḥxamīm katbu wrāq w-­ṣāḥu bīha yōm il-­tārīx b-­kil qōdeš w-­qōdeš … (Pēraḥ 1886:300).

Appendix 4 The text in Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic in transliteration is as follows: Axbār baġdād min makatibna Baġdād ha-­yom he, 4 menahem hatarmaw

160   Zvi Yehuda Ēḑa min tārīx kam šahir katabna illaḏi il-­mudīr mal il-­askōl yisrael lūrya … sawwa askōl lil-­bnāt … w-­qāmu ṭilˤōhum l-­bnathum min il-­askōl w-­ktabna illaḏi yisrael lūria rāḥ li byuthum lil-­bnāt w-­qāl lahum lēš ṭillaˤtim qalōlu min ṭaraf l-­ḥxamīm nabhu bil qōdeš ‫ ’וכו‬w-­qāl lahum taˤālu wala txafōn ēš ysawwōn lakum l-­ḥxamīm w-­qāmu rajˤu lil-­askōl yiji tlaṯīn bnēti w-­qām kil yōm yištari lahum ma’kūl l-­xāṭir la yṭilˤūn … w-­lākin sbūˤ il maḑa qām nabbah ˤala il-­bnāt b-­annahu lāzim il-­bnāt ynamōn bil lēl bil askōl ma ysīr yruḥōn li byūthum w-­qāmu immathum rāḥu li ˤindu lil-­mˤallim w-­qalōlu humma hēkiḏ šēn ma yijrūn madam askōl il-­wlād kil lēli yruḥōn li byūthum ynāmūn w-­yijōn min il-­ṣbāḥ w-­bil xaṣ haḏōli bnāt qām l-­mˤallim yisrael lūria qāl ma ysīr illa ynamōn bil lēl ˤindu bil-­askōl qāmu ahalhum ṭilˤōhum lil-­bnāt min il-­askōl w-­limˤallim lamman šāf ṭalˤu l-­bnāt qām bāˤa lil-­alāt illaḏi ištarāha lahum lil-­taˤlūm (Pēraḥ 1886:90).

Appendix 5 The text in Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic in transliteration is as follows: Axbār baġdād min farid kātib Baġdād ha-­yom he, 9 kislēw hatarmab … sayyid Yishaq hu il-­kbīr māl il-­mˤallimchiyya māl askōl baġdād w-­hu raˤayat fransāwi w-­lākin hu rayyis il-­ḥibra māl askōl ha-­nizkār li-­māˤla w-­min sābiq jāb awlād w-ˤṭahum šahriyya w-ˤillamhum daq il-­muzika w-­xaṣar ˤlayhum kṯīr flūs ila ma siwwāhum fi hal kamāl w-­kil il-­nās qāmu yriġbōn l-­daqhum w-­ḥatta il-­ msilmīn w-ˤarelīm rāġbīn lahum w-­hu kṯīr mitqayyid bīhum l-­an kān ymašīhum fi ḥimāyat inglīz w-­frinsāwi w-­kil mawḑiˤ illaḏi yruḥūn ywaṣṣi ˤlēhum sayyid ha-­ nizkār fi il-­ḥkūma w-ˤind akbār il-­balad msilmīn w-­ġēr w-­min baˤad ma ˤallamhum sawwu maˤhum qōl aš ma yḥiṣlōn yiˤṭōn meˤassēr lil-­askōl w-­min miqdār šahrēn illaḏi ma ˤaṭu wil-­ḥibra min šāfu illaḏi ma ˤammal yiˤṭōn baˤṯu bi-­ qfāhum w-­ḥaku maˤhum illaḏi lēš tṣirōn mjahīl l-­an niḥna tˤabna maˤkum w-ˤillimnākum w-­telāha tqulōn illaḏi ma tiˤṭōn meˤassēr w-­lēš tsiwwōn b-­hal mōjib w-­txillōn nsiwwīha maˤkum mxarba w-­niḥna tˤabna bīkum w-­intum ˤzāz ˤindina il-­wlād raddu jawāb illaḏi ma niˤrifkum wala nistiˤrifkum wala niˤṭi meˤassēr lil-­askōl wala ˤillimtimna wala niˤṭi šay w-­kil ma tirdūn sawwu w-­niḥna tˤillamna min wṣāyat mušīr pāša rajˤu lahum il-­ḥibra jawāb lāzim tiˤṭōna ġrāḑ il-­muzika illaḏi tištiġlōn bīha lian niḥna ˤṭinahum ilkum ahl il-­mūuzika qālu niḥna ma niˤṭi la meˤassēr wala ġrāḑ il-­muzika il-­ḥibra ha-­nizkēret tirkōha lil-­ mas’ala miqdār sbūˤ zmān w-­rāḥu ˤind ha-­lay bēg w-­ḥkōnu fi il-­daˤwa w-­min baˤda rādu minnu ˤaskar l-­ḥatta waqt illaḏi yirdōhum ykūnu ḥāḑrīn il-ˤaskar jiwwāt yadhum … w-­ja wāḥid min ahl il-­ḥibra ˤind ahl il-­muzika w-­qāl lahum ˤindu aku awādim miˤzumīn w-­yrīd lahum daq muzika il baqiyyi lēlt il-­aḥḥad lāzim tḥiḑrōn ˤindi fi il-­bēt w-­sawwu ˤimla maˤu … w-­jo ˤindu lēlt il-­aḥḥad fi jimˤithum w-­istabdu ydiqqōn w-­lākin hum xallu waḥid illaḏi yjīb lahum il-­xabar w-­hum fi jimˤathum qaˤdu fi qaḥwa w-ˤašra min il-ˤaskar maˤhum w-­ja l-ˤindahum il-­jasus illaḏi mxallīnu w-ˤṭāhum xabar illaḏi istabdu fi il-­daq

Jewish press in India   161 mālhum w-­jo fi jimˤathum ila haḏālik il-­bēt w-­qaflu il-­bāb ˤlēhum w-­daxlu ˤindahum w-­qālu lahum ˤṭūna ġrāḑ illaḏi fi yadkum wha-­nizkarīm li-­maˤla ma qablu … limma axḏōha minhum killita mkasra w-­ma xallu il-­wlād farid ši bil bēt sālim … w-­min šāfu il-­ḥibra hal amur illaḏi ṣār axḏu il-­ġrāḑ mkasra w-­ṭalˤu min il-­bēt w-­tammu il-ˤaskar maˤ il-­wlād yitqātlōn limma halku il-­wlād wil-ˤaskar min il-­taˤab w-­min qtīl illaḏi ṣār … (Pēraḥ 1881:128–129).

Appendix 6 The text in Baghdadi Judeo-­Arabic in transliteration is as follows: Axbār baġdād min makatibna Baġdād ha-­yom ˤēreb šabbāṯ qōdeš, roš ḥōdeš iyyār rōš ḥōdeš ṭōb meborrāx … b-­ḥōl ha-­moˤed šel pēsaḥ miˤtādim il-­msilmīn il-­kbariyyi bil-­ḥkūma bil-ˤirṣ mālim miˤtādim min yōm l-­aḥḥad ysiwwōn zaffa w-­yindarōn b-­kil il-­wlayi w-­yrikbōn xēl w-­yitsilḥōn w-­yimšōn daq ṭabil w-­dimmām w-­šiˤˤār yimši w-­yirqiṣ w-­mazīqa mal yhūd il-­askōl w-­lisbūˤ killitu bil-­lēl yinrād ydiqqōn bil-­bēt min yōm l-­aḥḥad li-­lēlt il-­jimˤa w-­sbūˤ il-­maḑa sbūˤ ḥōl ha-­moˤed šel pēsaḥ mḥammad afandi bin ˤabd il-­jamīl afandi (hēkiḏ ysimmōhim) ziwwaju il-­ibnu ˤīsa afandi w-­mhammad afandi ha-­nizkār qēˤid rayyis bil-­majlis w-­jāb bil-ˤirṣ diqqaqīn yhūd chālġi (daq il-­sinṭūr w-­tbāˤu ysimmōnu chālġi) w-­jāb šiˤˤār yhūdi w-­jāb yhūd il-­askōl ydiqqōn mazīqa w-­stabdu ydiqqōn min ras il-­sbūˤ yōm l-­aḥḥad ṯīni yōm šel ḥōl ha-­moˤēd … w-­yōm il-­tlaṯa yōm dālet li-­ḥōl ha-­moˤēd qalōlu li-­mḥammad afandi niḥna il-­lēl ˤindina ˤīd mālna w-­ḥarām ˤlēna ma ysīr ndiq qallim ma yiṭlaˤ darb ana ma asmaˤ ˤīd lāzim tdiqqōn min il-­lēli li-­lēlt il-­ jimˤa w-­truḥōn w-­ṭilˤōhim w-­qiˤdōhim bil-­ṣaṭḥ w-­saddu ˤlēhim bāb il-­ṣaṭḥ w-­sawwu ˤlēhim yaṣaq … wil-­diqqaqīn kānu miḥbusīn bil-­ṣaṭḥ min il-ˤaṣir ḥibsōhim xāṭir la yinhizmōn naṣṣu ˤēnim lil-­darb w-­šafōnu il-­ḥaxām rabbi alīšaˤ w-­ḥaxām rabbi abrahām illaḏi rāḥu ḥasbu ib-ˤaqlim illaḏi jo w-­ma rijjōhim w-­rāḥu qāmu ṣāḥu farid ṣōṭ amān daxīl il-­lēli ˤindina ˤīd min ṭaraf ḥābsīna saybūna nrīd nrūḥ il-­ahilna ḥarām ˤlēna il-­lēli il-­daq … lamman samaˤ wāli pāša kṯīr inhaḑam qāl ašlōn ysīr ġiṣbōhim yˤibrōhim ˤala dyānitim ḥālan tsybōhim ma ysīr tˤuwqōhim ḥitti daqīqi haḏīk il-­sāˤa min ġaṣbin ˤannim fitḥōnu lil-­bāb il-­ṣaṭḥ w-­siybōhim w-­rāḥu l-­byūtim waqt il-­miġrib yimšōn bil-­darb w-­yrikḑōn w-­rāḥu lil-­byūtim bil-­faraḥ w-­sirūr (Pēraḥ 1884:297).

