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NRI Jews present scriptures to Mumbai synagogue

The Mumbai synagogue's six Torah scrolls, prayer books and podium were destroyed in flooding on July 26.

india Updated: Oct 08, 2005 12:55 IST

On the occasion of the Jewish New Year, New York's Indian Jewish community celebrated the donation of Jewish scriptures to a historic synagogue in Mumbai that was badly damaged by floods in July.

With contributions from members of the Bene Israel community and others from outside it, they obtained a Torah scroll (handwritten Jewish scripture) for the Beth-El Synagogue of Panvel, a suburb of Mumbai.

Bene Israel is a tiny Indian Jewish community that traces its origins back to Biblical times.

The Mumbai synagogue's six Torah scrolls, along with prayer books, the podium and furniture were destroyed in flooding on July 26. The synagogue's roof was also badly damaged. Daniel said they were raising funds for both prayer books and another Torah scroll for the Beth-El synagogue.

The Torah scrolls are hand-inscribed by a scribe and cost about $25,000. The cantor's wife, Noreen Daniel, said the Indian Jewish community here has begun collecting funds for medical emergencies and education for members of the Bene Israel throughout India.

The Jewish New Year services were held at the Village Temple on Manhattan's 12th Street and conducted by Romiel Daniel, leader of the Indian Jewish community in New York and president of the Indian Jewish Congregation USA. Some 150 members of the Indian community attended it, with many travelling great distances for the function.

This was the only service conducted for Indian Jews in New York, who number around 60,000 worldwide. Though most of them have migrated to Israel, about 5,000 remain in India, while others live in England, Canada and the US.

The services were identical to those conducted by the Bene Israel in Mumbai, where the community has its home. The chanting of the prayers was in Hebrew, but in the cadences of India - a very special sound that differs from that of 'Mizrahi' Jews from the Middle East and Ashkenazi Jews from Europe.

Daniel is credited with making a compact disc to preserve the Indian Jewish liturgy. He also appears at concerts at Jewish congregations throughout the US.

First Published: Oct 08, 2005 12:55 IST