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Meshuchrarim are a Jewish community of freed slaves, often of mixed-race African-European descent, who accompanied Sephardic Jews in their immigration to India following the 16th-century expulsion from Spain. The Sephardic Jews became known as the Paradesi Jews (as "foreigners" to India.[1] They were also sometimes called the White Jews, for their European ancestry).[2]

The descendants of the meshuchrarim were historically discriminated against in India by other "White Jews." They were at the lowest of the Cochin Jewish informal caste ladder. The Paradesi came to use the Paradesi Synagogue; while they allowed the meshuchrarim as Jews to worship there, they had to sit in the back, could not become full members, and were excluded from the community's endogamous marriage circle.[3] At the same time, they were excluded by the Malabar Jews, the much larger community of Jews who had lived in Cochin for perhaps 1,000 years.

In the early 20th century, Abraham Barak Salem became one of the most prominent Cochin Jews.[4] A descendant of meshuchrarim, he was the first to earn a college degree and the first Cochin Jew of any sort to become a lawyer.[5] He fought against the discrimination against his people. By the 1930s, social discrimination against the meshuchrarim began to diminish. Most Cochin Jews, including the meshuchrarim, emigrated to Israel by the mid-1950s.

See also


  1. ^ "Jew Town and Synagogue | Times of India Travel". Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  2. ^ Parfitt, Tudor (2017), Sutcliffe, Adam; Karp, Jonathan (eds.), "The Jews of Africa and Asia (1500–1815)", The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 7: The Early Modern World, 1500–1815, The Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. 7, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1022–1045, ISBN 978-0-521-88904-9, retrieved 24 May 2022
  3. ^ Katz, Nathan; Goldberg, Ellen S. (1993). "The Sephardi Diaspora in Cochin, India". Jewish Political Studies Review. 5 (3/4): 97–140. ISSN 0792-335X. JSTOR 25834277.
  4. ^ PANEL 39: Nationalisms and their Impact in South Asia[permanent dead link] - European Association of South Asian Studies
  5. ^ Chiriyankandath, James (2008). "Nationalism, religion and community: A. B. Salem, the politics of identity and the disappearance of Cochin Jewry". Journal of Global History. 3 (1): 21–42. doi:10.1017/S1740022808002428. ISSN 1740-0236.

Further reading