Notes Many reports are found in the newspapers Pēraḥ and Magid Mesharim (Calcutta). See Appendix 1. See Appendix 2. AIU Archive, Irak VII E75, letters from I. Louria to AIU president dated 7 June 1885, 28 March 1886 and 19 April 1886.   5 AIU Archive, Irak VII E75, letters from I. Louria to AIU president dated 7 June 1885, 28 March 1886 and 19 April 1886.  1  2  3  4

162   Zvi Yehuda   6 AIU Archive, Irak VII E75, Louria’s letter of 19 April 1886.   7 AIU Archive, Irak VII E75, letter from S. Sassoon to AIU president dated 19 August 1886.   8 Bulletin Mensuelle de l’Alliance Israélite Universelle, 1892: 53, 96.   9 See Appendix 3. 10 See Appendix 4. 11 AIU Archive, Irak I B5, letter from Yosef Eliezer Levy to AIU dated 5 October 1875. 12 AIU Archive, Irak I B5, letter from Yosef Eliezer Levy to AIU dated 23 February 1876. 13 AIU Archive, Irak I B5, letter from Yosef Eliezer Levy to AIU dated 19 April 1876. 14 AIU Archive, Irak I B5, letter from Yosef Eliezer Levy to AIU dated 23 February 1876. 15 See Appendix 5. 16 See Appendix 6.

References Al-­Janna, 16 April 1880, p. 1, Beirut. Cohen, M., 1885/1886, “A new departure in the apprenticing of Jewish boys and girls in Baghdad”, Anglo-­Jewish Association Report, 50–56. Magid Mesharim 9 (25), 21 April 1898, Calcutta. Mansour, J. 1991, The Jewish Baghdadi dialect, The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, Or Yehuda Israel. Pēraḥ 4 (27), 30 December 1881, pp. 128–129, Calcutta. Pēraḥ 6 (48), 23 May 1884, p. 297, Calcutta. Pēraḥ 8 (43), 9 April 1886, p. 300, Calcutta. Pēraḥ 9 (13), 3 September 1886, p. 90, Calcutta. Pēraḥ 10 (29), 30 December 1887, p. 210, Calcutta. Yehuda, Z., 1996a, “Iraqi Jewry and cultural change in the educational activity of the Alliance Israélite Universelle”, in H.E. Goldberg (ed.), Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries, pp. 134–145, Indiana University Press, Bloomington. Yehuda, Z. (ed.), 1996b, Jewish schools in Baghdad 1832–1974: Picture album, The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, Or Yehuda, Israel, in Hebrew and English. Yehuda, Z., 2017, New Babylonian diaspora: Rise and fall of the Jewish community in Iraq, 16th–20th centuries c.e., Brill Reference Library of Judaism, The Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center, Leiden-­Boston.

10 Archival cartographies Multi-­layering Calcutta’s Baghdadi Jewish histories Jael Silliman

Introduction Recalling Jewish Calcutta (, a digital archive of the Calcutta Baghdadi Jewish community, was launched in 2013.1 It draws on three major private collections – two located in the USA and the other in Israel.2 Members of the Calcutta Jewish community in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Calcutta and Israel also contributed their family and personal historical documents, photographs, audio materials and texts.3 In collaboration with the School of Cultural Texts and Records at Jadavpur University, the materials are presented through 21 thematic exhibits. These issue-­based exhibits contain images, written accounts and some multi-­media features to explore the theme in greater depth from a range of perspectives and over different historical periods. In addition to the gathering of community resources from across the world, students dedicated to this project have uploaded thousands of images, hundreds of documents, music and film, and many narratives gathered in interviews and in personal narratives and writings.4 The Jadavpur students filmed and recorded what remains of Jewish Calcutta to furnish contemporary glimpses of surviving members of the Calcutta Jewish community and their institutions. Dr Susan Schriebman, then of Maynooth University,5 and doctoral candidate Vinayak Dasgupta, developed the architecture of this archive.6 Recalling Jewish Calcutta presents new materials on the Calcutta Baghdadi Jewish community from many contributors, thus differing from linear historical accounts of the history of this community. It adds new and diverse narratives to the few personal published accounts of life in Calcutta by community members (e.g. Solomon 1998 and Silliman 2001). The digital archive, by its very form, creates a palimpsest of information and images that enable historical materials to be viewed and new cartographies of the community to emerge. The user can engage the archive through infinite pathways and vantage points to analyse various aspects of the community’s history. Historical material can be constantly reshuffled and reused within the digital archive. The significance of each image, narrative and document can be revisited in relationship to other archival materials. In this way, the process of navigation – driven by the viewer’s interest – creates new and contemporary perspectives on the archival subject.

164   Jael Silliman The experience and challenges associated with archiving Jewish experiences across history and geography is familiar terrain. For instance, in Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, the author grapples with the particular challenges associated with archiving the devastating trauma of the Holocaust (Agamben 2002). He distils how focusing on the singular experience of the trauma faced by one person misses the scope of collective trauma, while a focus on the collective trauma of millions of Jews risks eliding the individual experience. The histories that emerge from the Jewish Calcutta digital archive contribute to this conversation on the witness and the archive. The extensive documentation of the experience of a community of Jews who never faced any anti-­Semitism provides a counterpoint to other archives of Jewish history that inexorably grapple with issues of trauma, prejudice and discrimination. Thus, the historical pathways traced by the Jewish Calcutta archive represent a new archival experience in the Jewish studies context. As a historical form the digital archive addresses the challenge of representing the collective experience without collapsing the individual experiences. Engaged viewers of the Jewish Calcutta archive can experience the archive at the meta-­level to sketch the broad contours of the diverse community of Calcutta’s Baghdadi Jews. This overview is not bounded by sharp delineations; the digital form allows the viewer to engage with the community across historical and geographic boundaries. Furthermore, the engaged participant has the opportunity to delve deeper into the individual lives and experiences of members of the Calcutta Jewish community. There are, for example, photos, narratives sometimes written by the individual or a family member, excerpts from their diaries, brochures, family details and accounts others have written about them, that make up the individual profiles. The user may travel between personal anecdotes, individual and community documents, and images and photographs to allow personal and collective images and accounts to emerge. These pathways for exploration – juxtaposing individual images and accounts with community narratives – allows each user to independently configure and reconfigure the multiple roles that Baghdadi Jews played in colonial and post-­colonial Calcutta and seeks to extend the trajectory of its community members to other countries where they have settled.7 By virtue of being multi-­authored and uncensored, Recalling Jewish Calcutta resists the dominant representation of Jewish communities as “… alienated from local Indian society” (Singh 2009).8 These representations have historically been intentionally and unintentionally cultivated from both within and outside Jewish communities. From within, traditional Jewish practices discourage both intermarriage and conversion to the faith. Accordingly, the narratives of those who transgress these bounds are suppressed in community oral histories and more formal documentation. Across national contexts, Jews have tended to emerge as market-­dominant minorities. This positioning leaves them particularly vulnerable to “otherization” – especially by nationalist discourses that seek to blame periods of economic stagnation on ethnic and racial others. This form of exclusion has all too often

Archival cartographies   165 led to the discrimination and persecution of Jewish communities, both in Western countries and in the Arab states, where being Jewish is a stigma and has led to the displacement of and targeted violence against the Jews. The Baghdadi Jews of Calcutta are referred to as the “Jews of the Raj” not just because their time in India overlapped with British Colonialism, but also because they have been seen as an Anglicized community that identified with the British.9 However, Katz points out that this adaptation of British ways became pronounced in the twentieth century.10 In the late nineteenth century, the Jews of Calcutta, even some leading members of the community, knew Hebrew and Hindustani and were not able to read and understand English.11 It is this comfort with language and even Indian dress that they often wore at home that needs to be emphasized to redress the imbalance in perception that has occurred.12 Thus this archive and chapter seek to recalibrate the way in which the Baghdadi Jews of Calcutta are presented vis-­à-vis their relationships to India, Indian culture and to British rule. This archive compels us to challenge the long-­held and generalized view that Calcutta’s Anglo-­oriented Baghdadi Jewish community engaged in the colonial administrative apparatus but remained aloof from local culture and politics. I believe that the Baghdadi Jews were not simply “loyal British subjects” – they were far more heterogeneous in their political ties and commitments. Whereas previous histories have focused on the Jewish community’s economic and legislative professions and underlined their contributions in trade, business and real estate development, this archive reveals that they were engaged in a far wider range of professions. Several individuals who were politically engaged in various facets of the Indian national project at both the cultural and political level are foregrounded. I believe it is this deep engagement across the cultural, social and political spectrum that enabled those who remained after Independence to thrive in post-­Partition India. The professional and political contributions made by Baghdadi women is highlighted – a subject that has also received very little scholarly attention.13

Methodology: the building blocks of the digital archive The formal history of the Baghdadi Jews of Calcutta has been anchored by the extensive and invaluable research of Rabbi Musleah (1975), Ezra (1986) and Roland (1989).14 These important books focus on the contributions of the major players in Jewish Calcutta – the elites and leaders of the community and the institutions that they established, as well as the political and economic roles that members of the community played in the colonial period. Musleah’s interest in the community’s history has emphasized those involved in religious and community work. Esmond Ezra, from the elite Ezra family of Calcutta, intertwines the community’s history with this important family’s contributions. This archive has drawn extensively on their research, but has added new dimensions, especially from middle-­class and upper middle-­class members of the community, giving more diverse voices a chance to be heard. What remains largely

