City Jews Ring in their New Year


Mumbai, Sep 30: Synagogues across the city have donned a festive look to usher in the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

The metropolitan’s 4,500-strong Jewish community started the celebrations on Monday September 29 evening, which would continue till Wednesday.

After having spent a month of repentance (Elul), Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish calendar. It is a time when the Jews seek spiritual renewal through prayer and deep personal reflection, remember God and get together with family and friends.

Many Jews believe this is the day of judgment. "The idea is to repent and get rid of all our sins. There are several restrictions during these two days. We don’t go to work, don’t travel extensively,’’ said Sharon Galsurkar of Byculla.

"We have prayers in the synagogue during the day and, in the evening, we will pray by the sea. This is to wash away all our sins and seek forgiveness,’’ he pointed out.

Many of the city’s Jews, around 2,000, belong to the Bene Israel community. They migrated to the Konkan coast 2,000 years ago. Genetic testing has linked the Bene Israelis to the priestly class in Israel.

Locally, they were known as the Shanwar Teli because their traditional occupation was to press out oil. They are Marathi speakers and have a Jewish family name as well as a surname from the village they come from.

The other main Jewish community in the city is the Baghdadi Jews, who emigrated from Iraq in the 19th century.

Trade baron David Sassoon, after whom the Sassoon docks have been named, belonged to this community.


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