Kerala’s oldest Jewish synagogue crumbles due to negligence and rain

Kochi: The Kadavumbhagom synagogue in Mattanchery, collapsed down after heavy rains last night. One of the oldest synagogues in Kerala, the structure was neglected by the State government and the current owner, which led to the destruction of one of the symbols of cosmopolitan life of Kerala since distant past.

The Kadavumbhagom synagogue is believed to have been constructed in 1200 AD and was used for worship till 1956.

The history of the synagogue begins with the migration of Malabar Jews or the ‘Black Jews’ who migrated from Northern Kerala after the war between Chola and Cranganore.

The synagogue was built on the land, gifted by the King of Cochin to the younger son of Joseph Rabban, a prominent Jewish aristocrat in Kerala. Even the name ‘Mattancherry comes from the word ‘mattan’ which means gift in Hebrew and ‘cherry’ which refers to settlement in Malayalam.

Joseph Rabban’s eldest son had built another synagogue Ernakulam. Fortunately, that synagogue has been restored to its former glory by Elias Josephai, one of the last surviving Malabar Jews of Kochi.

The Malabar Jews or the Black Jews were always at odds with the ‘White Jews’ who migrated from Spain and Portugal during the 15th and 16th centuries. Interestingly, both the Jewish people had separate synagogues and also hosted their festivities at different times.

However, the heyday of the Jewish settlement in Kochi has dwindled down over the centuries, especially in the last century. Most of the Jews migrated to Israel after the nation was formed in 1948.

Currently, the Black Jews number around 22 while the White Jews are only 10.

Quoting reports, Josephai, who had restored the Ernakulam synagogue said that had the Archaeological division of the state’s government had given due attention then it would have still stood as a proud marker of the city’s melting-pot.

It is unfortunate that the Kadavumbhagom synagogue was neglected at the same time when the synagogue built by White Jews in 1568 still attracts tourists.


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