Mumbai: A Jewish Indian Reflects

Monday, December 15, 2008

As the first Indian to head a U.S. synagogue, Romiel Daniel, president of the Rego Park Jewish Center, will talk about the tragedy in Mumbai, his hometown.


Romiel Daniel

Comments [16]

Sneha from India


I agree with the fact that the huge population in India did not notice the small number of Jews that Lived in India, as a common India, we came to know about the 'Nariman house' and the rabbi stayed there, (who was killed by the terrorists on 26/11). Jews , unlike Hindus , who had a very bad time during the Mughal regime have always fought for their own land. We Hindus must learn from them. Bravo Jews

Feb. 03 2009 06:52 AM
Shahin Khalisdar from NYC

I am very happy to say that I am Muslim and we Muslim saved the Indian Jews from Shiv Sena and today these disgraceful so-called Jews killing my fellow brothers. It is a disgrace that we Muslim protected the Jews from Hindu and Christian.

Jan. 18 2009 06:16 PM
Mikey from Staten Island, NY

3. The caste system in India allowed the Indian Jews to preserve their religious heritage and be left alone--they were merely one of hundreds of castes and sub-castes. Another large country in Asia that hosted a Jewish community in the past (and a renewed Jewish community in the present) was China--just like in India, the Jews of China never suffered any persecution or discrimination as Jews. Just as in India, the Chinese Jews were numerically insignificant in a country with a huge population. However, Jews in China were completely isolated from other Jews in the rest of the world (just as the Bene Israel community of the Konkan coast were for many centuries). But--there was no Indian-type caste system in China. The ancestors of the Bene Israel who arrived in India may have initially intermarried with the locals to a certain extent and adopted some of their customs as well as their language--and then they stopped marrying out and remained unto themselves as their own endogamous caste, thereby preserving their Judaism in isolation from other Jews in a sea of Hindus and Muslims. (The Chinese Jews of Kaifeng by comparison, were equally isolated from other Jews, but did not live in a caste-conscious society and nearly assimilated completely and today there is only a dim awareness among some Chinese people in that city that they are descended from Jews.)

Dec. 15 2008 08:55 PM
Mikey from Staten Island, NY

Some other thoughts re: Indian Jews.

Although Mr. Daniel was correct in stressing that Jews have always enjoyed hospitality in India during their nearly 2,000 year sojourn in that land, and have never been subject to pogroms and persecutions there, I believe I can offer some reasons why that is the case.

1. The Jewish community has always been a teardrop in the ocean of India's teeming humanity--the vast majority of their Indian countrymen have been oblivious to their presence. At their height, they numbered only about 30,000--today they are lass than 5,000 in a country of more than one billion.

2. The major sectarian differences causing violence in India has been between Hindus and Muslims in recent centuries (although there has been strife between Sikhs and other Indians as well)--the Indian Jews were always neutral in these conflicts.

Dec. 15 2008 08:54 PM
Mikey from Staten Island, NY

It was nice to hear the interview with Cantor Daniel, who is a member of the Bene Israel community, many of whose members I was privileged to know when I lived in Israel. However, I was concerned when Cantor Daniel seemed at pains to say that being Jewish is just a religion, while being Indian is his nationality. Many Jews do consider Jewishness to be a form of nationhood, and regard all Jews, whether their ancestors were exiled to Germany, Yemen, Iraq or India to be members of the same nation, despite absorbing cultural influences from their host nations and mixing to a certain extent with the populations of their host nations. Because Jews have retained national feelings and aspirations, we regained sovereignty in our homeland, Israel. I believe that Mr. Daniel does not speak for all the Bene Israel Jewish community of India, most of whom have left India for Israel in the past several decades (as Mr Daniel acknowledged), despite the fact that they are no doubt grateful for all India has given them and proud of the Indian culture they were privileged to be a part of. Zionist feelings continue to run strong in the Indian Jewish communities and many continue to emigrate to Israel, where there are large numbers of Indian Jews in towns such as Dimona, Yeroham, Beersheva and Ramla.

Dec. 15 2008 08:48 PM
EDG from Westchester NY

Where is the Romiel Daniel CD available for purchase?

Dec. 15 2008 08:37 PM
Ash in Manhattan from Manhattan

I sent this comment earlier. Somehow, however, it mysteriously disappeared. So, here it is again (or words to the same effect):

Brain wondered why the Jews in Indian have not had the awful anti-semitic experience the Jews in Europe has had. I think it may be because according to my own research (I am not a Jew or Jewish), many feel that one of the main reasons for anti-semitism among Christians (and I am NOT a Christian or any other kind of believer) is their belief that their Jesus Christ was killed by Jews. Since India is largely Hindu and Muslim, they would NOT be as concerned about who killed this man and would therefore not harbor any hatred or resentment towards Jews because of it.

Dec. 15 2008 12:58 PM
Peter from Sunset Park

It is so nice to hear people talking about Jews without having to hear about how much everyone dislikes Israel for being strong and moral.

Dec. 15 2008 12:37 PM
Milos from Queens

The snippet of cantorial music from Mr. Daniel's CD was very moving. To hear Hebrew sung with an "Indian accent," in the Indian style with Indian instrumentation touched me very deeply. Mr. Daniel is technically correct was he says that Indian is his nationality and Jewish is his religion, but I think we both know that Jewish identity transcends religious practice. I'm a non-religious Ashkenazy Jew, but when I heard that music it sounded like home to me.

Dec. 15 2008 12:30 PM
hjs from 11211

could the answer to BL's question "why are jews accepted in india" be, because the hindus and muslims are to busy killing each other to notice a few jews living among them?

Dec. 15 2008 12:00 PM
O from Manhattan

Thanks for a great segment.

If you are curious about the Mumbai Jewish community you might enjoy a recent Penguin book THE GIRL FROM FOREIGN by Sadia Shepard.

Dec. 15 2008 11:57 AM
chandra Mettapalli from Forest Hills, NY``

What kind of Hindu Influence/s has changed in your practices in India.
Chandra Mettapalli

Dec. 15 2008 11:54 AM
M from Brooklyn

Please ask the guest what the split is between jews who have migrated to India in antiquity, vs those who have converted and are now indigenous-blooded jewish converts.

Dec. 15 2008 11:50 AM

Brian, there's also a real problem hearing your callers today!

Dec. 15 2008 11:49 AM
Priya from Brooklyn

I think Americans tend to see the world in very black and white terms, and fail to understand the complexity and variety of life outside their borders. India is a very diverse country teaming with a great variety of religious groups. Jews living in India have lived relatively peaceful lives over the centuries, so have Christians. And there are a number of communities throughout the country.

Globalization is an ancient idea, trade brought people and ideas to a number of different places, it just took a little longer.

Dec. 15 2008 11:12 AM
O from Forest Hills

Shalom, Mr. Daniel. Welcome to the program!

Thank you, Brian, for showing that you don't have to be white to be Jewish.

I myself have been considering converting to Judaism.

Dec. 15 2008 11:02 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.