synagogue in Mumbai

#1 Nov 21st, 2010, 05:25
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#1
I am Jewish.

Is the synagogue in Mumbai open to the public? Do they have services on the Jewish Sabbath? What about other days? Is it a facility commonly seen by tourists?

Finally, for what is left of the Mumbai Jewish Community, do they live in a quarter near the synagogue, or are they scattered throughout the city?
#2 Nov 21st, 2010, 10:54
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#2
There ought to be a number of synagogues, but I'm assuming you mean the well-known one at Sai Baba Marg/Gandhi Marg.

Yes, it's very much open to the public, and absolutely beautiful (was in scaffolding last year and it may not look like much from outside, but step inside and be amazed. You may have to look around for the side entrance a little, but don't let looks put you off. A most serene place.) I was met by the friendliest of caretakers, rabbi or otherwise, I don't know, who's open to telling you about the place, spoke excellent English btw; but otherwise non-intrusive, and refreshingly for India, any donation you want to make is really voluntary. That is to say there is a donation box, otherwise never pointed out to you.

Services are held here yes, I was invited to the Sabbath, but being a goy I felt uncomfortable with it. They have a small but highly informative booklet out on Judaism in India, ask them for this.

I had the place to myself when I was there, I guess there'll be a trickle of tourists, but it's not that well-known.

Where the (small) community resides I can't tell you, sorry; like I said, they will be able (and glad!) to, and ask for that booklet.

ps Edit, find some earlier takes of mine, and on that booklet, here: kabbalah Center in Delhi.
#3 Nov 21st, 2010, 15:18
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#3
If you want to know more about the Jewish community in Bombay and the surrounding areas of Maharashtra I strongly recommend following book:

Shepard, Sadia: Footpaths in the Painted City

It was published in 2008. The author's grandmother was Jewish and from Bombay. This is the title of the British edition. In the United States it was first published under the title: The Girl from Foreign.

There were several well-known Jewish actors in the Bombay film industry in the 1950s and 60s. (David, Sulochana, Nadira)

Type in Sadia Shepard at www.amazon.com. It seems she has also made a film on the subject.
Last edited by Golghar; Nov 21st, 2010 at 15:32.. Reason: postscript
#4 Nov 24th, 2010, 21:17
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#4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Golghar View Post If you want to know more about the Jewish community in Bombay and the surrounding areas of Maharashtra I strongly recommend following book:

Shepard, Sadia: Footpaths in the Painted City

It was published in 2008. The author's grandmother was Jewish and from Bombay. This is the title of the British edition. In the United States it was first published under the title: The Girl from Foreign.
In India also it was published with the title The Girl from Foreign.

I agree with Golghar: highly recommended.
#5 Nov 25th, 2010, 01:20
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#5
There are many synagogues in Mumbai but the most famous ones are at Fort in the lane next to Rhythm House and next to the Asst. Commissioner of Police at Nagpada opposite Richardson and Crudas or the Hume High School. There are other areas where you will also find synagogues but most of them are closed except for services so you cannot visit them on other days. There is the famous Jewish area in Mumbai called the Israeli Mohalla which has the oldest synagogue in Mumbai and the second oldest synagogue in India called the Shaar Harahamim or Gate of Mercy Synagogue which was built in 1796. Unfortumately there are no Jewish families staying in the vicinity now. There are some in Thane and in the coastal areas of Alibag outside Mumbai city too. Hope this helps.

Cheers,
Aadil.
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#6 Nov 25th, 2010, 03:31
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#6
very helpful, thanks.
#7 Nov 25th, 2010, 09:45
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Are synagogue's open to visits by non-jews. I used to live in Mumbai and wanted to visit one that i used to pass by quite often , but was unsure and unaware of any specific care as regards my behaviour i need to take.

Also any advice on Do's/Don'ts.
Last edited by narendra.d; Nov 25th, 2010 at 20:32..
#8 Nov 25th, 2010, 20:29
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As far as I know, they're open to all; like I said, the Keneseth Eliyahoo synagogue I mentioned above certainly was; I'm non-Jewish myself. Nor of any other religious affiliation, for that matter. Like Aadil said, many may be closed except for services anyway; or otherwise keep limited hours, I guess.

It always behooves one to ask, of course; certainly again when a service is in fact being or about to be held, I suppose. But I don't think you otherwise have to be too shy with it. Just step up there and ask

I suppose at times of services you may be required to wear a skull cap; I'm sure something would be provided if you don't have one. (I know Indian mosques where you'd be given a handkerchief for it.) I don't remember about any feet thing, but I guess in Indian synagogues the shoes may or may not have to be removed; something you'll be accustomed to anyway. And maybe this is way outmoded, but I believe during services the males and females may be separated; it would no doubt all be pointed out to you. If you keep up some decorum, I'm sure you'll be alright and welcome.

That keeper I mentioned above was a most jovial old fellow, nothing overly solemn about it. And like I said, even being a gentile myself, he did invite me to the Sabbath services nonetheless.

To be very clear btw, these folks and save perhaps for some visitors or later arrivals are themselves as Indian as it comes, having lived there and intermarried and whatnot for some 1,500-2,000 years or more or so; and it would take a keen eye indeed to physically distinguish them, even to most natives. Probably just simply impossible, either way.
Last edited by machadinha; Nov 26th, 2010 at 00:38..
#9 Nov 26th, 2010, 01:38
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#9
Nothing specific required to enter except permission if it is closed and they provide a skull cap at the entrance. Most places are closed except for services so it is best to go to the one where it is open most of the time like the Eliyahoo Synagogue at Fort.

Cheers,
Aadil.
#10 Nov 26th, 2010, 16:02
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@macha & @aadil: Thank you. Much appreciated. Will go when I am in Mumbai.
#11 Nov 26th, 2010, 22:55
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Ah, most welcome, Narendra, and you really should; I had the nicest visit there.

Always feeling like the outsider that I am in any such place; but very nice, all the same. If you are a religious person yourself, you may feel that much closer to it, I guess. And they'll be delighted to exchange views with you; as they indeed were with me.

Tell them hi from the guy from Amsterdam who visited in Feb. 2009 I guess; the caretaker later dropped their booklet by my hotel in Colaba, if it's he you get to speak to, he may just remember.
#12 Nov 27th, 2010, 07:27
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#12
Sure will. Thank you once gain.
#13 Nov 27th, 2010, 08:27
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#13
well the visit will most certainly be interesting--I am curious how similar a synagogue is to those in the USA.
#14 Nov 27th, 2010, 09:25
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#14
Quote:
Originally Posted by sam78a View Post well the visit will most certainly be interesting--I am curious how similar a synagogue is to those in the USA.
In architecture ? or in terms of service(s) ? For an outsider, his own shul is always better I doubt you will find reform service if that is what you meant by similarity.
#15 Nov 28th, 2010, 00:43
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#15
Quote:
Originally Posted by sam78a View Post well the visit will most certainly be interesting--I am curious how similar a synagogue is to those in the USA.

Sam, please come back and tell us how you - as a Jewish person - found your visit. It'll be really interesting for us all.

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