KOCHI: Though the Jewish settlement in Kochi is known the world over and its history in the Malabar Coast dates back to 5000 years, there is very little awareness about the customs and traditions zealously preserved and followed by the community, says Elias Josephai, one of the few Jews left in the country. “We staunchly follow our rules and that’s why we could retain our history and traditions for centuries,” Josephai said, while talking during the ‘Abhimukham’, an endeavour by Sahapedia, an online initiative to revive the Indian arts and traditions, organised at Kadavumbagham Synagogue at Mather Bazar, Kochi, on Friday.
Throwing more light on the subject, he elaborated on many of the customs strictly followed by the community over the centuries. “There are rules and laws for everything including washing, bathing, cooking. As far as food is concerned, we do not take meat and milk together. But they can be taken separately after a gap of three hours. Most importantly, the vessels used to store these items should be washed separately,” he said. Known as Babu locally, Josephai is one of the last handfuls of Jews left in Kerala. He is the current custodian of the Kadavumbagam Synagogue at Mather Bazaar in Kochi. His family left for Israel in the '1970s while he chose to stay back to watch over the synagogue.
During the ‘Shabbat’, Jews do not work or even cook food. “It’s the day of rest. In olden days, there used to be a kerosene stove which is usually warm and we keep food which has already prepared on it and this kept it warm, he said. The programme was organised as part of IHWF 2018, collaborated by Sahapedia and YES Culture, the cultural division of YES Global Institute to encourage citizens to explore the tangible and intangible heritage of their cities and towns. In the backdrop of a diminishing Jewish community in the city, Elias seeks to explore the history of Jewish settlement in Kerala through his own personal narratives as one of the last few Jews in the state.