Cochin Jew - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. In India the Cochin Jews mainly engaged in petty trading in the towns in which they lived on the Malabar Coast. In general, the "White" Jews enjoyed a higher standard of living and included among their ranks several merchants, including international spice merchants, and professionals (lawyers, engineers, teachers, and physicians).

In Israel, the Cochin Jews are largely employed in agriculture. The first groups of these Jews to arrive in Israel were herded from place to place; in an early attempt to isolate them (from fear of contagious diseases) they were taken to outlying moshavim (agricultural settlements) such as Nevatim in the south. Their attempts to make a success out of Nevatim failed. By 1962, when a Jewish Agency Settlement Studies Centre sociologist conducted a survey of the moshav, he described the situation as one of "failure" and "economic and social crisis" expressing itself in declining output and emigration from the moshav.

Trade. In the 1970s, however, Nevatim turned into a thriving moshav, producing avocados, olives, citrus fruits, pecans, cotton, potatoes, flowers, and chickens. Today, Nevatim (with 571 Cochinis in 1982) is only one of fifteen successful Cochini moshavim. Some of these, such as Mesillat Zion near Beit Shemesh (174 Cochin Jews), are populated by a majority of Cochin Jews; while others, such as Fedia (27 Cochin Jews) and Tarom (23), are heterogeneous.

Division of Labor. In Cochin men usually had small shops selling sundry goods. These were located on the verandas of their houses. The women were engaged in domestic pursuits. In Israel men have now adopted many professional or clerical jobs.

Land Tenure. Due to lack of land on the moshav and new aspirations on the part of the younger generation, an expanding urban sector of Cochin Jews is increasingly making itself felt. "Pockets" of Cochin Jews can be found in the Ramat Eliahu neighborhood of Rishon Lezion and in Jerusalem, Ashdod, and other towns, where they are employed in white-collar and skilled occupations.


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