This half day excursion is designed to give you insight into the history and development of the Jewish community in India, by visiting an assortment of synagogues and monuments. India's history of Jewish settlement dates back over 2,200 years. During religious persecutions in the time of King Antiochus, a group of Jews escaped to India shipwrecked off the coast of Bombay. The few survivors came ashore, kept the faith, and were unknown to the Jewish world until they were discovered in the 1700s. Today, India's 6,000 Jews are as diverse a population as that of India itself. Your first stop will be at the Shaar Ha-Rahamim (Gate of Mercy) synagogue, built in 1796 by Samuel Ezekiel Divekar. The oldest synagogue in Bombay, the Gate of Mercy belongs to the Bene Israel community and is housed in a tiny, unadorned building situated in the midst of crowded narrow lanes.
The next stop is the largest synagogue in Asia, the Magen David Synagogue built by David Sassoon in 1861. The synagogue was constructed in the spacious style of Victorian architecture, fronted by pillars and a clock tower, and an interior in the style of the Baghdad synagogue. The Baghdadi Jews first arrived from Iraq, Syria, and Iran around 1796, fleeing persecution in their native lands and settling mainly in Bombay, Calcutta and Yangon. They retained their language, Arabic, and maintained a separate cultural identity. Mostly traders and financiers, their contribution to the industrial growth of Bombay is well documented. The most prominent Baghdadi Jew was Sir David Sassoon who established the Indian House of Sassoon in 1832 and paved the way for many other Iraqi Jews in India.
En route back to the downtown district, you'll stop at the Tifereth Synagogue. Started as the Jacob Circle Prayer Hall in 1886, the Synagogue was constructed to accommodate the increase in Jewish population in the area. Then it's on to the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, built by David Sassoon's grandson Jacob Sassoon, in 1884. Considered by many to be the most beautiful synagogue in Mumbai, the structure is outstanding, with stonework on the bottom portion and brick above. The interior is marvelous as well, with decorated pillars, carved marble and a magnificent stained glass arch rising to the high ceiling. You will also visit ORT India, the primary support organization nourishing Jewish life in Mumbai. Here you will see a school and kosher bakery, as well as a short documentary on the life of Sir David Sassoon.
Before returning to the ship, a photo stop will be made at the Gateway of India, Mumbai's foremost landmark, largely financed by David Sassoon.
Please note: This tour includes approzimately 3-hours of moderate walking and there will be some steps to negotiate. The tour is not available to wheelchair guests and those with mobility concerns are cautioned to carefully evaluate their personal level of stamina and ability. Conservative, weather appropriate clothing; sun cap, sunglasses; and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended. You may be asked to remove your shoes before entering the synagogues and women must wear skirts or dresses that reach below the knee. The order of the sights viewed or visited may vary.