166   Jael Silliman unexplored is the life of the deprived and impoverished in the community;15 we learn of them through accounts of Jewish charities and the outreach to them by Hacham Twena.16 The archive includes primary research undertaken to gather more information on women trailblazers in the community.17 Exhibit 21, From The Outside In: Recollecting the Recollections of the Jewish Community of Calcutta enables the emergence of the perspectives of those who knew Jewish community members. Personal accounts from members of Calcutta’s mainstream and minority communities provide insights into the place of the Calcutta Jewish community in the broader social landscape of the city.18 The archive is particularly strong in documenting the history of the community from the 1920s onwards to the present day, the period when the community was most Anglicized. Most of the contributions have come from the middle and upper middle-­class members of the community, as these were mostly the people I was able to contact. Those who shared their resources were generally between 70 and 93 years of age when this archive was being developed. There are many community documents in the keeping of the Calcutta Jewish community that have not yet been organized and made available for scholarly use. Were they to be organized and made available via this archive or to the public, they would add to our knowledge considerably – as would systematic searches of local newspaper archives and court documents.19

Social integration among the Baghdadis and mainstream and minority communities Research to date has made clear how the Baghdadi Jews of Calcutta moved from a Judaeo-­Arabic to a Judaeo-­British identity. This trend, led by the community’s elites, became pronounced from the latter half of the nineteenth century and gathered pace through the twentieth century, when the community adopted Western dress, manners and, of course, the English language, to further succeed in colonial Calcutta.20 The Jewish community, along with other minority elites and those of the aspirant middle classes, became Anglo-­oriented in their ways over time, yet kept their own religious and cultural systems intact. The Jewish community had adopted the local language and culture through the nineteenth century. Perhaps it is time to examine more closely their immersion in Hindustani culture during this period that was more akin to their Middle Eastern one. Calcutta’s Jewish community seemed to move easily between their Jewish world and the larger world around them – be it among the majority or the many minority communities of the city of which they were an integral part. The main minority communities were the Armenians, Anglo-­Indians, Parsees, Jews, Chinese and Muslims. The Jews were especially close to the Anglo-­Indians, Parsees and Muslims as they lived in the same neighbourhoods and shared some cultural traditions, particularly some common dietary laws. Many Jews attended the Jewish Girls and Boys Schools, or Christian schools, where they developed close friendships with people from other communities. Contrary to previous

Archival cartographies   167 accounts, the material in this archive shows a far deeper level of integration between Jews and other communities. Previous accounts have focused on cuisine, where Jews took ingredients from Indian culinary traditions, and there have been several references to the speaking of Hindustani in Jewish homes till the 1930s. It is interesting to note as Jews were a significant community only till the 1950s, English has only been their dominant language for fewer than 50 years. The Jews nurtured deep and intimate friendships across communities both majority and minority. Previous accounts do acknowledge that theirs was a fear of intermarriage that occurred “often enough for parents to be anxious about the marriage of their children,”22 but there has not been much discussion of how widespread the phenomenon of intermarriage was among Jewish community members and others. The archive shows that such intermarriage occurred from at least from the late nineteenth century onwards. Calcutta’s Jews enjoyed a robust Jewish life and attended their own clubs and social events, but were also actively involved in local sporting clubs and social activities where they celebrated with their non-­Jewish friends. Many Jews enjoyed and were involved in Indian cinema, theatre and musical events.23 Their wide civic participation and work in a range of professions aside from their business ventures and employment in Jewish enterprises brought them in close contact with colleagues from the mainstream and minority communities. For example, even in Jewish charities and at balls, Jewish and other businesses advertised and supported Jewish social efforts.24 In Exhibit 21 of the archive, From the Outside In, respondents speak at length about the Jewish people they knew and the kind of relationships they experienced. Intimate and lasting friendships existed between Jews and members of mainstream and minority communities (Silliman 2016). Iti Misra, for example, whose father was a Bengali Hindu and a manager in the B.N. Elias Company, grew up in the predominantly Jewish company compound in Agarpara. Iti talked poignantly of the ways in which Jewish and non-­Jewish families shared their joys and sorrows with one another. Agarpara’s residents, she said, lived like one large family sharing their everyday lives. As she put it, “Our homes and lives, like our gardens, flowed into one another … we knew no borders or boundaries … we were family.” She recalled company-­sponsored Durga Puja festival events for Hindu staff, and the children, Jews, Muslims, Christians and others participated in the social and cultural activities relating to the festivities. She narrates how the bar mitzvah of a Jewish boy was celebrated with all the mothers and aunties of the colony pitching in to make the occasion a success. Iti’s memories, while perhaps the most eloquent, were similar in nature to those all of the respondents interviewed about their memories and perceptions of their Jewish friends and colleagues. The respondents, who would have been children or young teenagers at the time in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, spoke unanimously of how they were in and out of each other’s homes, where they felt welcomed and loved. Like their Jewish friends, they spoke English with one another that they learned in school, and most likely their own language at home.25 Mr Bhimani, who was from a strictly vegetarian family, spoke of how 21

168   Jael Silliman his Jewish friend’s mother would cook vegetarian food for him in a pot she had bought especially for this purpose. He recalled his Jewish neighbour teaching him and mentoring him about life. Abeda Rezaq, a much younger woman, showed how these relations continued to be close from the 1970s to the 1990s, when few Jews remained in Calcutta. Abeda recalled her father’s best friend as being David Nahoum, and said that she thought of him as a relative. Their friendship was the epitome of what a friendship could be, she stated. At Eid, special food would be prepared for David Nahoum to honour the laws of kashrut. This layer of the archive reveals a previously unexplored view of social interactions. Intermarriage was frowned upon among all communities, as testified to by the respondents in From the Outside In. Nevertheless, intermarriages occurred across communities, and wealthy men, including Jews, often had mistresses from other faiths. Naseem Ahmed, from an elite Muslim family, spoke candidly of her uncle’s Jewish mistress, who was accepted by his family members. As a child, Naseem said she saw “this Jewish aunty come as a guest” to her home and told of how the family welcomed, respected and was fond of her. The case of Esther Victoria Abraham, the well-­known film star of the 1940s (screen name Pramila) is an outlier in terms of how intermarriage was an essential aspect of her family story over four generations. Esther married twice; she first married a Marwari (Hindu) with whom she had a son, Maurice Abraham, whom her parents brought up Jewish. Later Esther married Syed Hasan Ali Zaidi (screen name Kumar) in Bombay. Reuben, Esther’s father, first married a Christian. His mother, Esther Shamma, had married a Hindu. When her husband died at an early age, Esther returned to her family home, which she dominated. The Abraham family was also very close to Jaddan Bai, the mother of the famous film star, Nargis. Jaddan Bai lived in the family compound, underlining the intimate relationships the family shared among several communities – Christian, Hindu and Muslim. Esther was unusual in that she had had a formal Nikah-­nama (the Muslim engagement ceremony) when she married Kumar and adopted a Muslim name in addition to her Hindu screen name, Pramila. Esther brought up her children from Zaidi in the Muslim faith, but was very proud of her Jewishness and remained a Jewess all her life. Her children spent a lot of time with her parents and celebrated all the Jewish festivals. They were familiar with Jewish values and ways of living, as she certainly, like her grandmother, Esther Shamma, was the matriarch of her family.26 Esther’s children from Zaidi married into several faiths – Hindu, Jain and Muslim. This religious co-­mingling occurred over four generations with Jewishness remaining a key element of the family’s identity.27 Her sons carried her coffin to the Jewish burial ground in Mumbai. Another instance where intermarriage occurred from the late nineteenth century to the present day, with Jewishness as a continuing feature, is seen in the prominent Guha family.28 Simcha Gubbay married Mr Pyare Mohan Guha in the late nineteenth century. Guha and Simcha had four daughters – Angelina, Regina, Hannah and Kitty – two of whom also intermarried.29 Simcha’s two

Figure 10.1 Esther Victoria Abraham (screen name Pramila) (1916–2006), Bollywood actress, Miss India in 1947 (courtesy Haidar Ali).

170   Jael Silliman grandchildren from her daughter Hannah identify as Jewish.30 There were other intermarriages of Jewish women in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries that have not been captured by formal accounts or by this archive, as I was unable to garner detailed information about these individuals.31 While no means comprehensive, the information gathered in this archive indicates the great diversity among community members in the area of selecting marriage partners. From the late nineteenth century, it seems, Jewish women began to choose their own partners, rather than accepting arranged marriages as had been the practice previously. In the cases mentioned above, at least, the Jewish women concerned were not cast out of their families. However, there were also cases of Jewish families severing ties with daughters who had married non-­Jews. These family narratives need to be juxtaposed against other stories of the Baghdadi Jewish community to gain a more multidimensional view of the diversity within it – especially in the areas of intermarriage and social and cultural integration.

