Indian stories


From Point of No Return:

Here are various stories about Jews in and from India which Point of No Return readers have brought to my attention:

Brivdaker in the IDF.  Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

Israel Hayom reports:

Ronen Birvdaker, a Jewish Indian from Mumbai, was so moved by the 2008 terrorist attack in his home city that he decided to immigrate to Israel last year. On Wednesday, he completed his training to become a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces’ Golani Brigade. Birvdaker, 25, said that after the November 2008 attack — which killed 166 people, including a Chabad emissary and his wife — he felt that as a Jew there was no place for him to live other than in Israel.

“I was shocked by the assault on Jews, just because they were Jewish,” he said. “It affected me so much that I felt I had to do something, although at the time, I wasn’t sure what I could do. I thought about it for a while and arrived in Israel last year to serve in the IDF. I was determined to join Golani.” Birvdaker said he was inspired to join Golani after meeting Israelis in Mumbai.

Read article in full

Mattancherry Jew dies: The strength of the Jewish community in Mattancherry has been reduced to eight with the passing away of its leader 88-year-old Johnny Hallegua. Read article in full 

Bene Menashe: Israel to resume aliyah of ‘lost tribe’ from India and Burma Read article in full

Whatever happened to the Jews of Pakistan?


From Point of No Return:

Mystery has long surrounded the Jews of Pakistan, and this blog has attracted dozens in search of information about them. Finally, Shalva Weil has written a comprehensive history of this community in the Pakistan Press – Canada. The last Jew, Rachel Joseph, died in 2006. (With thanks to an Anonymous reader)

Pakistan was never traditionally antisemitic. In fact, it may come as a surprise that Pakistan hosted small, yet thriving, Jewish communities from the 19th century until the end of the 1960s. Recently, Yoel Reuben, a Pakistani Jew living in the Israeli town of Lod whose family originated in Lahore, documented some of the history of the Jewish communities with photographs of original documents.

When India and Pakistan were one country, before the partition in 1947, the Jews were treated with tolerance and equality. In the first half of the 20th century, there were nearly 1,000 Jewish residents in Pakistan living in different cities: Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, and Lahore. The largest Jewish community lived in Karachi, where there was a large synagogue and a smaller prayer hall. There were two synagogues in Peshawar, one small prayer hall in Lahore belonging to the Afghan Jewish community, and one prayer hall in Quetta. Even today, according to unofficial sources, there are rumors that some Jews remain in Pakistan, including doctors and members of the free professions, who converted or passed themselves off as members of other religions.

The Jews of Pakistan were of various origins, but most were from the Bene Israel community of India, and came to Pakistan in the employ of the British. Yifah, a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, relates that her great-great-grandfather Samuel Reuben Bhonkar, who was a Bene Israel, came to Karachi in British India to work as a jailer, and died there in 1928. The Bene Israel originated in the Konkan villages, but many moved to Bombay from the end of the 18th century on. In Pakistan, they spoke Marathi, their mother tongue from Maharashtra; Urdu, the local language; and most spoke English. Prayers were conducted in Hebrew. In 1893, a Bene Israel from Bombay, Solomon David Umerdekar, inaugurated the Karachi Magen Shalom Synagogue on the corner of Jamila Street and Nishtar Road, which officially opened in 1912. [READ THE REST/ORIGINAL]

Listening pleasure


From Sublime Frequencies:

Erkin Koray: Mechul (Singles and Rarities) CD/LP SF067

Erkin Koray:  Mechul (Singles and Rarities) CD/LP SF067

Erkin Koray and Sublime Frequencies are pleased to present this collection of rare tracks and lesser-heard singles. All tracks were recorded and released in Turkey between 1970 – 1977 and culled from Koray’s personal vinyl collection. Includes exclusive photos and remastered audio.

From NPR:

"There's a very primal, emotional response I feel when I hear flamenco," sitar player Anoushka Shankar says. "It's quite in the belly in a way."Anoushka Shankar: A Sitar Player In Andalusia

On her latest album, the 30-year-old Shankar moves her sitar out of urban lounges and into the winding alleys of Andalusia, in search of the musical and historical ties between India and Spain.

