Page 30 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 30

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22
J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
Judeo-Arabic, which they carried on from Baghdad or Aleppo
and continued to use with Hebrew characters in their writings
as a vehicle of expression all through the years of their stay in
the new land of their adoption, India.
Favored by their affluence and material success, the Sassoons
and their associates—the Gabbai’s, the Ezra’s, the Musliah’s and
many others—channeled their wealth not only towards the estab­
lishment of hospitals, museums, libraries and innumerable
charitable and educational institutions for the general and Jew­
ish population in India, but also into the building of magnifi­
cent synagogues in Bombay, Poona and Calcutta, and all their
other settlements in the Oriental Diaspora. Thus there arose in
Bombay in 1861, the “Magen David” synagogue in Byculla, and
in 1884 the “Knesset Elija” synagogue in Ft. Bombay. In Calcutta,
the first synagogue “Neve Shalom” in 1831, was followed by the
building of “Beth El” in 1856 and in 1884 by the “Magen
David,” a striking and imposing landmark of Calcutta, distin­
guished by its beautiful architecture and its steeple and clock
tower, where Rabbi Eliyahu b. Moses Duwayk served as spiritual
leader for over fifty years.
In Poona, the summer residence of David S. Sassoon, there
arose in 1863 the magnificent “Ohel David” synagogue. It was
a big red brick building with a ninety-foot spire, in whose
court-yard the burial-place and mausoleum of the founder of
the synagogue, David S. Sassoon (1792-1864), was placed, em­
bellished with a long Hebrew inscription in prose and poetry.
All these synagogues still stand in their majestic beauty and
grandeur, and although today mainly deserted by worshippers
due to their exodus to Israel, they testify to their once glorious
past.
Judeo-Arabic Printing Presses
The material success of the Baghdadi Jews in India was ac­
companied by an unusual degree of cultural and literary produc­
tivity which led to the creation of a new genre of Hebrew lit­
erature, namely Judeo-Arabic literature in India. This was quite
distinct from the Marathi-Hebrew and the Malayalam-Hebrew
literature of the two other Jewish groups in India, previously dis­
cussed.
Refusing to assimilate into the new milieu, they were deter­
mined to maintain faithfully the heritage of their forefathers
and to transmit their spiritual patrimony and equipment which
they brought along from the “rivers of Babylon” to the younger
generation. In order to safeguard their cultural, liturgical and
linguistic separateness, they embarked on a vast educational