Indian Jews the focus of March 31st program at Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

CONTACT: Dr. Nathan Katz, Academic Director of the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU: \ & 305.348.3909

Indian Jews the focus of March 31st program at Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU For 2,000 years, a small colony of Jews in Cochin, South India, enjoyed security and prosperity, full accepted by their Hindu, Muslim and Christian neighbors. In this far-flung corner of the diaspora, Jews flourished. Yet, when their two homelands attained independence from Britain – India in 1947 and Israel in 1948 – virtually all immigrated to Israel.

The story of this remote enclave is well known to Nathan Katz, a Florida International University distinguished professor and leading expert on Indian Jewry. Not only did he extensively research the Cochin community, but he also lived there for a year, making him the first foreign Jew to do so for that length of time in more than a century.

“The Jews of Cochin” will be the title of a presentation by Katz at 7 p.m. Monday, March 31 at the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, where he is academic director. The event is free and open to the public.

Since Jews’ arrival in India millennia ago, the sounds of mantras have comingled with Hebrew chants. With no experience of persecution, they found in India a haven in which their traditions flourished and developed unique forms.

By way of the spice trade that linked East and West, Jews arrived in Cochin, a coastal city in India’s southwestern state of Kerala, where they quickly took their place alongside other residents. There, they prospered in a variety of sea-related trades and commerce, becoming an educated, secure and prosperous group.

Yet, they are leaving. Emigration to Israel has decimated a community that once numbered in the thousands; today, there are only a handful of people left. Observers predict that soon there will be no Jews left in Cochin.

Arriving in 1986 as a senior Fulbright research scholar, Katz spent a year experiencing and documenting life in Cochin’s Jew Town, as it is called by everyone. His experience yielded two award-winning books about the community, as well as other volumes on Jewish communities throughout the subcontinent where he traveled.

Presented by FIU’s Jewish Studies Initiatives, the program is co-sponsored by the university’s Initiative for Global Jewish Communities and the President Navon Professorship of Sephardi Mizrahi Studies.

The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU is located at 301 Washington Ave., Miami. For more information about this event, call 305.348.3909.