Professional range, cultural and political integration Accounts of the Calcutta Jews have highlighted their roles in trade, business and commerce and in various legislative professions in the colonial administration. There are references to their roles in education and their work in philanthropy. Recalling Jewish Calcutta illustrates that Calcutta’s Jews were integrated into an array of professions in the local cultural and political spheres. I argue that the Baghdadi Jewish community members were able to succeed in an array of professions in the pre- and post-­Independence period because they had strong social bonds and were culturally immersed in both the Anglicized and local cultures. While the Baghdadis “preferred Western education and European dress” that set them apart from the Hindu, Muslim and to some extent Parsee communities of Calcutta,32 those who wished to do so were able to adapt to Indian ethnic wear with ease. Their familiarity with popular Indian culture was also essential to their success in local cultural and political spheres. Today there is an increased interest in the role of Calcutta’s Baghdadi Jews in the Bollywood film industry.33 Esther Abraham (Pramila) wore saris in the movies she starred in, and was known for setting new styles in sari draping.34 Her son, Haidar, spoke about the Shamma family’s interest in and familiarity with Indian cinema, Indian music and Indian and Parsee theatre.35 Several girls in the extended Shamma family, such as Rose and her sister Sophie (Romila), were also involved in Indian theatre and film. It was this cultural familiarity with the world of theatre that was essential for them to participate and succeed in the world of Indian cinema. This archive features new information about Sol Bekhor, who reminisces of his friendship with Utpal Dutt.36 In the 1940s, both young men were keenly interested in theatre, film, music and Indian politics. They started an amateur Shakespeare Theatre Company in 1947 and became involved in Shakespearean

Archival cartographies   171

Figure 10.2 Benji Jacob and Sas Jacob with friend (early twentieth century). From the Gubbay Family Albums (courtesy Deborah Gubbay).

acting with the Kendalls. Today, Utpal Dutt is remembered as a legendary actor, director, writer-­playwright and pioneering figure in modern Indian theatre.37 Solomon Bekhor’s communication is featured in the archive in Exhibit 5, Film Personalities and Others in the Public Gaze. It attests to the role that he played in this theatre enterprise and his close relationship with Utpal Dutt in their formative years. His communication with Dutt’s widow long after he had left India also speaks to the depth of their friendship. Many more members of this Jewish community than previously noted were involved in Indian political and social issues, aligning with both the Congress and the Communist Party of India; some held leadership roles therein. In the media and print world were Ezra Myer, Ellis Meyer and David Haskell Cohen. Each has been featured in Exhibit 3, Notable Members of the Community. All of them were known for their work in documentary film and the print media. Ezra Myer started his career making English films and grew to become one of India’s most prolific documentary filmmakers. Interested as he was in film from an early age, he moved to New York in 1924 to work in its film industry. He returned to Bombay in 1926, Indianized his name to Ezra Mir and joined Ardeshir Irani’s Imperial Film Company. There, he directed Noor Jehan in 1931. Several of the films he directed under the auspices of other film companies were based on dramas staged in Hindi and Parsee theatre. He later joined the Film Advisory Board in 1940, directed state film production and remained Chief Producer until

172   Jael Silliman 1946, producing over 170 films while in this position. He went on to hold many other prestigious posts, was involved in producing over 700 films during his lifetime and served as the founding president of the Indian Documentary Producer’s Association. Ellis Meyer was the News Editor of the Statesman, then the leading paper of Calcutta, from the 1950s onward. He was well-­known in Bengali intellectual circles. There were several other Jewish men who were involved with the Communist Party of India, including David Haskell Cohen, who started his career active in Jewish causes. It was the Bengal Famine of 1943 that profoundly impacted him and led him to strive to create a better world. He was the Editor of Unity, a communist magazine that sought to unite its leadership and ranks through the arts. As has been detailed in this archive, he later worked at the party headquarters and represented the CPI in many venues across the world, though he ultimately became disenchanted with Communist dogma and practice. Many of Calcutta’s Jewish men served in the Armed Forces. They continued their service when the forces became Indian-­controlled.38 Most notable among those in the armed services was General Jack Jacob, a hero of the Bangladesh War of Liberation and later a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which appointed him as Governor of Goa and then of Punjab. Aside from the individuals discussed, the Jewish community as a whole rapidly declared their allegiance to India. In the months preceding Independence, Bernard V. Jacob formed the All-­India Council to ensure that the Bombay, Cochin and Calcutta Jewish organizations would be represented in the Indian Government for quick consultations on national and international events, thus playing the part they should in India “as Indians and not as foreigners” (Musleah 1975:446–447). When Independence dawned, the Jewish community formally swore their allegiance to the new nation. When the Constitution of India was adopted in 1950, Calcutta’s Jews “participated happily in ceremonies to celebrate the inauguration of India as a Republic” (Musleah 1975:447). A function was held at the Judean Club and special prayers were said at the Maghen David Synagogue. Musleah explains that while they were happy for India’s Independence, the Jews did not know what to expect, though they felt assured that their rights as minorities would be protected based on fair treatment, equal rights and opportunities for all citizens of the new union. They participated in great numbers in elections and accepted Indian citizenship. Their concerns were mostly about India’s economic policy that veered sharply towards Socialism under Nehru. This new economic reality, together with a confluence of global events, including England allowing Indian citizens to immigrate, the formation of Israel and the opening of immigration to Australia by non-­whites, were among the key factors that led Jews and many other Indians, as well as members of other minority communities, to look for better economic prospects abroad; the Jews decided to leave India for the West, Australia and Israel. Thus, while Calcutta’s Baghdadi Jews never numbered more than 4,000–5,000, they had a distinctive presence and made a mark on life in Calcutta and in India more generally. Being deeply embedded in all aspects of life, they

Archival cartographies   173 were able to adapt to a more Indian identity – some changed their names, their way of dress and their allegiance – to be a part of the new nation that was emerging. Had they been so thoroughly British-­identified as previous accounts of the community have suggested, these transitions would not have been as seamless, nor would they have assimilated so rapidly and so easily into the new order.

Women pioneers Baghdadi women thrived in India. Coming as they did from conservative Middle-­Eastern backgrounds, they benefitted from the exposure to a then far more cosmopolitan Calcutta, the centre of the British Empire in India. All of them gained from a Western education that was offered for free at the Jewish Girls’ School (JGS) founded in 1886. Jewish girls also studied at other Christian schools across Calcutta that were either in greater proximity to their homes or to receive an even better education than their parents thought was available at the JGS. The names of Jewish philanthropists like Lady Rachel Ezra and the work she did in numerous charities have been documented in formal community accounts.39 Ramah Luddy was a dearly beloved educator and Principal of the Jewish Girls’ School for over three decades.40 Calcutta’s community members have given her many tributes, as they have the services of Ramah Musleah to the JGS and other community institutions.41 Many Jewish women taught at the Jewish Girls’ School as well as at schools across the city and are known to have excelled as educators. However, this archive draws also attention to other women trendsetters from the community in Exhibit 4, Women Pioneers, thus inviting further study of them as achievers. Clearly Esther Victoria Abraham and Hannah Sen, who have been discussed earlier in the chapter from the perspective of their being socially and culturally very integrated, were pioneers in their respective fields. Esther was the first Miss India and a popular star of the 1940s, and had her own film production company, Silver Films (1942). The company produced several films and Esther acted in some of them.42 Hannah Sen was a pioneer in women’s education and a leading personality in nationalist politics.43 Hannah played a leadership role in the Congress Party, but her life and work are largely absent from the male-­centric accounts of Jewish community leaders. Hannah went to study in London and was asked to help found the Lady Irwin College of Home Science in New Delhi when she returned to India in 1932; she served as its principal till 1947. She and Lady Irwin College were heavily involved in nationalist politics. During the Partition riots, she sheltered both Muslim and Sikh girls in the hostel from angry mobs even when doing so put her at significant risk. Hannah Sen served as President of the All India Women’s Conference (1951–1952) and she was also a member of the first Rajya Sabha (1952–1957). She worked with the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation, focusing on women and children displaced by Partition and representing India in international forums on women’s issues. Exhibit 4, Women Pioneers, includes photos given to me by Kamal Chenoy of Hannah with the great world leaders of the time

174   Jael Silliman

Figure 10.3 Hannah Sen (1894–1957) and Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964) (courtesy Sen’s grandson Kamal Mitra Chenoy).

including Gandhi, Nehru and Mao. In all the photographs, she is seen wearing a sari and is barely distinguishable from her fellow countrywomen. Her daughter Shanta married an Indian diplomat. Hannah died prematurely in 1958. She epitomizes the ease with which Jewish women could shift between the more Anglicized Jewish world into which they were born and a decidedly more Indian one.44 Among the most remarkable of the other women pioneers is Regina Guha, Hannah Sen’s sister; both Regina and Hannah worked at the JGS.45 Regina studied law, and upon completing her degree, applied to be a pleader at the Calcutta bar in 1915. A four-­judge bench determined that pleaders could not include women. Her enrolment was refused by the Calcutta High Court.46 Her bid was followed in 1922 in Sudhangshu Bala Hazara (1922) ILR Patna 104, wherein the Patna High Court held that women otherwise qualified were not entitled to be enrolled as Vakil or Pleader. It was the Allahabad High Court that enrolled Miss Cornelia Sorabji on 24 August 1921. Thus Regina played a pioneering role for women in law, though she did not live to enjoy the fruits of her endeavour as she died in her twenties. Rachel Ashkenazy was the first woman lawyer in the community to practise in the High Court. She pleaded for Muslim women in purdah. Once again, the accounts of both these accomplished women show Jewish women actively engaging in local issues and seeking to improve the lot of women across communities. Women from the Baghdadi Jewish community were also among the first women in the medical and dental professions. Rachel Duek Cohen was the first

Archival cartographies   175 lady doctor in the community; many women followed in her footsteps. She enrolled at Calcutta Medical College in 1892 for the L.M.S. and M.B courses, was attached to the Jewish Baby Welcome Clinic started by the Jewish Women’s League, and worked for poor and destitute children. Tabitha Solomon was among the first women to qualify as a dentist in India in 1928.47 Tabitha started a dental clinic in the Chittaranjan Seva Sadan Hospital and served in the Dufferin Hospital in an honorary capacity. She also served in many Jewish community committees. Among the other firsts among Baghdadi women in commercial ventures was Stella Benjamin. She earned her Master’s degree from Calcutta University and joined the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, being the first woman to hold an executive position there. The archive also features women who started their own small businesses and were of entrepreneurial spirit.48 Whereas Jewish women competed in a range of sporting activities in Calcutta from the dawn of the twentieth century and competed nationally both in team sports and as solo players, it was Rina Einy who played tennis internationally and represented India at Wimbledon (1981–1985).49 This archive makes it possible for much more research to be undertaken on these and other women leaders, who just like their male counterparts, were well integrated into many spheres of life in Calcutta. Indeed, this archive facilitates a fresh reading of their roles and critical contributions.

