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"Kerala and Her Jews"

April 30, 2011

Plaque at Cochin Synagogue

Last year, I had the privilege of visiting the Cochin Synagogue in Kerala, India. While I was there, I picked up a fascinating booklet, Kerala and Her Jews.

The booklet begins with these captivating words:

In attempting to speak on the history of the Jews of Kerala one becomes at once conscious of the difficulty of the task as many important and interesting facts connected with this ancient colony on the SouthWest coast of India are shrouded in obscurity. How and when they arrived in the ancient port of Cranganore or Shingly as the Jews called their old settlement are still some of the unsettled problems of their ancient history, but whatever be the date of their first settlement, it is an undisputed fact of history that from the 5th to the 15th century, the Jews in Cranganore have had virtually an independent principality ruled over by a Prince of their own race and choice. Thus said Rabbi Nissim, a 14th century Hebrew poet and traveller.
     I travelled from Spain,
     I had heard of the city of Shingly
     I longed to see an Israel King
     Him, I saw with my own eyes.

Cranganore, known as Muzhiris to the Greeks and Shingly to the Jews was the only sea port in India known to the outside world. It was to this port therefore the Jews turned for a haven of refuge and a centre for trade. The destruction of Cranganore is often compared to the devastation of Palestine in miniature and the consequent dispersal of Jews from their Holy Land.

Prior to my visit, I had never heard about these Jews and their having had “virtually an independent principality ruled over by a Prince of their own race and choice.” It seems that the existence of this Jewish kingdom in India for so many centuries should be studied more by believers who seek to understand as fully as possible God’s dealings with His chosen people.

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