Friday, February 24, 2012

India: 'The Parur Synagogue In South India' by Jay Waronker and Shalva Weil

 Parur, India. Synagogue exterior after restoration. Photo: Jay Waronker

I've written about the work of architect Jay Waronker before.  since 2009, Jay has been the recipient of several grants from the Koret Foundation sponsored by ISJM for his work to document synagogues in Kerala (India), and to and promote their protection and preservation.  Jay and his colleague anthropologist Shalva Weil have an article about the Parur synagogue in the February 2012 issue of The Jewish Magazine.  Waronker has previously written about the synagogue in The Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies #11 (2011).

For more information see the website:
The Synagogues of Kerala India: Architectural and Cultural Heritage

The site is very rich in descriptive, historic and analytic content and photos of Cochin and Kerala's many synagogues. There is also an extensive bibliography.  In the architecture section Waronker writes at length about seven standing synagogues as well as lost synagogues of Kerala.

The Parur Synagogue In South India
By Jay Waronker and Shalva Weil 

Many people may have heard of the Jews of Cochin (today Kochi) in southwestern coastal India, but far fewer know that there were in fact other small Jewish communities over the centuries in this same region of the country, each revolving around a synagogue. Eight such buildings, all located in the central part of the State of Kerala, survive in some form today. The most famous of these synagogues is the Paradesi synagogue in Jew Town, Cochin, with its low clock tower and blue and white willow-pattern tiles imported from China paving the sanctuary floor. In 1968, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi attended its quartercentenary celebrations, and the Indian government issued a special commemorative stamp on the occasion. Today, there are only nine Paradesi ("foreigners") Jews left in Jew Town, and a Chabad rabbi conducts the services, pulling in Israeli backpackers and American and other Jewish tourists to make up the minyan.

In the 1990s, the interior of another synagogue, the Kadavumbagam, located just down the street from the Paradesi Synagogue was brought to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and is a great attraction in the newly-opened museum. In Ernakulam, the commercial center of Kochi, two former synagogues remain but are no longer functioning houses of prayer. The first, the Kadavumbagam on Market Road, is now operated by a Jewish business owner as plant nursery and fish shop, and the other, the Tekkumbagam, is around the corner on Jew Street behind a locked gate. Heritage plaques have recently been affixed to both these synagogues by the authors of this article identifying them as Jewish sites.

Read the rest of the article here.

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