Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. I, No. 2 / Summer 1997
Asian Notes

ASIAN NOTES

DOCUMENTARY ON BOMBAY’S DAVID SASSOON
ORT India has produced a nineteen-minute documentary on the life of 19th-century philanthropist David Sassoon, drawing attention to a number of important Jewish sites in Bombay and Pune with which he was associated. In Bombay, these include: the David Sassoon Library and Reading Room which is the third largest in Bombay and has been included for conservation by the government of India; the David Sassoon Industrial Institution and Reformatory which is possibly the oldest institution for boys who are destitute and possibly orphans or delinquents; a clock tower which is situated on the premises of the Jijamata Udyan; and the Mogen David Synagogue which was built in 1861. Sassoon donated funds for the construction of the Sassoon General Hospital in Pune which, today, is a large teaching hospital connected to the B.J. Medical College. Pune’s Ohel David Synagogue, built in 1863, was also funded by Sassoon. The premier show of this documentary film was held on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary celebration of the David Sassoon Library & Reading Room on November 30, 1996 at Rang Bhavan, Bombay, in the presence of over 2000 people.

For more information contact: ORT India, Jewish Education Resource Centre 68, Worli Hill Rd., Worli, Mumbai-400018. INDIA. tel. -- 4962350 or 4968423. fax – 4968457 or 3647308. E-mail: jhirad@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in. ORT India also distributes a set of eight postcards of Indian Judaica.

ISJM thanks member Samuel Daniel for bringing this information to our attention.

BARODA, INDIA, RAISES FUNDS TO MAINTAIN CEMETERIES
The Jewish Cemetery Committee of Baroda, India, consisting of senior members of the Baroda Jewish Community, is building offices and stores adjacent to the cemetery. The two main cities in the state of Gujarat are Ahmedabad and Baroda. These cities are close to each other and there is a sizable Jewish population involved. Gujarat State lies to the north of Bombay. This project will help to raise much needed funds, from the rental of the offices and stores, to maintain various Jewish cemeteries all over India. The cost of the project is estimated at 500,000 rupees (about $15,000). Donations are urgently needed. Names of donors sending $50 or more will be inscribed on a marble tablet.

CALCUTTA SYNAGOGUES THREATENED
The following letter was received from India. The author, who has lived in Calcutta since 1967, is Calcutta advisor to the A.J.D.C. Bombay (Mumbai), the Indian branch of the American Joint Distribution Committee.

Dear Sir/Madam
…I am a native of Calcutta, where the first known Jew to arrive and settle -- Shalom Ben Aaron Ben Obadiah Ha Kohen (Shalom Aaron Cohen) -- was from Syria. The first synagogue to be built was the Naveh Shalom in 1823. The second synagogue to be built was the Beth Fl in 1856. The third synagogue to be built was the Magen David, which was completed on September 11, 1884. Today only the Magen David and Beth El are functioning synagogues, but still do not get a minyan for Sabbath prayers. Prayers are held only on Saturday mornings and on alternative Saturdays at each synagogue. The Naveh Shalom Synagogue is not functioning and has not been in use for a very long time, mostly due to lack of funds and internal disputes. This synagogue is a magnificent structure and a Jewish Monument and should be preserved. It stands on slightly raised land, right in the middle of the Calcutta business center. The alleged trustees are in the process of selling this property to promoters who will demolish the Synagogue and put up a monstrous concrete structure in its place. I appeal to you and the Jews of America and the World to seriously consider saving this structure and preserving it as a Jewish Monument. I request you to send some responsible person to visit Calcutta and assess the present situation.

It is very heartening to know that there are some non-resident Jews of Calcutta who are carrying out repairs to the Jewish Cemetery and trying to protect the property from encroachment. One such person is Mr. Sol Noah of Beverly Hills, CA. Mr. Sol Noah is also funding a kitchen for feeding the poor elderly Jews who are old and infirm and not capable of cooking meals even though some of them have the means. I once again appeal to you to try and salvage a slowly but surely dying community. There are as of today only sixty-four people, most of whom are between seventy and ninety years of age.

Shalom,
S.A. Joseph

BURMESE CEMETERY SAVED
The World Jewish Congress reports that due to concern from many organizations and Jewish communities throughout the world, city planning officials in Rangoon, Myanmar (Burma) have agreed not to relocate the city’s only Jewish cemetery in order to construct a shopping center on the site. The cemetery contains over 700 Jewish graves (see story in JHR, March, 1997).

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Updated: 24-Jul-98