Conclusion Recalling Jewish Calcutta offers new resources from which to study the Baghdadi Jews of Calcutta and their engagement with India. Calcutta’s Jews were active in both the Anglo and the indigenous social and cultural life around them. They watched Western movies and enjoyed Western music and dance, but many of them were also engaged in local cinema and theatre activities. They had their own clubs and sporting groups, but also participated in local clubs, where they were never discriminated against. They had deep friendships across communities and there was much more intermarriage than has been documented to date; this occurred from at least the late nineteenth century onwards. While rooted in their own religion, Calcutta’s Baghdadi Jews respected the religions of others – Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Parsees and Greek Orthodox – as they had close friends in all these communities, lived in proximity with them and treated them as family. That sentiment was reciprocated in full measure. Baghdadi Jews participated in local governance and politics in the colonial period, and in pre- and post-­Independence India. Under the British, they were engaged as legislators and sheriffs, held other positions in the colonial hierarchy, and were prominent in numerous businesses, professions, media and the arts.50 When India became independent, men and women from the community were able to move relatively seamlessly into the new India that was being forged because of the robustness of their social ties across communities. Their firm anchor in the Jewish community as well as their comfort in and familiarity with

176   Jael Silliman Indian and British settings enabled those who stayed on in India to engage in all aspects of life, including the media, politics, government and the Armed Forces – where they have held positions of leadership. For those who left, their exposure to British culture and their ability to adapt in a multicultural India enabled them to be very successful in the countries to which they emigrated.51 This archive, representing the voices of the many Jews who contributed to it, and those of others who have shared information and resources on the Calcutta Jewish community, is a community work in progress. Being multi-­authored, it serves as fertile ground for a deeper analysis into the multi-­faceted lives of Calcutta’s Baghdadi Jews. It can contribute to the larger conversation on historical archives, witnessing and the role that Jews have played in India and other nations.

Notes   1 The collection for this archive began in 2011.   2 I visited Rabbi Ezekiel Musleah, who has done the most exhaustive documentation of the Calcutta Jewish community, at his home in Philadelphia. He shared his collection of images and documents with me. I also visited collector Ken Robbins at his home in Virginia, where we scanned images that were most useful for this archive. Ilana Sondak, who lives in Israel, painstakingly scanned and sent me the documents that she had of the community. All of them were very supportive and shared their expertise in the making of this archive.   3 Through my mother’s community network, I was able to reach out to members of the Calcutta Jewish community, most of whom are now very elderly, to gather their stories, memories, documents and images of Jewish Calcutta. Anita Blackman, Charlie Solomon, Seemah Berson, Sano Twena, Edmund Jonah and Susan Gubbay had a great deal of images and photos to share. There were many other contributors who provided invaluable images and information about the community; they and many others have all been acknowledged in this archive.   4 Over the three years that the bulk of these materials was being collected, sorted and organized, many students worked on this project. Since that time, I have extended the archive with the assistance of individuals appointed for this task.   5 Dr Schriebman, a scholar of Digital Humanities, suggested the development of a digital archive to give global access to the documents, images and histories I was archiving.   6 Vinayak Dasgupta developed the archive in partial fulfilment for his doctoral degree in the Digital Arts and Humanities Project at Trinity College, Dublin. Since then, other students from the School of Cultural Texts and Records have extended the archive, with major work being done by Arnab Chakraborty and Upasana Dutta. I am currently working with independent computer experts who upload and update this archive, as the grant for the Digitization of South Asian Archival Resources, as supported by the School of Cultural Texts and Records and the Sir Ratan Tata Trust, has ended.   7 Singh (2009) traces the experience of Indian Jews as they move to Israel. While her narrative is predominantly about the Cochin Jews and the Bene Israel, who were among the dominant number of Indian Jews emigrating to Israel, she also narrates the stories of a few Baghdadi Jews, as she conceives the Indian Jews collectively in the Israeli immigrant context. The archive does include the story of the few Baghdadi Jews who left India and made a name for themselves in Members of the Community, Exhibit 3. Much more work can be done in this area.

Archival cartographies   177   8 On the basis of relatively few interviews of Baghdadi Jews in Israel and from her readings about the community, Singh contrasts the Baghdadis with the other “comfortably settled Jews of India” (2009:101). This is not a critique of Singh as she mirrors the perception that has been created about Baghdadi Jews.   9 Katz writes in reference to the period 1857–1957,  Jews in Calcutta increasingly identified with the British. This transition entailed the gradual and uneven rejection of their Arabian Jew of the British Raj persona in favor of a new, British one that emerged in patterns of residence, language usage, clothes, choice of schools and so on. (2000:143)

10 11

12 13 14


16 17


He goes on to state that “Those who remained in India have embraced India as none of their community ever did before”, and comments on the way in which they carried with pride their “Indianess” (Katz 2000:158–159). Until the last quarter of the nineteenth century the Baghdadis used Hindustani in the kitchen, on the street and quite often among themselves (Katz 2000:144). Calcutta’s richest Jew, David Joseph Ezra, signed his will in 1880 and a trust deed in 1882 in Hebrew and had a lawyer to explain the English language contents of the document (Katz 2000:144). Ezra wrote that if he did not know English well enough it is a safe assumption to assume that his contemporaries knew even less English than he (Ezra 1986). Katz (2000:149) quotes Hyman (1995:90), who states that “Indian clothing was not worn – except for comfort in the home”. While the archive makes some headway in naming the women and their specific contributions, much more research can be undertaken in this area. Others, such as Ray (2001) and Chakrabarti (2014), have built on and extended these official accounts. Chakrabarti has also examined the impact and relationship between European Jews in Calcutta and their relationships with the Baghdadi Jewish community (2014). Musleah discusses the need for numerous charities to deal with the poor. He states: “The Jewish community of Calcutta since its inception …, had more than its fair share of poverty: about a quarter required the helpful hand of their coreligionists” (1975:311). He then goes on to analyse why such a large proportion were penniless and the causes of their destitution. Hacham Twena is featured in Exhibit 3, Notable Members of the Community, where the outreach to Calcutta’s impoverished Jews is mentioned. The major work on Twena’s religious writing is Avishur (2001). I met with family members of both Esther Victoria Abraham (Pramila) the film star and first Miss India (1947), and with Kamal Chenoy, the grandson of Hannah Sen, an activist and leader in the Indian National Congress, to obtain as much information about them as possible for Exhibits 4 and 5 – Women Pioneers and Film Personalities and Others in the Public Gaze – and prepared a paper on each for the archive. I especially reached out to community members such as Charles Solomon in Australia and to Edmund Jonah in Israel to write accounts of their mothers; both Tabitha Solomon and Rachel Sofaer had been trailblazers in their professions. I asked other community members such as Ilana Sondak, Flower Silliman and Seemah Ferris Berson to provide their gendered accounts of the community. These are included in Exhibit 11, Social and Cultural Life. Herein are notes on women involved in businesses such as dressmaking, along with images and documents of Jewish sporting and social activities that provide insights and layered and diverse perspectives on the ways in which Calcutta’s Jews lived and engaged with those around them. Supported by a Fulbright grant, I conducted in-­depth interviews with 35 mostly very elderly members of other communities who knew and were familiar with the Jews of

178   Jael Silliman 19




23 24 25 26 27

28 29 30 31


Calcutta. They shared their personal perspectives, relationships and accounts of their interactions with these Jews. The papers in the possession of the Calcutta Jewish community, including birth records amongst other documents, were handed over by the Nahoum family to Jewish community committees when David Nahoum passed away. A dispute rages as to whether or not all these papers have been handed over. Many of these documents are in very poor shape and need to be organized by those familiar with working on old records. Sadly, this has not been done to date. In working with the oral histories of my family and the literature in the field I, too, have stressed how identifying as an Indian Jew was something of an anomaly. However, this was the case with my parents, Flower and David Silliman, who opted to stay on in Independent India and embrace an Indian identity. Singh (2009:71) notes, after reviewing previous community accounts that the Calcutta Jews “lived in community enclaves and socialized little with local Hindu or Muslim residents of the city”. This was certainly true for some community members, as it was for my mother’s family. I have recounted as much in Silliman (2001), and in some of the other personal accounts of community members. However, clearly the sample size and those writing were not representative as is this archive, which has accounts from a far greater number of people, indicating much more socializing and mixing. According to Singh (2009:71; 87 fn. 7), the women interviewed spoke of having no friends outside the community. However, this is not the picture that emerges from my many interviews of people from other communities about their relationships with the Jews of Calcutta. My mother speaks of her father and his elders enjoying “gana bajana” (Hindustani for making music) functions and Musleah (1975) had noted the Jewish patronage of the Bengali theatre. For example, in Exhibit 11, Social and Cultural Life, pages of ads for Jewish functions reveal a range of support from non-­Jewish businesses. These were displayed in the entry to events, on leaflets and documents, and at programmes. By the 1930s onward, only the elders still spoke in Arabic. Haidar Ali, also an actor and the screenwriter for the Bollywood hit, Jodha Akbar, spoke with me about their lives being immersed in Muslim and Jewish traditions (2014, Mumbai). For more about the inter-­faith marriages and practices of Esther Abraham’s family, please see Exhibit 5, Film Personalities, where I have written a paper on Pramila based on the conversations I had with her son Haidar Ali and her daughter Naqqi Jahan, as well as on secondary sources about her. For an essay on Hannah Sen and her family over several generations, see Exhibit 4, Women Pioneers. Regina died of rheumatic fever in her twenties, Angelina married a Jew, Hannah a Hindu and Kitty a Muslim. Hannah Sen’s daughter, Shanta, married a Hindu who did not convert to Judaism. Her two sons, Kamal and Dilip Chenoy, identify as Jewish. For example, it is well known that one of the Calcutta Jews married the Nawab of Murshidabad and was called “The Begum” till he passed away. She then lived with a Bengali gentleman in Park Street. Among my father’s siblings, three of his five sisters married Hindus. At least three of the elderly Jews left in Calcutta today are married to non-­Jews, some of whom have converted to Judaism while others have maintained their own religions. Calcutta’s Parsee women in the late nineteenth century mostly wore saris, but by the early twentieth century, many also wore Western clothes (Luhrmann 1996). The Armenians, Jews and many Chinese people also wore Western clothes.

