History of the Jews in Mumbai is located in Mumbai
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Notable synagogues in Mumbai

The history of the Jews in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay), India, began when Jews started settling in Bombay during the first century, due to its economic opportunities.[1] The Jewish community of Bombay consisted of the remnants of three distinct communities: the Bene Israeli Jews of Konkan, the Baghdadi Jews of Iraq, and the Cochin Jews of Malabar.[2]

Bombay is home to the majority of India's rapidly dwindling Jewish population. At its peak, in the late 1940s, the Jewish population of Bombay reached nearly 30,000.[3]

Arrival in Bombay

The first Baghdadi Jew, Joseph Semah, moved to Bombay from Surat in 1730[4] and the first member of the Bene Israel community to move from the Konkan villages[5] south of Bombay to the city arrived in 1746 part of the Divekar family.[6] In 1796 Samuel Ezekiel Divekar (1730-1797) established "The Gate of Mercy" synagogue.[7]

Present population

Less than 4,000 Jews live in Mumbai,[8] formerly known as Bombay,[9] and there are eight synagogues in the city.[10] Today, the majority of Mumbai's Jews reside in Israel.[11]


The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee[8] runs a Jewish Community Center and has 500 members with classes on Hebrew and Judaism, holiday parties, youth discos and clubs for children and seniors.[12] Also, there is an "ORT" (Organization for educational Resources and Technological training), an international Jewish organization with the mandate of helping impoverished Jews and which sells kosher wine, challah, chicken and baked goods.[12]

Also, started in 2004 is the Hazon Eli Foundation for Jewish Life in India, based in Thane (a suburb of Mumbai where many younger Jewish families are moving to), to teach Torah, Hebrew and Jewish law to the suburban population. A Sunday school is run there for children under 13, which attracts about 25 students weekly.[12]

In Mumbai, there is also the Jewish founded "Sir Jacob Sassoon High School" and "Sir Elly Kadoorie High School". Today there are only a handful of Jewish students left, but they once had Hebrew and Torah classes.[12]

Terrorist attacks on Mumbai

Main article: November 2008 Mumbai attacks

Until the terrorist attacks on Mumbai of November 2008, the Mumbai Chabad House Jewish outreach center was at Nariman House, Hormusji Street. In the attack, six Jews were held hostage and murdered at the center, the 29-year-old Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his 28-year-old wife, Rivka, Rabbi Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum (37), Bentzion Chroman (28), Yocheved Orpaz (62) and Norma Shvarzblat-Rabinovich (50). The parents of Rivka Holtzberg have announced their intention to continue Chabad's emissary work in Mumbai, although the Chabad House may move to a new location in the city mostly in South Mumbai near Worli. [13]

Communal relations

Mumbai Jews' ties with their city's Muslim community have historically been strong and remain so even after the Mumbai attacks.[14] The two groups have been drawn together as minorities in a Hindu-dominated land – even by the similarities of their non-vegetarian diets of Kosher and Halal foods.[15] "For these reasons, most Bene synagogues in Mumbai are in Muslim areas," Jonathan Solomon, chairman of the Indian Jewish Federation, said. Mumbai's Muslim Council had ordered that the nine gunmen killed should not be buried in the city, a gesture which was highly appreciated by the Mumbai Jewish community.[15]


  1. ^ Weil, Shalva. India's Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art and Life-Cycle. Mumbai: Marg Publications. 2009 [first published in 2002; 3rd edn.].
  2. ^ The Jewish Traveler, p. 69
  3. ^ "Historic Community of Bombay, India". Jewish Times Asia. March 2008. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  4. ^ Lentin, Samuel Sifra (ed) Weil, Shalva. "The Jewish Presence in Bombay."India's Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art and Life-Cycle. Mumbai: Marg Publications. 2009 [first published in 2002; 3rd edn.], pp. 22-35.
  5. ^ Weil, Shalva. The Jews from the Konkan: the Bene Israel Community of India. TelAviv: Beth Hatefutsoth, the Nahum Goldman Museum of the Jewish Diaspora. 1981.
  6. ^ Weil, Shalva (30 November 2008). "Background: A rich history now stained with blood". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
  7. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2009 'The Heritage and Legacy of Indian Jews' in Shalva Weil (ed.) India’s Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art and Life-Cycle, Mumbai: Marg Publications [first published in 2002; 3rd edn.], pp. 8-21. In the early 20th century, the Sasoon family sponsored the emigration of Jews from Baghdad to Mumbai. In Mumbai they set up a Jewish school and a number of synagogues. Weil, Shalva. 2007 'Bene Israel' (3: 335-339); 'Cochin Jews', in Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik (eds) Encyclopedia Judaica, 1st ed., Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, CD-Rom. Weil, Shalva. 2008 'Jews in India', (3: 1204-1212); ' in M.Avrum Erlich (ed.) Encyclopaedia of the Jewish Diaspora, Santa Barbara, USA: ABC CLIO.11. 2010a 'Bombay'; 'Calcutta'; 'India'; 'Pakistan'; in Norman A. Stillman (ed.) Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, Leiden:Brill Weil, Shalva. 2011 'Bene Israel', in Adele Berlin (Ed. in Chief) Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion, 2nd edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 131. Weil, Shalva. 2011 'Bene Israel' in Judith Baskin (ed.) Cambridge Dictionary of Judaism and Jewish Culture, New York: Cambridge University Press. 59. Weil, Shalva. 2013 "Jews of India" in Raphael Patai and Haya Bar Itzhak (eds.) Jewish Folklore and Traditions: A Multicultural Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, Inc. (1: 255-258)
  8. ^ a b Rockower, Paul (20 February 2007). "Tales of a Wandering Jew: Jewish India's crown jewel". The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 27 November 2008.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2010 'Bombay' in Norman A. Stillman (ed.) Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, Leiden:Brill.
  10. ^ Berkman, Jacob (28 November 2008). "JTA". JTA. Archived from the original on 18 March 2012. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  11. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2005 'Motherland and Fatherland as Dichotomous Diasporas: the Case of the Bene Israel' in Lisa Anteby, William Berthomiere and Gabriel Sheffer (eds) Les Diasporas 2000 ans d'histoire, Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, pp. 91-99. Weil, Shalva. 2012 "The Bene Israel Indian Jewish Family in Transnational Context", Journal of Comparative Family Studies 43 (1): 71-80
  12. ^ a b c d Paul, Ari. "Israelis Invade India "Dikla Kadosh" May 17, 2006". Web.jrn.columbia.edu. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  13. ^ The Jerusalem Post, 2008-12-2
  14. ^ Weil, Shalva. 2009 India's Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art and Life-Cycle, Mumbai: Marg Publications [first published in 2002; 3rd edn.].
  15. ^ a b "The Times | UK News, World News and Opinion". Timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 10 December 2011.


Tigay, Alan M. (1994). The Jewish Traveler: Hadassah Magazine's Guide to the World's Jewish Communities and Sights. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781568210780.