Jewish Communities of India: Identity in a Colonial Era
- Publish Date: 1998-06-02
- Binding: Paperback
- Author: Joan G Roland
Although the Bene Israel community of western India, the Baghdadi Jews of Bombay and Calcutta, and the Cochin Jews of the Malabar Coast form a tiny segment of the Indian population, their long-term residence within a vastly different culture has always made them the subject of much curiosity. India is perhaps the one country in the world where Jews have never been exposed to anti-Semitism, but in the last century they have had to struggle to maintain their identity as they encountered two competing nationalisms: Indian nationalism and Zionism. Focusing primarily on the Bene Israel and Baghdadis in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Joan Roland describes how identities begun under the Indian caste system changed with British colonial rule, and then how the struggle for Indian independence and the establishment of a Jewish homeland raised even further questions. She also discuses the experiences of European Jewish refugees who arrived in India after 1933 and remained there until after World War II.
To describe what it meant to be a Jew in India, Roland draws on a wealth of materials such as Indian Jewish periodicals, official and private archives, and extensive interviews. Historians, Judaic studies specialist, India area scholars, postcolonialist, and sociologists will all find this book to be an engaging study. A new final chapter discusses the position of the remaining Jews in India as well as the status of Indian Jews in Israel at the end of the twentieth century.