These two books provide richly illustrated descriptions of the varied and fascinating history of the very small Jewish populations in India. Both touch only briefly on the groups with the longest tenure, the Bnei Israel and the Jews living in Cochin. In Western Jews in India, Kenneth X. Robbins and Marvin Tokayer concentrate on the various contributions of Western Jews, most of whom were sojourners or made contributions without actually living there for long periods of time. For the most part, they were scattered and did not create long- lasting communities and either assimilated or converted to Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism. The earliest were refugees from the Spanish and Portuguese expulsions. Western Jews in India describes the role of Jewish soldiers and officials from the British Empire. More recently, three Jewish architects (Lewis Kahn, Moshe Safdie, and Sidney Epstein) designed major buildings in the subcontinent. The book includes many photographs from the extensive collection of Dr. Robbins, who wrote most of the individual articles.
Shaul Sapir’s Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage describes the Baghdadis who arrived in the nineteenth century and prospered in trading and the emerging textile industry. Most lived in present-day Mumbai. Sapir includes information and photos on various communal institutions, focusing on the built environment rather than their culture, customs, and lives. Several families — most notably the Sassons — prospered and established a broad array of communal institutions described and illustrated in the book.
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