Mining the Audio motherlode continued


More from the wonderful WFMU:

SuchatSuchat Thianthng  ~  Waen Wiset
(Blog: Monrakplengthai)

Seeing Double
 I’ve got quite a classic to share this week. Continuing with the theme of racy album art, we’ve got some great late-era work from Mr. Suchat Thianthong! Suchat was born and raised in Ayutthaya Province, and spent time working as a market seller and freelance boxer before joining the legendary Chularat Band. Initially his specialty was slow, sweet love songs in the style of Thun Thongchai, but he lost his trademark high notes after a crippling case of tonsillitis. Not willing to leave the stage, he applied his gritty new voice to comedic effect and proved a bigger hit than ever before. This is a collection of his “post-op” hits, featuring songs about liquor and ganja, along with a good amount of raunchy wordplay, and even a tale about a pair of “magic glasses” (vividly illustrated on the cover). Enjoy!”  (Description by Peter, at Monrakplengthai)

SrinivasU. Srinivas  ~  Mandolin All the Way
(Blog: The Boogieman Will Get Ya!)

Toys in the Carnatic
“U. Srinivas is among South India’s better known musicians. In the West, his name  may be recognized by some open-minded jazz fans thanks to his collaboration with John McLaughlin & Zakir Hussein.  However, there is no hint of jazz or fusion in this recording. This is pure Carnatic Classical Music.  Absolutely Magic!  This music gives me a natural high!” (Description from Boogieman, at The Boogieman Will Get Ya!)

More music blog recommendations: Bodega Pop, Musik-KurierTurkish Psychedelic Music!Music From The Third Floor, The Sleepy Lagoon.

Shabbat Meals: Black Eyed Peas and Butternut Squash Curry


From the Forward:

[…]In seeking to expand my Shabbat repertoire, I have been surprised to find particular inspiration in Indian cooking. Three of India’s major religions — Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism — advocate the principle of ahimsa, non-violence towards all creatures. That tradition makes Indian cooking particularly welcoming for vegetarians like us. In experimenting with Indian flavors, David has tended to be the bolder adventurer, while I have stuck more closely to cookbooks. But a few months ago, I was inspired to come up with this recipe, a curry of black eyed peas and butternut squash, after tasting a similar combination at the Eastern Mediterranean restaurant Oleana in Cambridge. The cumin and sautéed onion bring out the sweetness in the butternut squash, and the black eyed peas are a cool relief from the cayenne. It pairs well with rice, or with a spinach salad.

If you’ve never cooked with Indian spices, it’s best to buy them at an Indian market or in the bulk aisle of an organic grocery store — you’ll pay much more for small bottles. But don’t worry if you’re missing one spice, or want to experiment by adding another. You can play with the balance of spices to suit the tastes of your friends and family, too — it’s less about strict rules or exact amounts than the combination of flavors and aromas. Indian food, I’m learning, both encourages and forgives creativity: from home to home, no dish is prepared in precisely the same way, a curiosity considering how classic many dishes have become. It too has come to remind me of what Shabbat can be.[…]

Read more:

Bangladesh honours retired Jewish general


Via Point of No Return:

The unlikely hero of the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, resulting in the creation of Bangladesh, is a Jew of Iraqi origin, Lt JFR Jacob. This year, at long last, the Bangladeshi government has decided to honour him. Hindu human rights activist Ranbir Sekhon reports in The Conservative Papers:

Eventually India intervened and defeated the Pakistan forces. The result was the creation of the new state of Bangladesh. But what is less well know is the role played by one of India’s most celebrated military brass.

Lt Gen (Retd) JFR Jacob had taken part in the Independence War of Bangladesh in 1971. Belatedly the Sheikh Hasina government has decided to honour Jacob by requesting him to witness the Independence and National Day programmes to be held at National Parade Square on March 26 in Dhaka, staying here from March 24 to 27.  [READ THE REST/ORIGINAL]

Kosher curry


Check out this website.


