vendredi 29 novembre 2013

JEWS OF MALABAR, CHANUKKIA AMONG THE AMERICAN INDIANS

JEWS OF MALABAR, A MAKE DO MENORAH AND THE CHANUKKIAH LAMP AMONG THE INDIANS
This invitation arrived from Cochin, India today:


As the Jewish community is dwindling in Malabar, more and more interest is taken by sympathetic and kind Hindu and Christian souls. I was particularly gratified to see that the exhibition would be displayed at Ethnic Passage, a gallery, antique store, book store and café strategically located just in front of the Synagogue in Jew Town in Mattanchery in Cochin.
Yet another reason for my glee. The owner of Ethnic Passage, an erudite Christian from a prominent local family, opened a bookstore because he wanted to see his favourite books on display. Thus this bookstore is not as commercial as the other ones which cater to the tourists or those who want picture books of Kerala or Kathakali.
I entered the book store, at that time in various stages of construction, and talked to the man behind the counter. After an interesting conversation, when I was told that the bookstore is the pet project of the owner, I left a 5 peso Cuban currency, with a note to the owner that I had been impressed. Soon the counter clerk returned to say that the owner wished to see me. He kindly returned the 5 peso note and told me that if he accepted this gift that would infringe certain archaic tax laws of Indian government.
Thus began a long friendship with Mr RN, and wonderful evenings at various clubs in Ernakulam and long chats at his office over milky teas.
As soon as India institutes Visa on Arrival, you can expect me to fly into Cochin either via Doha on Qatar or via Kuala Lumpur on Malaysian Airways.
Tonight is the first night of Chanukkah, rather early by the usual standards. I had to make do with a hand drawn menorah but I had enough dreidls of all sorts to make a decoration. Thus I could remind myself that tonight, these very same rituals would be repeated from homes from Auckland to Asuncion and in remote communities such as Cochin, Yangon, La Habana, Kingston where I would actually know some of the participants!
Shalom Bear had travelled here from Miami as a gift of Auntie Greta, the Koala and Kangaroo came courtesy of Qantas from Auntie Sandra in Melbourne.

Then I remembered, there are Cochin Chanukkia lamps in the Blue House among the Indians, and I have to make sure that next year I should use it!


For a moment, the universal connection of my people becomes clear to me. A strong connection is felt all across this universe, and this connection is what American Indians would define as part of Spirituality. For a group of people not that well known for their religiousness, the connection to the history if palapable.
This celebration is not religious, it is not mentioned in the Bible but it did happen during the Hellenic occupation of Israel during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. It is to be grateful for the victory of a small band of guerrilla fighters led by Yehuda Macabee against the might of Greek Empire in the East.
As I was writing this, I felt the winds from Yangon and Cochin, La Habana and Kingston, Melbourne and Buenos Aires, blowing my way. I even made up a ditty as I spun the dreidl…