The Bene Israel (Sons of Israel)

Frank Conlon conlon at
Tue Apr 26 06:33:20 UTC 1994

Among the items you might want to examine:

Joan G. Roland, The Jews of British India: Identity in a Colonial Era 
(Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England for Brandeis University 
Press, 1989).

Schifra Strizower, The Children of Israel: The Bene Israel of Bombay 
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1971).

Haeem Samuel Kehimkar, The History of the Bene Israel of India  (Tel 
Aviv: Dayag Press, 1937)

Benjamin J. Israel, The Bene Israel of India (New York, 1984)

Benjamin J. Israel, Religious Evolution among the Bene Israel of India 
since 1750  )Bombay, 1963)

Shirley B. Isenberg, India's Bene Israel: A Comprehensive 
Inquiry...(Berkeley: J. L. Magnes Museum, 1988)  

Moses Ezekiel, History and Culture of the Bene Israel in India (Bombay, 

Shellim Samuel, Treatise on the Origin and Early History of the 
Beni-Israel of Maharashtra (Bombay, 1963)

Thomas A. Timberg, ed., Jews in India (New Delhi: Vikas, 1986)

Carl Gussin, Bene Israel of India: Political, Religious and Systematic 
Change (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Syracuse University, 1972).

Ezekial Barber, The Bene-Israel of India: Images and reality (Washington: 
University Press of America, 1981)

It is a most interesting community, although many of its members now 
reside in Israel.  For very up-to-date insights on the present condition 
of the Bene Israel in Israel, contact Professor Joan Roland at Pace 

Indologists may note with interest that the Shanwar Teli 
(Saturday Oilmen, or Oil pressers), as they were known in rural 
Maharashtra's Konkan coast, owed some share of their rediscovery as Jews 
to the efforts of the Reverend John Wilson and others who were doing 
their orientalist shtick in Bombay in the early nineteenth century.

The community seemed to be eroding through emigration entirely out of India 
to Israel during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.  In Israel a number of them 
prospered, but faced discrimination, sometimes subtle, sometimes blatent, 
and they had eventually to fight a political battle to be recognized as 
Jews in instances of marriage with other ethnic groups.

Professor Roland tells me that with Bombay's economic growth and the 
relative stagnation of opportunity in Israel, it appears that the Bene 
Israel population in Bombay city, at least, has stabilized.

When I was last in Bombay, I was told by a Cochin Jewish friend that the 
Bene Israel still had two synagogues where sufficient numbers permitted 
regular services.

That should get you started.

Frank Conlon
Dept. of History
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195

On Tue, 26 Apr 1994, Bob King - ligi355 at wrote:

> 	Can anyone supply me with a few "get-started" references on the
> Jewish community called the "Bene Israel" ("Sons of Israel")?  They are
> the oldest Jewish community in India and still, apparently, the largest
> (says Stanley Wolpert, India).  They are a Maharashtrian jati of 
> oil pressers.
> Robert D. King


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