Idan Raichel | Jewish Music Gone Global

Idan Raichel has to be one of the most unique artists on the planet today. Born in the Israeli town of Kfar Saba, his music is Jewish; but through it run the musical veins of West Africa, Latin America, India and more. Idan sings not only in Hebrew but in several other international languages. This […]

Book Recommendation | The Black Jews of Africa

Dr Edith Bruder is President of The International Society for the Study of African Jewry (ISSAJ), and Research Associate at both SOAS and the French National Centre for Scientific Research. Dr Bruder is passionate about the history of Judaism in Africa, as she told Kosher Curry in our recent post ‘Black Judaism Twenty-First Century Perspectives’.   Following […]


Kaifeng | Chinese Kosher Restaurant!

Kosher Curry went up to Hendon to meet Phillip, co-Manager of Kaifeng Restaurant. He told us about the extraordinary Chinese history that inspired his restaurant, as well as giving us the low-down on the Kaifeng experience:…

North African Jewish Food | from Oded Schwartz’s book

Bouka Tayeb
Amongst Oded Schwartz’s many cookery books is ‘In Search of Plenty; A History of Jewish Food’. It’s an old book, published in 1992, and Kosher Curry came across it quite by chance! It really is an excellent history, stretching from Israel to the West, from Africa to Spain. Western and Israeli foods are all covered, […]

Some reading on free expression in South Asia


From S&S:

Himal 07.02.2012 (Nepal)

Filmmaker Hira Nabi explains how hard it is for for gays and lesbians in Pakistan. “It is not just that the penal code criminalises homosexuality, however. Certain tenants of Islam as practiced in Pakistan also condemn it. On the ground, this is more effective than the inherited colonial law, as the fear of committing a ‘sin‘ tends to carry far more relevance for most than the fear of being charged under Article 377. Southasian history is steeped in evidence of fluid sexual practice, but in modern-day Pakistan there has been significant re-writing of history. Classical poetry carries references to homoeroticism; monuments and legends bear witness to queer love affairs and homosexual devotion; love is celebrated regardless of orientation. This past, however, is not easily reclaimed. Polyamorous love – having multiple sexual partners at any given time – has also been written out of the region’s many histories, and has largely disappeared from the public imagination.”

Outlook India  13.02.2012 (India)

Sony Pictures caused some confusion in India by announcing last week that it will not be releasing David Fincher‘s new screen adaptation of Stieg Larsson‘s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in India. After all, the Indian censorship board  announced back in December that some alterations would be necessary, explainsNamrata Joshi, and Sony has not objected to film scenes being pixellated in other countries. “All this comes as a blow at a time when the Central Board of Film Certification has been trying to take a step forward towards becoming less restrictive. Last year saw a clutch of mainstream Hindi films given ‘A’ certificates without cuts. A long, gay kiss was allowed in ‘I Am’ and ‘Delhi Belly’ got away with foul language and references to oral sex. (…) What would go a long way is a sound rating scheme rather than censoring or bans.”

openDemocracy 28.01.2012 (UK)

N. Jayaram is annoyed by the hypocrisy of the politicians in India. On the one had they make it impossible for Salman Rushdie to attend the Jaipur Literary Festival, on the other they complain in Russia that the Russian Orthodox Church in the Siberian town of Tomsk has appealed for a ban on the Bhagavad Gita: “The Gita is considered sacred by Hindus and India’s parliamentary business was interrupted at length as government and opposition leaders vied with one another in condemning the move in faraway Tomsk, whose court eventually threw out the appeal.”

Eurozine 22.01.2012 (Austria in English)

Freedom of opinion is no longer regarded as something principally good, but as a threat, writesKenan Malik in response to the threats against Salman Rushdie‘s life which preventing him from attending the Jaipur Literature Festival. “Social justice requires not just that individuals are treated as political equals, but also that their cultural beliefs are given equal recognition and respect. The avoidance of cultural pain has, therefore, come to be regarded as more important than the abstract right to freedom of expression. As the British sociologist Tariq Modood has put it, ‘If people are to occupy the same political space without conflict, they mutually have to limit the extent to which they subject each others’ fundamental beliefs to criticism.’ What the anti-Baals of today most fear is starting arguments. What they most want is for the world to go to sleep.”


The Economist also looks at the repression of homosexuality in the Muslim world.

More here.