View Full Version : Jews in India

Jean M
09-04-2015, 08:59 PM
An interesting post by Asya Pereltsvaig from 2012 has been re-posted on the heels of the recent paper on the genetics of the Bene Israel. (http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2015/08/31/025809 )


She starts:

...in this post we consider Jewish groups from India, home to five Jewish groups of different antiquity, speaking different languages. Oldest are the Cochin Jews, who arrived at the Indian subcontinent some 2,500 years ago (according to traditional recordings, the date of the first arrival is 562 BCE) and settled down in Cochin, in the southwestern region of Kerala. Another ancient group is the Bene Israel, who arrived in what is now the state of Maharashtra approximately 2,100 years ago. Then there are the Baghdadi Jews, who migrated to the city Mumbai from Iraq (hence their name), Iran, Afghanistan, and neighboring countries about 250 years ago. Another group is the Bnei Menashe, members of the Mizo and Kuki ethnic groups in Manipur and Mizoram who claiming descent—as their name suggests—from the tribe of Menashe. The most recent group is the Bene Ephraim, also called “Telugu Jews” because they speak Telugu, the Dravidian language of Andhra Pradesh, spoken by more than 70 million people; Bene Ephraim’s observance of Judaism dates to 1981.

There is a map.

Jean M
09-04-2015, 09:03 PM

Cochin Jews, also called Malabar Jews, are of Mizrahi and Sephardi heritage. They are the oldest group of Jews in India, with possible roots claimed to date to the time of King Solomon. The Cochin Jews settled in the Kingdom of Cochin in South India, now part of the state of Kerala. As early as the 12th century, mention is made of the Black Jews in southern India. The Jewish traveler, Benjamin of Tudela, speaking of Kollam (Quilon) on the Malabar Coast, writes in his Itinerary: "...throughout the island, including all the towns thereof, live several thousand Israelites. The inhabitants are all black, and the Jews also. The latter are good and benevolent. They know the law of Moses and the prophets, and to a small extent the Talmud and Halacha." These people later became known as the Malabari Jews. They built synagogues in Kerala beginning in the 12th and 13th centuries. They are known to have developed Judeo-Malayalam, a dialect of Malayalam language.

09-04-2015, 09:25 PM
I have seen several Jews get minor segment matches in India which could be related to these or similar relationships, hoping these samples will be available for DNA projects to look at...

09-04-2015, 09:32 PM
^^ I've been having such matches recently, left me puzzled for a split second.

09-04-2015, 09:45 PM
^^ I've been having such matches recently, left me puzzled for a split second.

Imagine my struggle, so many times I have been trying to figure out if my Indian segment matches have a Jewish or Romani orientation.

09-05-2015, 01:57 AM
Cool, I don't have any matches to India besides someone who is half Ashkenazi and half Indian, but I do have some distant relatives who fled to India from Iraq in the 1940s (the family of Shafiq Ades (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shafiq_Ades)).

09-05-2015, 11:23 AM
Cochin Jews are not one homogeneous group. Some of them are descendants of immigrants from Middle East and Europe (Portugal, Spain, Netherlands, Italy).

Jews in Kerala (http://www.jewish-languages.org/jewish-malayalam.html)

Cochin Jews (http://www.the-south-asian.com/March2001/Jews_%20of_India_Cochin_Jews1.htm)

So, one of sephardi or mizrachi origin could theoretically have distant matches among Cochin Jews.

09-05-2015, 02:40 PM
According to wiki the ancient Jews that mixed with the natives were known as the "black Jews". The sephardim that came later on and settled in their own enclosures were called "pardesi(foreign) Jews". Most have moved to Israel during the dawn of the Zionist movement. There are only about 10 of them confirmed to live in Kerala today.

09-05-2015, 03:27 PM

The Jewish quarters of Mattancherry, the area around the Paradesi Synagogue (1568) was once the centre of the White Jews or Cochin Jews, who are said to have settled here after fleeing persecution. Today, there are just nine surviving members of the community, all of them over the age of 75, except one.

Jew Town once flourished with trade, Hebrew culture and prayer. Today, it has given way to a row of antique shops and a thriving spice market. As a quorum of 10 male members is required for prayer service at the synagogue, the dwindling community had to acquire the services of a rabbi from Israel. Most of them have relatives in Israel.

They speak fluent Malayalam and follow their customs and rituals diligently. The stories they like telling are about the old times, when there were large community weddings, when Hanukkah, Passover, Yom Kippur, and Jewish New Year were all observed in full regalia, when the women dressed in traditional finery and made traditional food, and when they could buy kosher meat from a Jewish butcher.

Jew Street has witnessed those times. Today, you can find them looking, almost in puzzlement, out of their windows on the crowded and tourist-packed street below. The city has changed as they look out at a space that was once their cradle and hear the old clock in the tower ring out, marking time.

FWIW, there story of origin is very similar to the one told by one of the component clans in our caste.

The origin of the Cochin Jews, who settled on the southwest coast of India, and of the Baghdadi Jews—the misleading name for the Jews who came from different parts of the Middle East to Bombay and Calcutta—is within historical memory. That of the Bene Israel is lost in the mists of legend. Some 1,600 years ago, so tradition has it (a tradition curiously like that of the Chitpavan Brahmin Hindus), a ship was wrecked off the Konkan coast of India. There were fourteen survivors—conveniently divided into seven men and seven women—who managed to reach the coastal village of Navgaon, some twenty-six miles south of Bombay. Those of the drowned who were washed ashore were buried by the survivors in unmarked mounds. Their possessions sank. The survivors settled down in villages along the coast where the local people, who were Hindus, accepted them as long as they did not slaughter cows (here the legend resembles that of the arrival of the Parsees). The local crop was sesame seed (til) and the Jews became the traditional oil pressers of the region. Because they did not work their presses on a Saturday, they came to be known as Shanwar-telis (Saturday oilmen). When one David Rahabi, a Jew, visited the Konkan coast in the year AD 1000 (or possibly 1400, or even 1600) he found that the community called itself Bene Israel, Children of Israel, and not only observed the Sabbath but at every ceremony pronounced the Shema, a prayer that consisted of just one verse, Deuteronomy 6:4, before others were added to the temple service; they circumcised their male infants on the eighth day after birth and abstained from eating fish without fins or scales (Leviticus 11:9 and 11:10).

This same clan mentioned above has been pointed to as having been connected to the Roopkund skeletons:

New radiocarbon tests gave a date of 850 AD, give or take 30 years.DNA evidence revealed two groups of people: a taller group showing mutations similar to those seen in Maharashtran Bramins known as the Chitpavan, and a smaller group with DNA similar to modern-day locals