KOCHI: The Jew Street in Mattanchery resounded with Hebrew greetings yet again when around 200 Jews, the descendants of those who used to live in Kochi, arrived from all across the world at the Paradesi Synagogue to celebrate its 450th anniversary.
“It is not a formal function. It is a family gathering. A reunion of everyone who has a connection with not only the synagogue but also the city,” said David Hallegua, a member of the Cochin Synagogue Trust.
According to David, the organisers had been expecting only around 100 or so to come down for the function. But lot of requests came and some even arrived without notifying since it is being considered a family reunion,” he said. As soon as the clock struck 3 in the evening, people began pouring in, some attired formally while others chose Indian costumes.
“People have come from Canada, the US, England, Israel and Australia for the three-day event. We have representation from nearly all the generations. The youngest is an infant while the oldest is 87-year-old,” said Kenneth who is based in Canada. Kenneth had left for Canada after completing his studies in 1987 but is a frequent visitor.
In the case of Deborah Koder, 58, who now lives in Manchester, this visit is a trip which has a special goal. “I was born in England where my father migrated to. I grew up hearing stories about Kochi, the Synagogue and the culture of Kerala. I had come down around 35 years ago to visit some relatives. This time around I have come with my son Sam and husband, who are making their first visit to Kochi. My father wanted to come. But he is 98 now and is not in a condition to travel,” she said. So, she has decided to capture everything on camera and present it to her father to help him get a ringside view of present-day Kochi.
“Jew Street has undergone a dramatic change. It is now bustling with tourists and that is good. It will do the place a lot of good even though the people here don’t approve of it quite,” she said, while taking her son to have a peep into the police aid post which according to her was where her father used to live.
The air was thick with nostalgia as everyone trouped in.
“We didn’t know our initiative, which took a long time to take shape, will attract such attention,” said David as he greeted each and everyone with a hug. Even as the old-timers talked in Malayalam, the youngsters spoke in a mixture of Hebrew and English.
According to Kenneth, this might be the last visit for many of those have a direct connection with the place. “If a function is held after 50 years, nobody in the crowd will have any direct connection with the place and also won’t be speaking Malayalam. We hope that after us, the future generation will keep in touch with the place,” he said.