Archival cartographies   179 33 A new documentary, Shalom Bollywood: The Untold Story of Indian Cinema by Danny Ben Moshe includes the far more extensive role played in Bollywood by the Bene Israel. Ken Robbins and Navras Aafredi are researching this subject. 34 Exhibit 5, Film Personalities features several photos of her wearing the sari in numerous styles. It is interesting to note that this Jewish woman was a style icon and the First Miss India. 35 In 2012, I interviewed Haidar Ali about his family at his home in Mumbai as part of my work to build the archive. 36 In the section on Film Personalities is Sol Bekhor’s article, Happy Memories in the Epic Theatre, as well as a letter to him from Utpal Dutt’s widow. 37 Utpal Dutt went on to act in over 100 Hindi and Bengali films. 38 For a list of some of the soldiers in the armed services, see Exhibit 17, War Years and Military Service and for more on General Jacob, see Exhibit 3, Notable Members of the Community. 39 Lady Rachel, née Sassoon, was the wife of Sir David Ezra. She was the reigning matriarch of the Jewish community in Calcutta through the first part of the twentieth century. She is best known for her leadership of several Jewish welfare associations. She also took the lead in welcoming and rehabilitating European Jewish refugees who started to arrive in Calcutta in the 1930s. 40 She finished school in Calcutta and went on to college in England, returning with a Master’s degree in Education. She served as the principal of the Jewish Girls’ School from 1929 to 1963 and was responsible for making it a premier educational institution. 41 She was a kindergarten teacher at the JGS and became the head of the section. As the community dwindled, she worked in several Jewish committees. 42 For more detail, please see the essay I have written: Esther Victoria Abraham: A Star Studded Bollywood Glamour Family, in Exhibit 5, Film Personalities and Others in the Public Gaze. 43 For a detailed essay on each of them which includes their professional achievements, please see Exhibit 4, Women Pioneers. 44 Her mother, Simcha Gubbay, was a descendant of the Gubbay and Sassoon families. 45 Both Hannah and Regina served in the Jewish Girls’ School. 46 See Regina Guha (1916) 21 CWN 74. 47 Her son, Charles Solomon, provided photographs and documents about this remarkable woman for the archive. See Women Pioneers for more about her. 48 For more information on this subject, see Exhibit 7, Jewish Business in Calcutta, especially the note on small business enterprises. 49 Rina’s father, David Einy, married an Anglo-­Indian woman who converted to Judaism. They brought up both their daughters in the Jewish faith. 50 This chapter did not focus on the arts arena except in terms of media and film-­making. However, in the area of photography, there were many Jewish photographers, people like Maurice Shellim who wrote about the colonial painter Daniel, and David Mordechai who has been credited as being the founder of commercial photography in Calcutta. See Exhibit 3, Notable Members of the Community for more information on each of them. 51 The archive also features a few of Calcutta’s Jews who made a name for themselves elsewhere; much more research can be undertaken about them.

References Agamben, G., 2002, The remnants of Auschwitz: The witness and the archive, translated by D. Heller-­Roazen, Zone Books, New York. Avishur, Y., 2001, The Hacham from Bagdad in Calcutta: Hacham Shelomo Twena and his works in Hebrew and Judaeo-­Arabic, Archaeological Center, Tel Aviv.

180   Jael Silliman Chakrabarti, K., 2014, ‘Glimpses into the lives of the Jewish women of Calcutta’, Journal of Indo Judaic Studies, 14:27–43. Ezra, E.D., 1986, Turning back the pages: A chronicle of Calcutta Jewry, vols. I and II, Brookside Press, London. Hyman, M., 1995, Jews of the Raj, Hyman Publishers, London. Katz, N., 2000, Who are the Jews of India? University of California Press, Los Angeles. Luhrmann, T., 1996, The good Parsi: The fate of a colonial elite in post-­colonial society, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA. Musleah, E.N., 1975, On the banks of the Ganga: The sojourn of the Jews in Calcutta, Christopher Publishing House, North Quincy, MA. Ray, D., 2001, The Jewish heritage of Calcutta, Minerva, Calcutta. Recalling Jewish Calcutta, Digital Archive, Roland, J., 1989, Jews in British India: Identity in a colonial era, University Press of New England, Hanover, NH. Silliman, J., 2001, Jewish portraits, Indian frames: Women’s narratives from a diaspora of hope, Seagull Books, Calcutta. Silliman, J., 2016, ‘The everyday practice of acceptance: The Baghdadi Jews in Calcutta’s cosmopolitan landscape (1930s–1970s)’, Journal of Indo Judaic Studies, 15:71–89. Singh, M.C., 2009, Being Indian, being Israeli: Migration, ethnicity and gender in the Jewish homeland, Manohar: Delhi. Solomon, S., 1998, Hooghly tales: Stories of growing up in Calcutta under the Raj, David Ashley, London.


Note: Page locators in italics represents figures Abraham, Esther Victoria 168, 169, 170, 173 ‘addâda (professional female mourner) 57, 65, 74 Aden 4, 57–8, 64 Afghanistan 4, 57, 59, 60 Agarpara 127, 131, 167 al-Ghazali, Naðạm 67, 75 Al-Janna (Paradise) Arabic newspaper 154, 162 Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) 147–1, 153 All-India Council 28, 172 All India Women’s Conference 27, 173 ‘Amara 57, 64 Amateur Athletic Circle 98–9 Anderson, Benedict 21, 32, 34 anglicization 12, 77, 126, 131–2, 138 Anglo-Indians 22, 30, 116, 132–4, 166 Anglo Jewish Association (AJA) 150 Anjuman High School 118 Arabic Jews 5, 21, 59 archival cartographies 163–76; experience and challenges associated with 164; Film Personalities and Others in the Public Gaze 171; on Indian political and social issues 171; on intermarriages 168, 175; nationalist discourses 164; Notable Members of the Community 171; From the Outside In 167–8; on social integration 166–73; Women Pioneers 173–5 Armenians 21–2, 24, 121, 132–3, 166 Australia 9, 12, 16, 21, 30–1, 72, 90, 116, 134, 172, 177 badminton 98–9, 103–4, 110n30, 126–8, 130–1, 135–6

Baghdad 3–5, 7, 15, 47, 51, 58, 61–2, 65–8, 89, 105, 145–55, 158 Baghdadi Jews in India: in and after World War II 13, 31–27, 59, 72, 98; Arabicspeaking 4; assimilation with British 21, 27; in Bengal 8–9, 25; contribution in development of India 5; demography and geography of 4–5; history of 5–9; as imagined community 21; Indian independence 9–11; Jewish heritage of 96; literature on 11–12; loyalty to Britain 27; in Maharashtra 5–8; as non-native Indians 5, 24; participation in local governance and politics 175; participation in politics and public affairs 23–4; relationships with other communities 21–3; relations with Bene Israel 4, 14, 21, 24, 58, 68, 95–104; social integration 166–70; social relations with Muslims 15, 16, 24, 121–2, 134, 146–7, 149–50, 158; status as Europeans 23–4; super-diversity 3–4, 9 ballroom dancing 73 Bangladesh 4, 29, 172 Bank of India 48, 88 Basra 4–5, 8, 57, 59, 65, 147 Bekhor, Solomon 170–1 Bene Israel community 14, 23; Jewishness 96; in Calcutta 25; cemetery of 21, 24; Indian identity of 23; in Maharashtra 41; music of 58; relations with Baghdadi Jews 4, 14, 21, 24, 58, 68, 95–104; soldiers 7–8, 60; synagogue trustees 25; Zionist Society 97 Bene Israel Review 100, 107n9 Bengal 8–9; Baghdadi Jews in 8–9, 25; elections 30; famine of 1943 28, 172

182   Index Bengal Legislative Council 25, 26 Beth El Synagogue, Kolkata 52–4; architectural historicism of 53 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 29, 172 Bhau Daji Lad Museum see Victoria and Albert Museum, Bombay Biblical cantillation 62, 64, 74 Bnei Ephraim 4, 41 Bnei Menashe Jews 4, 41 Bollywood: Calcutta’s Baghdadi Jews in Indian films 170; Indian film industry 67; and music traditions of Baghdadi Jews 58, 67; sounds of Indian film music 73 Bombay (today Mumbai) 4, 5–7, 11, 13, 14; Baghdadi community 5–7; Bombay Israel Association 99; under British rule 95–8; Jewish press, sporting club 98; Jews arriving from Baghdad 96; Bombay Legislative Council 23; Bombay Millowners Association 23; Bombay Municipal Corporation 23; Municipality of Bombay 86; musical life of 58–9; population of 59; Presidency 85, 88, 100; Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor within the Government of Bombay 83; Water Polo 100 Book of Esther 64, 77 boxing 14–15, 99, 103–4, 133, 136, 137 British Colonialism 21, 165; British curriculum 15, 115 British East India Company 5, 8, 44, 59 British Empire 21, 25, 26, 30–1, 173 British Governor, Bombay 7, 60 British Indian Army 14, 44 British Mandate 24, 75 British Raj 54, 75, 105, 125, 138–9; anglicization, policy of 132; churches in India 43; and music traditions of Baghdadi Jews 58; political and social practices of 96 British sports 132, 138 brit mila 47 Bukhara 4, 57, 59, 60 Burma 21–2, 25, 31, 116 Bushire 5, 59 Byculla 5–7, 14, 45, 49, 59, 62, 64–8, 70–2, 83–5, 90n3, 96–7, 99, 102, 103 Calcutta (today Kolkata) 4, 8–13, 15–17 Calcutta Baghdadi Jews: cultural and political spheres 170; European status of 26; history 165; inclusion in

