Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. II, Nos. 1-2 / Spring-Summer 1998
Indian Sites

ISJM to Survey Indian Jewish Sites

The International Survey of Jewish Monuments is planning an extensive country-wide survey of Jewish monuments in India.  The project, expected to begin in the winter of 1998-1999 will be carried out in India by a team of photographers, architects and historians.  The project, which is being organized by ISJM president Samuel Gruber, is being designed 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.  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 iterary, which is still under discussion, includes visits to 17 towns or cities in six Indian states, documentation through description, drawings and photography of over 75 distinct sties.  These include synagogues, cemeteries, schools, Rabbis' 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

Chennamangalam (Kerala), India.  Ruined Synagogue.  Photo:  Isaac Joshua

Of the greatest urgency is the need to document, protect, and when possible, to preserve, many important Jewish sites in the state of Kerala.  There are, in addition to the Paradesi Synagogue which is now receiving international attention and assistance, synagogues and cemeteries in six other localities.  These include a synagogue--now in ruins--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 axqxuire a portion of the new cemetery in Ernakulam to allow construction of a road.

The Association of Kerala Jews was formed to combat the dangers to these sites and to preserve the culture they represent.  ISJM and the Association of Kerala Jews are working together for the documentation and protection of these sites.

Ernakula (Kerala), India.  New Jewish Cemetery.  Photo:  Isaac Joshua.

For more information, or to participate, contact ISJM, 123 Clarke St., Syracuse, NY 13210; tel. (315) 474-2350, fax (315) 474-2347; e-mail  Project updates can be found on our project page.

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