International Survey of Jewish Monuments

Survey of Jewish Monuments in India


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The International Survey of Jewish Monuments is planning an extensive country-wide survey of Jewish monuments in India to begin in the winter of 1998-99. The project, to be carried out in India by a team of photographers, architects and historians, is being organized by ISJM president Samuel Gruber in collaboration with representatives of Jewish communities in India, including Mr. Isaac Joshua, president of the Association of Kerala Jews. Gruber previously organized extensive photo surveys of Morocco and Syria for the World Monuments Fund, and comprehensive descriptive surveys of Jewish cemeteries in Poland, the Czech Republic and elsewhere for WMF and the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. He is currently over seeing similar documentation projects in Ukraine and Romania.

Current plans call for Seattle-based photographer Robert Lyons (who photographed synagogues in Syria in 1985) to be accompanied by a team of Indian architects.

The project itinerary, which is still under discussing, includes visits to 17 towns or cities in six Indian states, documenting through description, drawings and photography over 75 distinct sites which have already been identified. These include synagogues, cemeteries, schools, Rabbi's graves, Jewish quarters and streets, and in Bombay a number of sites associated with the career of David Sassoon and other illustrious community members.

ISJM is putting together an advisory and planning committee for this project and is soliciting sponsors. ISJM welcomes input from anyone familiar with Indian Jewish sites, or the rich history and culture of Indian Jewry.

Kerala Sites Especially Endangered

Of greatest urgency is the need to document, protect, and when possible, preserve many important Jewish sites in the state of Kerala. According to Isaac Joshua, President of the Association of Kerala Jews, "till the end of the 1950s we had eight synagogues and seven cemeteries in Cochin and other nearby Jewish settlements. By the early 1970s, two of these synagogues were in a dilapidated state. Over the past twenty years almost all the synagogues have become dilapidated due to lack of proper repair and maintenance due to lack of funds." Today, in addition to the Paradesi Synagogue which is now receiving international attention and assistance, there are synagogues and cemeteries in six other localities. These include the ruined synagogue in Chennamangalam; and former synagogues in Mattancheri, Thekkumbhagam, Ernakulam, Mala, and Parur. All these buildings - some of architectural significance - are endangered. Cemeteries, too, need attention. Recently the Malabari Cemetery at Mattancheri was vandalized and encroached upon - all the tombs except one were destroyed and houses were built on the site. Two years ago there was a similar attempt to destroy the old cemetery of Ernakulam which was only turned back by the Jewish Community with great effort. There is now a concerted effort by the Corporation of Cochin to acquire a portion of the new Cemetery in Ernakulam to allow construction of a road.

ISJM and the Association of Kerala Jews are also preparing a nomination for the entire network of Kerala Jewish sites to the World Monuments Fund's World Monuments Watch List of Endangered Sites. Throughout the duration of the entire survey project ISJM will work to raise awareness of the significance and needs of neglected Indian Jewish sites, to raise funds for their documentation, study, protection and conservation.


The first phase of the project requires a minimum of $25,000 to cover direct project costs.

Additional funding will be required at a later date, for printing and cataloguing photographs, preparing materials for exhibition, and for publication of the photographs and supplementary information in a survey document form.

ISJM will share copyright of the photographs with the photographer, Robert Lyons.. All decisions about the future disposition of the photographs and other documentary materials will be made jointly by ISJM and Mr. Lyons. It is the intent of ISJM to make all documentary materials publicly accessible through exhibition, publication and eventual deposit in a archive or archives at a public research institution.

Please e-mail ISJM if you need more information. 

International Survey of Jewish Monuments
c/o Jewish Heritage Research Center
Box 210, 118 Julian Pl.
Syracuse, New York 13210-3419, USA

tel: (315) 474-2350
fax: (315) 474-2347

Last updated: January 4, 2003