Page 33 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 30

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communities of that period, and when fully explored and inves­
tigated will shed new light on this aspect.
Historical Records in Manuscripts
The publication of the hundreds of Judeo-Arabic books of
liturgical and halakhic relevance and of the periodicals alluded
to above, however, reflected only a partial picture of the vitality
and intellectual proclivities of the leaders of the Baghdadi Jews
in the 19th century. There exists also an abundance of annalistic
and historical materials in manuscript form—memoirs, registers
of marriage, birth and death, lists of families, communal records,
and autobiographical diaries for which the Persian name
Nauruz
was used.
The first preserved example of such a Judeo-Arabic diary is
that written by Shalom ben Obadiyah ha-Cohen (d. 1836), the
famous Aleppo merchant and jeweller who, after many years in
Surat, moved in August 1798 to Calcutta as one of its earliest
settlers. He was allied through the marriage of his daughter with
the actual founder of the Arabian Jewish community, Rabbi
Moses ben Simon Duwayk ha-Cohen (1825-1861), who, together
with his sons, were the mainstay of Jewish life all through the
19th and the beginnings of the 20th century. He, too, wrote his
Nauruz,
a veritable storehouse of information on the Jewish
community in Calcutta.
In such a closely knit traditional atmosphere, any attempt to
deviate from established patterns must have been viewed resent­
fully as heresy. Indeed, the homogeneity of the Judeo-Arabic pub­
lications was threatened in Poona in 1887 by a Baghdadi Jew,
Abraham David Hay Ezekiel. He published in Aramaic with an
Arabic translation, line by line, a cabbalistic treatise,
Idra Zuta
or
The Lesser Holy Assembly,
which was written forty years
earlier in Surat in 1844 according to the colophon. It provoked
bitter opposition by rabbinical leaders of Baghdad, Jerusalem
and Hebron, who emphatically proscribed its reading. The trans­
lator of the treatise, however, defied the rabbinical prohibition
and continued to publish other cabbalistic works which were at
variance with the accepted traditional cultural and religious
views.
The Baghdadi Jews vigorously overcame this challenge just as
they did when Hayyim Jacob ha-Cohen Feinstein, a
shaliah
(mes­
senger) from Safed, sharply criticized the religious practices and
customs observed by the Jews in Calcutta during his stay there
in 1874.
It is noteworthy that two works of Urdu literature in Hebrew
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