Portebello 8.99 (258pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Last Jews of Kerala, By Edna Fernandes
Friday 06 November 2009
"It is the end of history for the Jews of Kerala": after 2,000 years of tolerance on the Malabar coast, fewer than fifty remain.
This fascinating, melancholy report on the decline and fall of a once-grand community tells a sad tale not of persecution (in India alone, Jews never suffered that) but fatal divisions and rivalries.
In Cochin, the mutually hostile "White Jews", who claim pure, ancient origins, and "Black Jews", of more "mixed ethnic lineage", quarrel and compete as both clans dwindle into a handful of survivors who attend funerals but never weddings.
Emigration to Israel has also helped to rip the soul out of a people who found in India (as Fernandes shows in The Last Jews of Kerala, a book rich in colour, character and pathos) an "interim paradise" now almost lost.
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