Address by Governor 175th anniversary celebrations of the Shaare Rason Synagogue,
Address by Shri CH. Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Maharashtra at the 175th anniversary celebrations of the Shaare Rason Synagogue, to be held at Magen David Synagogue, Sir J J Road, Opp. Richardson & Cruddas, Byculla, Mumbai at 1730 hrs on Sunday, 13 January 2019
Captain Yaakov Finkelstein, Consul General of Israel in Mumbai, Rabbi Ya’aqob Menasseh, Rabbi Romiel Daniel, Mr Solomon Sopher, President of the India Jewish Congress, Mr Judah David Samuel, President of Shaare Rason Synagogue, Miss Sinora Kolatkar, Honorary Manager, Trustees, all distinguished invitees from India and abroad, members of the Jewish community, invitees, ladies and gentlemen,
I am indeed delighted to associate myself with the 175th anniversary celebrations of the Shaare Rason Synagogue in our beloved city of Mumbai. I understand that because of constraints of space, we couldn’t host the function in the premises of Shaare Rason.
Nevertheless, I am extremely happy to visit this grand and majestic Magen David Synagogue.
In the Indian cultural traditions, people believe that performing the pilgrimage to 4 major places of worship or ‘Char Dham Yatra’ helps one in attaining salvation.
So far I have not been able to visit the Char Dhams of Hinduism, namely, Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram.
But during my four years in Maharashtra, I have visited four major Synagogues in Maharashtra. So, in a way I have completed the Char Dham Yatra of the holiest Jewish places. I think my salvation is guaranteed !!
Sisters and Brothers,
I was impressed to note that the Shaare Rason Synagogue was built by members of the Bene Israeli community by contributing every single penny from their own pocket.
Completion of 175 years by the Synagogue is therefore a moment of immense pride, joy and celebration for the entire Jewish community worldwide, the Jewish Community of India and particularly the Bene Israeli community of Maharashtra and Israel.
At the same time, this is a moment of happiness for the people of Mumbai, the people of Maharashtra and for the people of India.
Celebration of one seventy five years by a Synagogue is a tribute to India’s age old culture and tradition of respecting every faith and every religion.
I rejoice with each one of you and congratulate the President and Trustees of the Synagogue and all members of the Jewish community and particularly the Bene Israeli community on this glorious occasion.
I extend my heartiest congratulations to my esteemed friend Mr Solomon Sopher on being conferred the Life Time Achievement Award on behalf of the World Jewish Congress.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Shaare Rason synagogue is only the second oldest Bene Israel Synagogues in India which was built in the year 1843.
History informs us that the Bene Israeli community is probably the only Jewish community in the world today which did not experience any discrimination or hatred on account of their religion.
It is said that the Bene Israeli community came to India thousands of years ago facing all difficulties. However, this land of India offered them the freedom to practice Judaism and develop as a community.
To the supreme credit of the Bene Israelis, members of the community assimilated with the Maharashtrian society in a spirit of perfect harmony and brotherhood. Members of the community adopted Indian surnames and yet retained a separate sense of their own identity.
Even though Jews came to India at different points of time, they never thrust their ideology on the people. Like the Parsis of India, the Jews have made multifarious contributions to India. This contribution by the Jews is disproportionately high compared to their very small size of population.
The Baghdadi Jewish family of David Sassoons has left an indelible imprint of their philanthropic work in the city of Mumbai, Pune and elsewhere.
The David Sassoon Library in Mumbai, the Sassoon High School, the Sassoon Hospital in Pune, the Sassoon Dock, the Masina Hospital, the Gateway of India, the Flora Fountain and many other landmarks and public institutions owe their existence to the generous financial help extended by the Sassoons.
Even after 150 years of their establishment, many of these institutions are rendering matchless service to society.
In the last decade of the 19th Century, a young Jewish scientist, Dr Waldemar Haffkine came to Mumbai from Russia and set up today’s Haffkine Institute. He was instrumental in developing vaccines against cholera and plague. Through his work, he saved the lives of several thousand people – Hindus, Muslims and others. A postage stamp was issued by the Government of India in memory of Dr Haffkine. Likewise, there were many members of the Jewish community who made their mark in trade, commerce, business, film industry, education, medicine and so on.
I venture to say that the history of Mumbai and Maharashtra would be incomplete without a reference to the sterling contributions of the Jewish community to India.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When I reflect on this issue, I feel sad that that this wonderful Jewish community is constantly shrinking in terms of numbers. Today, there are less than 5,000 Jews left in India. Without sounding boastful, I would like to mention that I made sincere efforts in getting minority status to the Jewish Community in Maharashtra by the government.
The minority status will help the members to preserve and protect their distinct identity and cultural traditions. It will also extend to them benefits of various governmental schemes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Jews of India are goodwill ambassadors of India in strengthening our relations with Israel. Since 1992, the year diplomatic relations between India and Israel were established, our political, commercial and cultural relations have been growing stronger. The Hon’ble Prime Minister of India was accorded warmest welcome in Israel. Likewise, the Prime Minister of Israel was extended heartiest welcome by our prime minister Shri Narendra Modi. Needless to say, both countries have a lot to benefit from mutual cooperation in areas like education, agriculture research, defence cooperation, water management, enterprise and innovation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Jews are indeed the jewels of India. However, outside Mumbai and a few other districts, very few people are aware of the Jewish community, its customs and traditions and its contributions to various walks of life.
I personally feel that there should be a separate chapter about the Jews of India and their contribution to nation building, in our school textbooks at the higher secondary level.
This, I am sure, will enhance the understanding of the people about the Jews and their contributions to nation building.
Before I conclude, let me assure you, that the gates of Raj Bhavan shall always remain open for all of you. You are also welcome to organize your important cultural programmes in Raj Bhavan.
Once again, I convey my warm felicitations to all of you, gathered here in this beautiful Synagogue to commemorate the 175 years of the Shaare Rason Synagogue. I thank each one of you for inviting me to rejoice with you at this historic occasion.
Jai Hind ! Jai Maharashtra !!