For 2,000 years a small colony of Jews in Cochin, South India, enjoyed security and prosperity, full accepted by their Hindu, Muslim and Christian neighbors. In this far-flung corner of the diaspora, Jews flourished. Yet when their two homelands attained independence from Britain, India in 1947 and Israel in 1948, virtually all of the community immigrated to Israel. Today, there are only a handful of people left. Observers predict that soon there will be no Jews left in Cochin.
The story of this remote enclave is well known to Nathan Katz, a Florida International University distinguished professor and leading expert on Indian Jewry. Not only did he extensively research the Cochin community, he also lived there for a year, making him the first foreign Jew to do so for that length of time, in more than a century.
“The Jews of Cochin” is the title of a presentation Katz will make at 7 p.m. Monday, March 31 at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, where he is academic director. The event is free and open to the public.
Arriving in India in 1986 as a senior Fulbright research scholar, Katz spent a year experiencing and documenting life in Cochin’s “Jew Town,” as it is widely referred to. His experience yielded two award-winning books about the community, as well as other volumes on Jewish communities throughout the subcontinent where he traveled.
Presented by FIU’s Jewish Studies Initiatives, the program is co-sponsored by the university’s Initiative for Global Jewish Communities and the President Navon Professorship of Sephardi Mizrahi Studies.
The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is located at 301 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. For more information about this event, call 305-348-3909.
About the Author: Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.
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