The Jews of Cochin, a port city in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala, trace their history to the time of King Solomon, although most scholars believe Jews did not arrive there at least until the 1st century CE. Today, only about 40 Jews remain in Kerala, but their descendants in Israel are keeping their customs alive. Bala Menon writes:
Recorded history shows that Jews were present in Kerala in 849 CE: Hebrew names were engraved on copper plates granted by a Kerala Hindu king . . . to Syrian Christian settlers. . . . The Jews signed these . . . plates as witnesses. . . .
In 1000 CE, the emperor of Kerala . . . issued two copper plates to a Jewish merchant [by the name of] Issappu Irrappan (Joseph Rabban), believed to be of Yemenite descent. The plates conferred on the Jewish community 72 proprietary rights equivalent to those held by the . . . the nobles of Malabar.
Today, there are several flourishing Cochini moshavim [semi-collective farming communities] in Israel. . . . One, Mesilat Tsion, boasts signs like Reḥov Cochin and Reḥov Malabar (reḥov means “street” in Hebrew) dating to the early 1950s. . . . Moshav Nevatim also boasts a beautiful Cochini synagogue. The interior is a copy of the Kadavumbhagam synagogue [in Kerala] and the holy ark and the Torah scrolls were all brought from various synagogues in Cochin.
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