India - Synagogue in Mumbai Reopens During Chanukah
Mumbai, India - The Magen David Synagogue in Byculla that was partly shut for repairs will open tomorrow after over a year-and-a-half. December 1 marks the date of the nine-day Chanukah festival of lights that is celebrated by Jews.
The synagogue, largest in the city, was built by the Sasoon dynasty in 1861 for the Baghdadi Jews.
“He built it to ensure that the Baghdadi Jews have a prayer place. They did not join the Bene Israelis for prayers as they felt that Benes’ had come 2,000 years ago and their practices may have diluted,” said Solomon Sopher, chairman and managing trustee of Sir Jacob Sassoon Charity Trust of which the synagogue is a constituent.
David Sasoon purchased land of around 10,000 sq ft where he built the synagogue, which his son expanded in 1910. “Baghdadi Jews were well-to-do and in large numbers unlike now. Now, most have moved to Israel as they were tempted them with offers when Israel gained independence. Jews here feared that the Indian economy was heading towards a communist regime,” added Sopher.
The present renovation cost Rs90 lakh and it was paid by an American Jew Moshe Levy, who is in the city promoting his security business. His company looks after the security of Mumbai airport and nuclear plants in US. Most of the work was painting and fixing leakages of the 149-year-old structure.
“We took up the work when we came to India two years ago. We were exploring the city and my father was pained to see the state of the synagogue. He decided to contribute the money,” said Isaac, Moshe’s son.
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