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Guns keep peace at synagogues

Security cameras and armed policemen are now permanent fixtures at synagogues across the city, reports Aarefa Johari.

mumbai Updated: May 03, 2010 10:34 IST
Aarefa Johari
Aarefa Johari
Hindustan Times

Security cameras and armed policemen are now permanent fixtures at synagogues across the city.

A year after the 26/11 attack, in which rabbi Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his five-month-pregnant wife Rivka were among six killed at Nariman House in Colaba, the city’s Jews are still picking up the pieces of their shattered sense of security.

“This is the first time we have felt vulnerable here, both as Indians and as Jews,” says Jonathan Solomon, a lawyer and chairman of the Indian Jewish Federation.

Fear has led some of the city’s synagogues to step up security.

“I never dreamt that we would need armed guards outside our synagogues and CCTV cameras inside,” says Solomon Sopher, chairman of the Jacob Sassoon Charitable Trust.

India is one of just a handful of countries worldwide where Jews have faced no hostility, and share a peaceful relationship with Muslims.

In the city’s two Jewish-run schools, Jacob Sassoon and the E.E.E Sassoon school, more than 90 per cent of the students are Muslims.

“Our attitude towards the Muslims in India has not changed. But since the attacks, we sometimes wonder whether the government has not given us minority rights so as not to displease them,” says Solomon.

Last November, two armed terrorists gunned down the Holtzbergs and their guests at the Chabad House run by the ultra Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch sect of Judaism. The centre catered to Israelis passing through the city, providing them with kosher meals and Sabbath services.

The massacre has, however, brought the community closer together, says Solomon Sopher. Most Jews in India are reformists or traditional Mesorti Jews, and did not have much to do with the orthodox Chabad House.

“But after 26/11, the community has drawn closer together because we realise the need to stick together,” he says.

First Published: Nov 26, 2009 00:39 IST