European electoral rolls 26; Indian citizenship 172; Indian identity of 173; Jews of the Raj 165; as loyal British subjects 165; Recalling Jewish Calcutta (2013) 15, 163–4, 170, 175; roles in trade, business and commerce 170, 26 Calcutta Girls’ School 116, 131 Calcutta Kosher (play) 11 Calcutta Parsee Club 127–8, 130, 135, 138, 139 Canada 5, 9, 12, 30, 72, 90, 116, 120, 134, 163 Central Asia 57–8 Central Legislative Assembly 25 Chenoy, Kamal 173, 177n17 chess 135 Chittaranjan Seva Sadan Hospital 175 Christian 4, 14, 40, 42, 44, 115, 117, 119, 134, 168, 173 chunam 44, 46–8, 52–3, 55 circumcision 47 classical music 58, 67, 73, 75 Cochin Jews 4, 9, 22, 23, 25–6, 28, 57, 62–3, 68, 70–1, 75–6, 99, 126, 172 Cohen, David Haskell 28, 171, 172 Cohen, D.J. 9, 26, 28 Cohen, E.M.D. 15, 116 Colaba 7, 66, 73, 83–4 Communist Party of India 9, 28–9, 171, 172 Constituent Assembly of India 28 Constitution of India 30, 172 cricket 14, 98–100, 103, 107n11, 130, 135 Cuffe Parade 75, 89 Dandekar, Isaac Jacob David 67, 73 Dangoor, Elisha 151, 157 Dangoor, Menaḥem David 62, 65–6 David Sassoon: Benevolent Institution 7, 59, 85; Industrial and Reformatory Institution 7, 59; Infirm Asylum 7–8, 60; Reading Room and Library 59 David, Sassoon J. 88; Sir Sassoon J. David School, Bombay 85, 88, 90 Doresh Tob le-‘Ammo 145 Dufferin Hospital 175 dumbuk (goblet-shaped drum) 64–5, 68 Dutt, Utpal 170–1 East India Company see British East India Company E.D. Sassoon & Co. 7, 85, 91n11

Index   183 education 22, 26, 90, 95, 105, 116, 119, 123, 149, 170, 173; admission of nonJewish students 117–20; askōl (modern school) 151, 159–61; in Bengal 15, 115; in Bombay 83–4, 86; British 125; in Christian-run schools 22, 84; in English 85, 118, 132; female 15, 115, 139, 150, 173; formal 14, 15, 150; free education 85; in Hebrew 85; informal 14, 15; in Maharashtra 14, 89; physical 116, 136–7; quality of 85, 123; religious 14, 116; traditional and modern 145; to under-privileged 121; Western 139, 170, 173 E.E.E. Sassoon High School Trust 14, 46, 85, 89–90 Egypt 30, 58, 65, 66 Elias, B.N. 131, 167 Eliezer, Yosef 62, 67 Elisha, Ezekiel Ezra 89 Elphinstone, Mountstuart 83–4 emigration to Israel 147–9 England 5, 7, 9, 12, 22, 29, 30–1, 46, 53, 85, 134, 145, 155, 172 ethnic identities 95, 125–6, 138 Europe 7, 13, 27, 42, 43, 53, 134, 147–8, 153 European Jews 4, 148, 154, 177n14 Ezekiel, Abraham David 8, 60, 88 Ezekiel Ezra Elisha (E.E.E.) Sassoon High School, Bombay 14, 85, 89–90 Ezra, Esmond 128, 165 Far East 15, 145, 147 Farhûd (pogrom) (1941) 59, 76–7, 79 folk dancing 71–2, 75, 120 football 98–100, 103–4, 135; Gossage Football Cup 102 Fort George, Mumbai 48 France 51, 155 freedom of conscience 28 Frere, Bartle 48; free road 74 God Save the Queen 7, 59 Government of India Act 26 Governor see British Governor, Bombay Gubbay, Elias Shalom 8, 52, 116 Guha, Regina 116, 168, 174 Habonim Club 58, 67–8, 70–5, 73, 104, 137 Haffkine, Waldemer 86 Hatikvah (national anthem of the Jewish homeland) 72, 117, 120 ḥazzân (cantor) 62–3, 67–8

hekhal (Ark) 40, 44, 45, 47, 49, 53, 55 henna ceremony 64–5, 74 High Court of India 25 Hindu–Muslim riots, impact on Jews 134 hockey 98–9, 102, 104, 106n4, 126–7, 133, 135–6, 139; Asia Women’s Hockey Championship 130; Calcutta Parsee Club 130; Jewish Athletic Club 130; women’s hockey 129–30 Holocaust 14, 29, 104; archival cartographies on trauma of 164; refugees fleeing 59 Hong Kong 5, 22, 58, 91n11 hymns 11, 61–3, 68, 74, 118 imagined community 11, 17, 21, 34 Imperial Legislative Council 23, 88 Indian Arms Act of 1878 23 Indian Civil Service 23 Indian Express 29 Indian independence 9, 14, 21, 29, 59 Indian Mutiny (Sepoy Mutiny) of 1857 59 Indian nationalism 9; and Baghdadi Jews of India 24–7; Europeans negative attitudes toward 24; Indian National Congress 28, 171, 173, 177n17; Indian nationalist movement 9, 26 Indo-British Mutual Welfare League 26 Indo-Pakistan War 1971 29 Industrial Revolution 41, 53 Inspectorate of European Schools in Calcutta 22–3 intermarriages 164, 168, 170, 175 Iraq 4–5, 7–8, 13, 15, 17, 21, 24, 30, 57, 58, 60, 64, 66–7, 75, 145, 147, 150, 157 Iraqi Jews 3, 15, 67, 145 Islam 15, 145, 147 Israel 30, 87, 90, 123, 134, 136, 172 Jacob, J.F.R., General 5, 28, 29, 179 Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy, (J.J.) Hospital 25, 26, 86 jazz 58, 67, 73–4, 100 Jewish Bulletin 100, 102, 108n19, 109n25 Jewish Advocate, The 86, 96–9, 101–4 Jewish Armed Forces 72, 172, 176 Jewish Association of Calcutta 28, 30 Jewish Athletic Club 127–8, 130, 135 Jewish Boys’ School Band, in Baghdad 147, 153–7 Jewish Chronicle 83, 85, 86–8, 91 Jewish Girls’ School (JGS), Calcutta 15, 22, 173; beneficiaries of 121; brief history of 115–16; curriculum of 15,

184   Index Jewish Girls’ School (JGS) continued 115, 137; educational service for the benefit of students 123; English education 132; establishment of 136; Independence Day Celebrations at 121; instruction in Hebrew religious principles 132; medium of instruction in 118; Muslim students 115, 118; physical education 136–7; school carnival 119; socializing agent 136 Jewish identity 13, 31, 33, 45, 50, 134–5; in India 98 Jewish nationalism 97; ideology of 95 Jewish newspaper: Judeo-Arabic newspapers 146–7; Magid Mesharim 148; Pēraḥ 151, 153–4; publication of 15, 145; readership among Iraqi Jews 145 Jewish press in India: on emigration to Baghdad 147–9; Jewish Boys’ School Band, in Baghdad 147, 153–7; on Jews’ social and cultural life 149; on vocational Jewish girls’ school in Baghdad 149–53; see also Jewish newspaper Jewish schools: admitting non-Jewish students 117–20; Ezekiel Ezra Elisha (E.E.E.) Sassoon High School, Bombay 89–90; historical and geographical background 83–4; Jewish Girls’ School (JGS), Calcutta 15, 22, 173; Jewish in name and on special occasions 120–1; “Jewishness” of 117; modern school system 83; Senior Cambridge School Certificate 117; Sir Jacob Sassoon Free High School, Bombay 84–7; Sir Sassoon J. David School, Bombay 88; teachings on multicultural engagement from Calcutta 121–3; vocational school 147, 149–53 Jewish sports: All-Bengal Table Tennis Championship 127; in Bombay 98–102; Bombay’s European Water Polo League 100; Buchanan Tournament 102; girls sports in Calcutta 98; Gossage Football Cup 102; impediments for women’s involvement with 125; and intracommunity sporting activities 134; Jewish and Parsee women 126–34; marginalization of women’s sports 125; organization of sporting events 134; socializing agents in 134–8; sport clubs 98 Jewish Youth Council 135, 137, 139

Jews of the Raj 9, 11–12, 165; historical perspectives on 13 journals 15, 29, 71, 100, 153, 157–8 Judaism 4, 26, 40, 96, 105, 178n31 Judaizing groups 4 Judean Club 103–4, 126–7, 133, 135–6, 138, 172 Judeo-Arabic 8, 11, 15, 57, 60, 64–5, 74, 132, 145–7, 157–8; newspapers 8, 11, 60, 146–7, 157, 158; songs 65; translation of the Kabbalistic Idra Zuta 60 Kapadia, Kamal 127, 130 Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai 44, 47–50, 59, 62, 68, 84; architecture of 48; completion of 47; construction of 48; design of 48; exterior of 48; ground floor of 48; kippot (skullcaps) offered to visitors 50; mikvah and storage areas 48; reopening of 50; Sefer Torahs 49; Ten Commandments tablet 49 King Records (1940) 68, 78n39; see also records: 78 rpm Kol Habonim (journal) 71 Kosher food 67, 132, 162 Kurdistan 74, 147–9 Lady Irwin College of Home Science, New Delhi 26, 173 Lady Rachel Sassoon Dispensary 46, 85, 88 Lal Dewal 8, 44, 60 Lamington, Lord 88, 92n22 Legislative Assembly 23, 25 life-cycle events 11, 57, 60–1, 64–5, 67 literature, on Baghdadi Jews in India 11–12 London 3, 11, 16, 26, 29, 44, 61, 74, 133, 173 Loreto House School 133, 139 Louria, Israel 150–3, 161, 162 Luddy, Ramah 15, 27, 116–17, 127, 129, 135–7, 173 Luddy, Sally 127, 130 Lurian, Isaac 153, 155 Maccabee, (Journal) 100 Maccabi Sports Club 98, 103, 128–9, 135, 139 Magen Aboth Synagogue, Kolkata 55 Magen David Synagogue, Mumbai 14, 44, 45–7, 62, 68, 84; Biblical cantillation 62; colour schemes 46; completion of 46; construction of 45; cost of 45; as

