Page 4 - CochinBrochure

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Early photograph of
Malabar Jews
Malayalam, English, Hebrew primer
[©Zeev Radovan,
or manara in Jewish Malayalam, in front of
the synagogue heichal (Ark) for the Torah
scrolls, the holiest books of the Jews. The
scrolls were displayed throughout the holiday
with their silver and gold covers, adorned
with jasmine garlands.
Social life was built around the community
(yogam) and the extended family. All the
Jewish children in Chennamangalam, boys
and girls alike, attended the Talmud Torah
(school for reading, writing and Torah), located on the upper floor of the
During the twentieth century, Jewish
children from Chennamangalam
started attending high schools outside
the village; a number become
educated both in Malayalam and in
the English medium, and also
attended university. The renowned
playwright Dr. Pinhas ben Abraham
Pallivathukal (1937–1989), born in
the village, was the son of the hazan
(cantor) at the synagogue.
The Malabar Jews never suffered from any anti–Semitism and always
experienced religious tolerance. A 1955 Kerala State Education Department
memorandum to the Jewish Youth Organisation in Chennamangalam
officially declared that all the Jewish holidays were to be observed in the
departmental calendar. It stated that: "The
Director of Public Instruction... [has] also been
informed that the Jewish pupils and teachers may
be granted special leave on all Saturdays which
are working days."
The Jewish community in Chennamangalam was
always minuscule, even in relation to the Jewish
community on the Malabar coast. In 1848, 164
Jews were recorded in Chennamangalam out of a
total number of 1,344 Cochin Jews. By 1857,
another observer stated that 65 Jews were residing
in Chennamangalam out of a total of 1,790; only
three years later, in 1860, the Jewish emissary