Neveh Shalome Synagogue is the oldest synagogue to be built in Kolkata. After an overwhelming visit to the Magen David Synagogue, we ventured for the other two synagogues of Kolkata. The Neveh Shalome Synagogue was built by Shalom Obaida-Ha-Cohen in 1831 in the memory of his father Shalom Ha-Cohen. The Neveh Shalome is not as ornate and magnificent as the Magen David Synagogue which is situated right beside it. The entry to the synagogue is through a domed arch whose door is now hidden by the myriads of shops in front of the gate.
The Neveh Shalome synagogue was a simple prayer hall and was demolished in 1884 and the Magen David Synagogue was built. But in 1910, the synagogue was rebuilt by the Calcutta Jewish community beside the Magen David Synangogue. The prayer hall was kept simple and soon services resumed in this synagogue too.
But post Indian independence in 1947 and the formation of Jewish state Israel in 1948, the number of Jews in Kolkata diminished rapidly. With diminishing numbers, service gradually stopped in the synagogues and they were left in neglect. In the 2000, the Beth El and the Magen david Synagogue were declared heritage sites by Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and brought under the wings of the ASI. But the Neveh Shalome did not come under the heritage tag and remain neglected. It was later the Jewish community of Kolkata took the onus to restore the Synagogue.
The Neveh Shalome synagogue consists of a simple prayer hall with rows of seating arrangements for congregation. Like the other synagogues, this also has an upper floor where there is an altar for marriage ceremony called “Hoopa”. The Jewish marriages were solemnized here. Our guide Masood informed us that the last marriage that took place here was in 1982!
Like the other synagogues, Neveh Shalome also has a central raised platform and an altar. The Torah (religious text of the Jews) which was kept in Neveh Shalome has long been taken to Israel. Masood informs us that general services and Sabbath are no longer held, but the community tries to meet on special occasions like the Jewish New Year.
With the decreasing Jewish community, their culture and heritage are also on decline. The onus is on the people of other community to keep their rich culture and tradition alive among ourselves.