Saturday, 18 August 2007

India’s Jews - A proud and continuing heritage, free of anti-Semitism

There is a fine piece in Forbes by Gary Weiss on India's Jews: “India may be the only country in the world that has been free of anti-Semitic prejudice throughout its history. As the Jewish genealogical journal Avotaynu recently observed in an article on one Indian Jewish group, “The Bene Israel flourished for 2,400 years in a tolerant land that has never known anti-Semitism, and were successful in all aspects of the socio-economic and cultural life of the people of the region.”

Comparing India with Europe, Weiss writes: “But in 'backward' India, from the beginning, the Jewish communities have not only been free of discrimination but have dominated the commercial life of every place where they have settled - something that has fed traditional European anti-Semitism.”

Indian Jews were not free of persecution : “Kochi's Jews were indeed persecuted--not by Indians but by the Portuguese, following in the glorious traditions of the Inquisition. With the help of the Hindu maharaja and the Dutch, Kochi's Jewish community rebuilt its synagogue, burned by the Portuguese, in its current location near his maharajah's palace. It has remained there, unmolested, ever since.”

Weiss concludes: “I've always had difficulty with Indians when we've discussed anti-Semitism. They don't understand it, and to tell you the truth, I've had difficulty explaining it myself.”

It's worth reading in full:

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