Index   185 David Sassoon Synagogue 46; decoration of 46; design features of 46; expansion and renovation of 46; focal point of 47; Hebrew “Tree of Life” framings 47; heckal parochet 45, 52; Jewish art, display of 47; marble inscription 45; melodies for cantillation from the Torâh (Bible) 62; mikvah (ritual bath) 46; prayer services 52; Ten Commandments Tablet 46; Westerninspired eclectic design 46 Maghen David Synagogue, Kolkata 50–2, 129, 172; architecture of 50–2; design of 51; donation for 51; as India’s grandest synagogues 50; Italian Renaissancerevival aesthetic 51; liturgical feature of 51–2; location of 50–1; Renaissancerevival structure 51 Magid Mesharim (Jewish newspaper) 145, 148 Maharashtra: Baghdadi Jews in 5–8; Bombay 5–7; formal and informal education of 14; Poona 7–8 Manasseh, Albert 70–1, 89, 93n26 Mansour book 62, 147 Marshall, Nissim 137 Mas‘uda al-Bambayli 65–6 Mebasser (Journal)145 Meshhed 57, 59, 60 Middle Eastern background 31–2, 106, 139, 173 Mijbura, Mnashshi 64–5 mikvah (ritual bath) 45–6, 48; circumcision ceremony 64–5 minyan (quorum) 16, 45, 105 mission: proselytization, in mission schools 15, 115 Mosul 4 multiculturalism 16 music traditions, of Baghdadi Jews: abu shbaḥoth, daqqâqa and ‘addâda 57; Allâh yijâzi-n-niswân 66; among Arabic-speaking Jews 57; among Persian-speaking Jews 57; Bâ-âh hakallâh song 68; in Bombay 58–9; continuity of 60–7; Egyptian songs of Umm Kulthoum 66; Euro-American popular song and professional musicians 67–74; Eyn kélohénu hymn 70; God Save the Queen 59; Indian films, influence of 58; instrumental châlghi ensemble 58; new horizons in 67–74; in nineteenth and twentieth centuries 57–8; in Poona 60; recordings of music 67–74;

religious, life cycle and secular perspectives of 60–7; Sefer ha-Pizmonim (book of songs) 61; shbaḥoth, singing of 61, 64; songs in Judeo-Arabic for life-cycle events 64; synagogue choirs 58, 67–74; Yom simḥâh (Day of rejoicing) song 68; youth organizations 67–74 Musleah, Ezekiel 23, 28, 165, 172 Muslim: caretakers 54; Indian Muslims 97; majority Muslim students 115; nationalism 97; social contacts 15, 146–7 Nagpada 64, 85, 90n4 Nagpada Neighbourhood House 89, 99 Nahoum, David 117, 168, 178n19 netball 104, 136 Neveh Shalome Synagogue, Kolkata 54–5, 129 Ohel David Synagogue, Pune 8, 16, 43–5, 70, 75 Order of the British Empire 26; inscription panels of 43 organized sports, study of 98–9, 106n4 Ottoman Empire 5, 13, 15, 40, 42, 97, 146, 153 Pakistan 4, 29, 30 Palestine 13, 71–3, 75, 95–6, 102–3, 137, 123; see also Israel paraliturgical see hymns Paris 150, 153 parochet 52–3, 55 Parsees of Calcutta 14, 15, 18, 22, 104, 106, 121, 135, 166, 175; the sports 126–30 Partition of India (1947) 26–30, 165, 173 Pasha, Dawud 5 Pasha, Salima 66, 75, 77n36 Passover 62, 72, 103, 154, 157; sédér service 72 Pēraḥ (newspaper) 145, 151, 153–4, 158 Persian 7–8, 13–14, 68, 149 physical education 116, 136–7; see also sports piyyutim (liturgical poems) 8; see also music traditions Poona (today Pune) 4, 7–8, 13–14, 27, 57–62, 66–7, 70, 72, 74, 75, 85; Baghdadi community 7–8; musical life of 60; population of 59, 60; Pune Camp 43, 44; Shbahoth of 14; see also Lal Dewal

186   Index prayer 5, 8, 16, 39–42, 44–5, 49, 51, 54, 58, 60, 62–3, 74–5, 96, 116, 118, 120, 123 Prince of Wales Museum (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya) 49 print and digital dissemination 15–16 printing press 8, 60 Purim festival 61, 64, 71–2, 77 rabbinic Judaism 96–7 Rabinowitz, Louis 105 Rangoon 26; synagogue 25, 26 Razeq, Abeda 118–19, 121 Recalling Jewish Calcutta (2013) 15, 163–4, 170, 175 recording, of Jewish song 58, 66–7, 72, 75 record labels 58, 67 records: 78 rpm 58, 67–8, 73, 75, 78n39 refugees 13–14; Afghan Jews 59; Central European Jews 28; from Europe 59, 103 religious customs: Babylonian 8, 57, 60, 74–5; Hebrew religious principles 132; religious life of Jews, diversification of 13–14; religious observance, among Baghdad’s Jews 147; and rituals 132, 134 Rembaum, Bolek 136 Renaissance Revival Architecture 51, 53, 54 Rothschilds of the East 7, 83; see also Sassoons rugby 104, 111 Russia 86; Russian Jews 153 Samra, Myer 22, 31, 32n6 Sassoon, Albert, Sir 85, 91n5, 77, 93n26 Sassoon, David 5–8, 14, 21, 43, 59, 83; Byculla 83–5; clock tower 7; docks 7 Sassoon, Elias (Eliyahoo) 7, 47–9 Sassoon family 60, 62, 83, 87 Sassoon, Flora 61, 86, 95 Sassoon General Hospital 8, 60 Sassoon House 85, 88 Sassoon, Jacob (Sir) 47, 85–6; Jacob Sassoon Free School, Bombay 22, 85; Jacob Sassoon Jewish Charitable Fund 86; Sir Jacob Sassoon and Allied Trusts 75; Sir Jacob Sassoon Free High School, Bombay 84–8; Sir Jacob Sassoon High School Trust 46–7, 90, 96; Sir Joseph Sassoon Fund 87 Sassoon J. David, Sir 25: fund 25, 33n19; school 85, 88–90 Sassoon, Victor, Sir 7 secular 42, 57, 60, 65, 84, 90, 115, 120, 121 Ṣémaḥ, Joseph 5, 58

Sen, Hannah 26–7, 173–4 Sephardi Jews of Calcutta 9, 24, 26, 32; Sephardic music 75 Shaare Rason Synagogue, Kolkata (Calcutta) 55 Shanghai 7–8, 22, 24–5, 31, 58, 74 Shbahoth (hyms of praise) 14, 61, 64 Silliman, Jael 12, 21–2, 24, 26, 31–2 Simchat Tora (Festival of Rejoicing of the Law) 68 Singapore 3, 21, 65 Sir Elly Kadoorie School 99, 103 Sopher, Solomon F. 75, 90 sports: club 14–15, 98, 100, 103, 135, 138; socializing agents, in female sports 126; Jewish and Parsee women 134–8 Sukkoth (Feast of Tabernacles) 62 super-diversity, among the Baghdadi Jews 1–4, 9, 12–13, 16 Surat 5, 57–9 Synagogues see Beth El Synagogue, Kolkata; Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, Mumbai; Magen David Synagogue, Mumbai; Maghen David Synagogue, Kolkata; Neveh Shalome Synagogue, Kolkata; Ohel David Synagogue, Pune; Rangoon Synagogue; Tiphereth Israel Synagogue Syria 4, 8, 17, 57, 60, 96 table tennis 98–9, 103–4, 126–7, 130, 133, 135, 136 Talkar, Ezekiel Samuel 8, 60 tebah (podium) 40, 44, 47, 49, 51, 53, 55 Ten Commandments tablet 46, 49 tennis 98–9 Times of India, The 23, 83, 85, 94 Tiphereth Israel Synagogue 68 Torah: scrolls 52–3; schools 132, 148 Umm Kulthoum 66, 75 United States 5, 9, 12, 29, 30, 39 Unity (magazine) 29, 172 Vertovec, Steven 3–4, 9, 17 Victoria and Albert Museum, Bombay 7, 59 Vienna 73, 153–4 vocational school, for Jewish girls 147, 149–53 volleyball 103–4 water polo 98, 100, 102–4 weight-lifting 104, 133, 137

Index   187 Weil, Shalva 4, 6, 7, 11 Wilkins, Henry Stain Clair 44–5 women among Baghdadi Jews 116, 173–5, 44, 47, 49, 53, 55 women’s sports: marginalization of 125, 137, 138; Women’s Sports Association 136; Women’s Basketball Association of West Bengal 128 World War (First) 88, 97, 7 World War (Second) 4, 8–9, 13, 29, 59, 72, 98, 116

Yemen 57, 60 Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) 99 Young Peoples’ Congregation 137 youth organizations 58, 67–74 Zionism 9–11, 14, 95, 97, 105–2, 136–8; Bombay Zionist Association 97; Zionist sports 98, 100, 102–4; Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) 137