THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Hehakam Premdoss Swamidoss, born as S Premdoss, flew to Jerusalem in 1986 for a three-month course on the Jewish Holy Scriptures ‘Thorah’ and ‘Thalmud’ at Yeshibat Hamidtar, a Jewish Theological Seminary. “My Nadar Christian parents wondered why I was taking in so much of effort to study the Jewish religion,” says Premdoss, a practising Advocate at Neyyattinkara.
Born in a protestant Christian family at Kanjiramkulam, Premdoss was brought up in accordance to the practices of his faith. The Bible classes at the Church taught him that Jesus was born a Jew and he learnt more about the faith in school and college. With every titbit he gathered about the community the more curious he became and he began to question his own faith. “Time convinced me that my true calling was to be a Jew,” says Premdoss.
As a youngster, Premdoss joined the Law Academy at Thiruvananthapuram. The interest to know more about Jews was still strong in his mind. He began to learn Hebrew with the help of linguaphone (a group that helps self-study of languages) and the assistance of a Jewish friend Jackie Cohen who was the ‘Shammash’ (caretaker) of the Kochi Synagogue at Fort Kochi. By then, he was all prepared to convert to Judaism.
After completing his studies, he decided to go on a study tour to Israel. “There, I got to meet people who belonged to the community which I had already begun to adore. I went to see places known for their significance in Jewish history,” says Premdoss. Israel seemed like his second home as he had Jewish friends there who had migrated from Kochi.
One of them, Shabbad Yitzhaq from Kochi, took him around and ushered him into the Jewish society. Following his three-month stay, he returned to his hometown Kanjiramkulam and visited fellow Jews in Kochi to celebrate the seven festivals of Jews.
On his first visit to Kochi after returning from Israel, he converted from Christianity to Judaism. “It was in 1986. Three rituals are to be followed before conversion; ‘Circumcision’, ‘Tebilah’ (baptism) and ‘Brithmilah’ by which the converted-to-be is called upon to read the Holy Torah at the Synagogue. After this, a conversion certificate was issued to me by the authorities of the Kochi Synagogue,” says Premdoss.
He visited Israel once again in 1994.
As a converted Jew it was not easy for him to find a bride in Kerala. He married a Protestant girl Usha Ponnamma as per the laws of the Special Marriage Act, who converted to Judaism after marriage. They have a daughter Betty Bath Yahudi who religiously follows the Jewish faith.
The small Jewish family, though well-versed in Hebrew language, speaks Malayalam at home. He has built ‘Deithkelesseth Israel’, a Synagogue at Kanjiramkulam, where the family offer prayers three times a day.