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The Literary Creativity of the Jews of Cochin on the Malabar Coast / יצירתם הספרותית של יהודי קוצ'ין שבחוף מאלאבאר

וולטר י' פישל and W. J. Fischel
Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies / ארץ-ישראל: מחקרים בידיעת הארץ ועתיקותיה
Vol. י‎, ZALMAN SHAZAR VOLUME / ספר זלמן שזר‎ (1971 / תשל"א), pp. 221-225
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23619400
Page Count: 5
Topics: Jewish history
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Literary Creativity of the Jews of Cochin on the Malabar Coast / יצירתם הספרותית של יהודי קוצ'ין שבחוף מאלאבאר
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Abstract

The author outlines the religious patterns of and the conditions under which, the Jews of Cochin and its vicinity on the Malabar Coast lived for many centuries. (We may note that the Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin, built in 1568, partly destroyed by the Portuguese in 1662, and restored in 1664, celebrated its 400th anniversary several years ago!) Hebrew books were constantly imported, mainly from Portugal, and then from Holland, Italy, Yemen and elsewhere. To satisfy the local liturgical and religious needs to the full, however, the Cochin Jews composed Hebrew prayers, poems, piyutim, etc., of their own. The authors were deeply concerned with the self-preservation and survical of their community and therefore geared their efforts mainly towards liturgical poetry, and historical compositions and chronicles. The outstanding figures among them were Ezekiel Rahabi and his son David (d. 1790). They also engaged in the translation of certain Hebrew works, biblical and otherwise, into the local vernacular, Malayalam. The historical consciousness of the Cochin Jews was stimulated by the existence of the famous ancient copper plate inscriptions, engraved in the Tamil language in an archaic script, recording privileges granted to the Jews by the Hindu emperor of Malabar, Bhaskara Ravi Varma. These plates are still preserved at the Paradesi synagogue. Historical accounts of the community were written by local Jews as well as by Europeans. The Cochin Jews were pioneers in their promotion of Hebrew printing in India. Though Hebrew type was first used in 1813 by a Christian missionary press (which discontinued its use several years later), a Jewish work in Hebrew was printed in 1832 at Madras. Cochin Jews also published Hebrew works abroad, especially in Holland, the first appearing in 1757. The first Jewish Hebrew presses in India were at Bombey and Calcutta, in the 1840's, though Cochin Jews, who had immigrated there, were largely responsible for their establishment. A significant point in Hebrew publishing in India was the publication of a Haggada in Hebrew with a Marathi translation, intended for the Bene Israel, printed with illustrations at Bombey in 1846. It was a joint effort of Cochin Jews and members of the Bene Israel community, and was so successful that it was republished several times, the latest edition being that of 1935. The first Hebrew press in Cochin itself was established only in 1877, but was short-lived.

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