Cochin Jew - Orientation


The Cochin Jews are one of the smallest Jewish communities in the world. They hail from the Malabar Coast in India and traditionally were divided into two castelike subgroups: "White" and "Black" Jews. Today only thirty Cochin Jews remain in Cochin. The community has mostly been transplanted to Israel, where they continue to retain unique religious customs derived from their origins in Cochin while having integrated successfully into Israeli society.

Location. In India the Cochin Jews lived in several towns along the Malabar Coast in Kerala: Attencammonal, Chenotta, Ernakulam, Mallah, Parur, Chenemangalam, and Cochin. Today some Cochin individuals remain in Parur and Chenemangalam, and a small community of thirty people live in "Jews Town" in Cochin. In Israel the Cochin Jews live Primarily in agricultural settlements such as Nevatim and Mesillat Zion. A minority also live in the towns with small concentrations in Ramat Eliahu, Ashdod, and Jerusalem.

Demography. When the traveler Benjamin of Tudela visited India in about 1170, he reported there were about 1,000 Jews in the south. In 1686 Moses Pereira de Paiva listed 465 Malabar Jews. In 1781 the Dutch governor A. Moens Recorded 422 families or about 2,000 persons. In 1948, 2,500 Jews were living on the Malabar coast. In 1953, 2,400 emigrated to Israel, leaving behind only about 100 "White" Jews on the Malabar Coast. Today, there are only about 250 "White" Jews in existence and as a result of exogamy they are becoming extinct; conversely, the "Black" Jews in Israel are increasing in numbers.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Cochin Jews, like their Neighbors, speak Malayalam, a Dravidian language. In Israel they also speak modern Hebrew.

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