Neveh Shalome Synagogue Kolkata

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.

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The gateway of the synagogue

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.

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Sacred altar in the Synagogue

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.

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The Prayer Hall

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!

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The Rabbi preaches from here

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.

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The simple prayer hall of the Synagogue

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.

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A view of the Neveh Shalome from the Magen David Synagogue

KOLKATA – My city, My way

Victoria Memorial

Kolkata – is my city. I was born here, put my first step on its streets, ran about in its alleys as a child, and made some very good friends in all these years of my life. Spirit of Kolkata inspires me. I am alive in its vibrant colour, cacophony of sound, its variety street food and colourful festivals. Kolkata is truly my city.

My City My Way

Kolkata has its share of shortcomings too. Very candidly called the “city of Bandhs, lockouts and rallies.” Yes the weather is quite oppressive as complained by my cousins from Mumbai & Pune. The local trains do not run on time. The conditions of buses are not at all good. The people indulge in long adda sessions (Rock Baji). In fact the last few months have seen Kolkata in all kinds of wrong news.

But there is something about Kolkata which is inexplicable. The city is called “the city of joy”. Happiness, joy, pride is interwoven in Kolkatans. A city which is so conversant in both the spectrums – be its arts and classics or that of the sports, Kolkatans do everything with passion!

Kolkata is known for a few special things. You cannot imagine Bengalis without their football. The football fields get lively whenever there is an East Bengal- Mohunbagan Match. The Ghoti – Bangal row among the Bengalis is equally amusing. And the Bengali’s love for Rabindranath Tagore is well known and they simply idolise Dada (Sourav Ganguly)  .

 To me Kolkata is my home. Many times I have been frustrated with the city, been angry at it; but could never abandon it, while being away from it. We thus present the best of Kolkata – why we love it so much.

The best of Kolkata for you in a series of posts…