Page 37 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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F
ischel
— L
iterary
C
reat iv ity
of
t h e
J
ew s
o f
C
och in
31
three major categories through which they made their major con-
tributions: (1) the composition of liturgical poetry according to
their own
minhag,
(2) the writing of chronicles and historical
accounts, and (3) their role as pioneers and promoters of the
Hebrew printing press in India. These efforts indicate that the
Cochin community leaders concentrated on those areas calculated
to strengthen the community’s power of resistance, to fortify the
Jewish consciousness, to instill in their people a pervasive sense
of pride, and to emphasize spiritual values to defend and uphold
their identity and guarantee the survival of their community.
That they did not experience the fate of their brethren in China,
in Kai-fung Fe, and did not vanish as did many other small Jewish
settlements in the remote Diaspora, is undoubtedly due to their
invincible adherence to their religious and cultural heritage
throughout the centuries. It enabled them to withstand the vicissi*
tudes of time and crisis, the internal dissensions and conflicts which
engulfed their neighbors and environment.
Yet the natural elation over their miraculous survival as an out-
post of Hebrew and Jewish culture in this remote corner of Asia,
is saddened by the realization that this community has inexorably
reached the end of its historic road. Depleted of their youth, of
their intellectual and human resources, decimated by the con-
tinuous exodus of its members to Israel, the glorious days of the
Jewish communities in Cochin and on the Malabar Coast seem
to be numbered. Driven by a deep-seated religious, almost mes-
sianic attachment to the ideals of Zion, hundreds of families from
Cochin and vicinity have moved to Israel since the establishment
of the State, and it is there—and no longer in their centuries-long
abode in South India—that a new challenge awaits them.