14th ISHORE Webinar | Dr. Ophira Gamliel: "The Lost Jew Town of Kochi" | 6.30pm IST, 26 April 2022

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The Institute for Social Sciences, Humanities and Oceanic Research (I-SHORE), Kerala, India, is happy to invite you to the fourteenth session of its webinar series "Confluences 2022". This session would be led by Dr. Ophira Gamliel Jammal (School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom) together with Meydad Eliyahu Kallingal (Jerusalem), Yehoshua Eliyahu Palliparambil (Haifa) and Orna Eliyahu Oron (Seattle). The session, scheduled for 26 April at 6.30 pm IST, would contrast the historical evidence of the lost Jew Town of Kochi with the historiographical fallacies that obfuscate their significance. For more details, see the abstract below.

I-SHORE organizes this event in collaboration with the Union Christian College, Aluva. Dr. Jenee Peter from its Department of History would chair and moderate the session.

To attend, please register at ishorekerala@gmail.com

Abstract: The Jewish heritage of Kochi is associated with a single synagogue of the Paradesi or “White” Jews of Mattancherry, while two other synagogues dated 1344 and 1489 respectively are erased from the history and the urban landscape of the town. One of these synagogues, the Kadavumbhagam Synagogue in Marakkadavu was subject to neglect and decay, gradually dismantled of its furnishings, until its façade collapsed in September 2019. The other, Tekkumbhagam Synagogue, was razed to the ground sometime around the migration of its community members to Israel in the late 1950s. The cemeteries of these two communities did met a similar fate; tombstones were scattered, the burial grounds transformed into residential built areas, and only one grave still standing, that of the poet saint Namya Mutta (Nehemia Ben Abraham). This state of affairs begs the question of why some monuments are well preserved and cherished while others are neglected and destroyed. Moreover, the inscriptional evidence recorded and discovered in these two synagogues was belittled, dismissed, and ignored in the conventional historiography of Kochi Jews, erasing the historical significance of these two communities in favour of the historical ‘ghosts’ of a lost Jewish kingdom called Shingly (Kodungallur), and a mystery synagogue allegedly burnt by Tipu Sultan.

The presentation aims at contrasting the material and inscriptional evidence of the lost Jew Town of Kochi with the historiographical fallacies that obfuscate their significance. We argue that 1) these fallacies are rooted in the colonial period and the ethnocentric and biased records it produced, 2) their orientalist biases still block the production of evidence-based history of Kerala Jews, and 3) Kerala Jewish history is crucial for constructing the history of Jewish networks in Indian Ocean maritime history.