The star of David shone in the dark Agripada sky at the 77th anniversary celebrations of the Magen Hassidim Synagogue, on Tuesday.
The synagogue is located in the middle of a Muslim locality, but unlike the conflict in Israel and Palestine, the Jewish and the Muslim community here get along well.
“It has been 77 years of peaceful coexistence. We’ve never had a problem,” claims the president of the synagogue, Abraham Samson Mhedekar. Witness to Jewish marriages, festivals, and ceremonies, the synagogue saw Jews with their kippah caps and scarves, echoing Hebrew prayers: A rare sight for a community slowly diminishing.
“There used to be 30,000 of us at one point. Now there are only 5,000, as many have migrated to Israel after it got its independence in 1948,” says Moses Isaac Pezarkar.
The anniversary celebration saw a large number of members of the Bene Israeli Jewish community come together. Oral tradition has it that they are descendants of the Jews who escaped persecution at Galilee, and landed on the Konkan coast, 4,000 years ago.
“We adopted the local culture and today most of us speak Marathi,” says Sylvia Raymond. Even traditional food distinct to the Bene Israelis’ subculture like poha, satat padar puri (seven-layered puri) and halwa has its origins in Maharashtra.
But according to Daniel Zohar Zonshine, consul general of Israel in Mumbai, the synagogue has preserved the sanctity of Jewish tradition, and plays an important role in preserving Jewish heritage in India.