The “essence and feel” of the city Calcutta is still present in Kolkata. This is the best place for all irrespective of class and creed. That was the reason, many people from different cultures & religions settled here. The city is really colorful in every sense. Similarly, Jews also got attracted to Calcutta and started migrating to Calcutta (Now Kolkata) during eighteen century. Jews came to Calcutta were mainly from Baghdad and also known as Baghdadi Jews. Presently there are less than 50 Jews in Kolkata but dates back to eighteen century it was more than 6000. During British rule in India, Kolkata (Earlier Calcutta) was the major commercial hub of India and attracted various trading communities including the Jews. Jews community were mainly involved in trading of Coal, jute, Diamonds and in real estate business. The first Jew who migrated to Calcutta was Shalom Aharon Obadiah Cohen. He first arrived in Surat in the year 1792 and he was born in Aleppo (Present day Syria). The first Synagogue established in Calcutta was “Neveh Shalome” (Also known as Neve shaanan or Neve shalaon). Neveh Shalome built in 1831 by Shalom Cohen and it was there till 1884. Elias Davis Joseph Ezra one of the renowned Jew from this community, appointed as a Sheriff of Calcutta, during that time Naveh Shalome provided the site for Magen David Synagogue. When Cohen established himself as a trader in Surat, afterward in the year of 1798 he arrived in Calcutta.
When people from the same community started settling down in one place, required a place for daily worship to serve their spiritual needs. Like other communities, Jews erected five Synagogues in Calcutta and the first Synagogue established in Calcutta was “Neveh Shalome”. Basically, Synagogue or Synagog is a place in which Jews people meet for religious worship or instructions, in simpler note Temple for Hindu or Church for Christians and similarly Synagogue for Jews.
The population of Jews community in Kolkata started declining after 1948. The steady declining in a number of Jews after Independence of India in 1947 and formation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948, these were the main reasons behind declining of a number of Jews in Kolkata.
The Jewish community has three independent synagogues in Kolkata (Calcutta) but earlier the number was five. Special permission is required for the entry to Synagogues. Earlier one need to took permission from Nahoum Cake Shop at the New Market but now, have to take permission from Jewish Girls School, Kolkata.
List of Synagogues in Calcutta (Kolkata)
1. Magen David
2. Beth El
3. Neveh Shalome
4. Magen Aboth
5. Shaare Rasoon
Magen David Synagogue was set up in 1884 in the Italian Renaissance style. The steeple of the Synagogue, it made of red-brick (in a hexagonal section) and rises approximately three to four storeys. Interiors are just outstanding, Venetian style arched windows and inside the assembly hall has a high vaulted roof with beautifully designed with colored glass windows.
Beth-El was set up in 1856, older than Magen David Synagogue, Kolkata, India. From outside this is covered in off white sand-lime plaster and a big clock centrally placed. Beth-El is smaller in comparison to Magen David Synagogue but it has the more oriental appearance, as neat and elegant inside.
During that period, many Jews settled down in Calcutta until Independence of India 1947 and formation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948. Between this long period of stay, Jewish community erected five number of Synagogues in Calcutta(Now Kolkata) and first Synagogue established in Calcutta was “Neveh Shalome” (Also known as Neve shaanan or Neve shalaon).Very sad, in the year of 1884 Neveh Shalome Synagogue was demolished and in that place
Magen Aboth Synagogue – This Synagogue was established in the year 1933 by A.Levroy. It was located near Old Chinabazar of Calcutta (Now Kolkata) and was established for the convenience of those who unable to go to others Synagogues. Now there is no trace of this Synagogue, as it was demolished. This Synagogue was not as old as other Synagogues if we compare with other Synagogues of Kolkata. It has been replaced by an apartment and a marble tablet is there on the entrance of apartment mentions about the Synagogue was established in 1940. But as per a document of “Jewish Welfare Association” New Delhi, Center for Jewish & Inter-Faith Studies (Published on May 1984), it was established in 1933 by A.Levroy (25, Blackburn Lane, Calcutta).
Shaare Rasoon – This Synagogue was established in 1897 and was a simple prayer hall and located at the junction of Free School Street and Sudder Street in Calcutta (Now Kolkata). Now the hall is there but has no trace of the Synagogue.
For entry in any Synagogue in Kolkata (Calcutta), special permission is required. Permission can be obtained from Jewish Girls School, Kolkata.
For Entry Permission:-
Ms A.M. Cohen,
Jewish Girls School, Kolkata
63, Park Street
Park Street H.O.
West Bengal, India
Landmark: Near Park Street P.O.
Source – History Of The Jewish People
Synagogues and Prayer Hall
Calcutta Past & Present
Echoes from Old Calcutta
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