Address by Governor at the inauguration of the renovated Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in Mumbai
Address by Shri CH. Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Maharashtra at the inauguration of the renovated Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, 55, Dr V B Gandhi Marg, Fort, Mumbai at 1730 hrs on Thursday, 7 February 2019
His Excellency Mr Ron Malka, Ambassador of Israel to India, Captain Yaakov Finkelstein, Consul General of Israel in Mumbai, Smt. Sangita Jindal, Chairperson, JSW Foundation, Shri Abe Sofaer, former US District Judge, Rabbi Ya’aqob Menasseh, Shri Solomon Sopher, President, Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, distinguished invitees, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening and greetings to each one of you.
At the outset, I thank Shri Solomon Sopher and Smt. Sangita Jindal for inviting me to the dedication of this renovated world class Synagogue to the people.
Less than a month ago, I had visited the Magen David Synagogue at Byculla to participate in the 175th anniversary celebrations of another Synagogue, the Shaare Rason Synagogue.
At the Synagogue, I had presented the Life Time Achievement Award to my esteemed friend Mr Solomon Sopher for his multifarious contributions to the Jewish community.
The work of renovation of this 134 – year synagogue to its pristine glory has added a beautiful feather to his cap.
This is the second time that I am visiting the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue.
I had visited this synagogue exactly three years ago, in the February 2016 when a Commemoration meeting was organized by Mr Solomon Sopher to pay homage to one of the greatest sons of India, India’s War Hero in the 1971 War and a proudest member of the Indian Jewish community, General J F R Jacob.
I have therefore seen this Synagogue both, before and after its renovation.
And I must say, I am highly impressed by what I have seen today. This is simply amazing and astounding.
The JSW Foundation has done the marvelous job of restoring the Synagogue to its resplendent glory without disturbing the heritage in any way.
There are many business houses in India. But, the Jindal Group is distinctly fortunate in having a visionary personality in the form of Smt Sangita Jindal, who has an eye for aesthetics and an understanding of the value of heritage.
Thanks to her personal involvement and leadership, the JSW Foundation has been engaged in restoring art and heritage sites across India. I was pleased to note that the JSW Foundation is involved in projects such as the restoration of ancient temples in Hampi, a 13th century village in Rajasthan, and the Kedarnath Valley.
I place on record my deep appreciation of the work done by the JSW Foundation and more particularly by Smt Sangita Jindal for the restoration of this grand old Synagogue.
I understand that the entire restoration work was the collaborative effort of JSW Group, Sir Jacob Sassoon and Allied Trust, Kala Ghoda Association, and World Monument Fund.
I was pleased to note that Ms. Abha Narain Lambah served as the Principal Conservation Architect of the Bombay Synagogue project while Ms Swati Chandgadkar restored the stained glass panels.
Incidentally, Smt Abha Lambah is also assisting Raj Bhavan in reconstructing the Darbar Hall in Raj Bhavan. I congratulate Smt Abha Lambah and Ms Swati Chandgadkar for their remarkable work.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As Chancellor of Universities in the State, I often attend Convocation Ceremonies across universities in Maharashtra. In almost all universities, it is the girl students who take away the maximum number of gold medals.
Last month, I was presiding over the Convocation Ceremony of the University of Mumbai along with a Nobel laureate from England. Of the 52 gold medals given away at the Convocation Ceremony to students, a record 46 gold medals were won by girl students !! Which means 88 per cent gold medals were won by girl students.
The restoration of this Synagogue carried out by women, makes a point that given an opportunity, women will conquer all frontiers. This beautiful renovated Synagogue is also a tribute to the women involved in this project.
I will suggest to Mr Solomon Sopher to write a plaque with golden letters mentioning that this Synagogue was entirely renovated by some of the most distinguished women.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue is not just the pride of India’s Jewish Community. It is a pride of Mumbai, pride of Maharashtra and pride of India at large. The Synagogue is a tribute to India’s culture of religious harmony and respect for all faiths and religions.
History informs us that the Bene Israeli community came to India thousands of years ago facing all difficulties. This land of India offered them freedom to practice Judaism and develop as a community.
The Baghadadi Jews came to India at different points of time. The family of the David Sassoon has left an indelible imprint of its philanthropic work in the city of Mumbai, Pune and elsewhere.
The David Sassoon Library just opposite this Synagogue, 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.
It has to be said that this smallest community of Jews in India has made disproportionately high contribution to the city and the nation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This renovated Synagogue will show to the world that India cares for its heritage and monuments.
Unfortunately, many heritage sites and monuments in India are lying in a state of utter neglect, crying for urgent intervention.
I believe that if we could restore all our heritage precincts and historic places in Maharashtra alone and create better amenities for tourists, we can beat Singapore in attracting maximum number of tourists in the world.
For this to happen, we need a partnership between the governments, public-spirited organisations, heritage lovers and most importantly, organisations like the JSW Foundation.
The CSR legislation in India mandates Corporates to spend 2 per cent of their profits on social causes. It would be good if more Corporates loosen their purse strings and spend CSR funds on heritage conservation works.
Today, there is a growing curiosity about heritage and history. In my own small way, I am trying to restore the under-ground heritage bunker I discovered beneath my own backyard in Raj Bhavan.
We are also in the process of renovating the other heritage buildings in Raj Bhavan. Since coming to Maharashtra, I have also opened the gates of Raj Bhavan for the general public so that people can admire and appreciate our heritage. I invite you to visit Raj Bhavan. It is afterall our collective heritage.
A very interesting aspect of the Jewish community was mentioned to me by Mr Solomon Sopher. I learnt from him that Jews do not travel by cars, taxi or any other vehicles on Saturday and visit the Synagogue by walking.
I think if all of us decide not to use vehicles for one day in a week, it will help us reduce pollution substantially and improve the quality of air.
With these words, I rejoice with each one of you on this very special day when the renovated Synagogue is being opened for the people. Once again, I convey my felicitations to each one of those associated with the renovation project.
Jai Hind ! Jai Maharashtra !!