Interview With : Navras Jaat Aafreedi, Teaches History at Presidency University, Kolkata
Updated on: 02 Jul 2016
Navras Jaat Aafreedi teaches history at Presidency University, Kolkata, and has written Jews, Judaizing Movements and the Traditions of Israelite Descent in South Asia. Speaking with Eram Agha, Aafreedi discussed 'minority' status for Maharashtra's Jews, Jewish amity with Indian Muslims – and 'intolerance':
What does 'minority' status now mean to Jews in Maharashtra?
It means official recognition of the separate identity of Indian Jews – the proportion of Jews in India's total population being a mere 0.0004%.
China and India are the only two countries in the world where Jews lived for centuries in peace with non-Jewish neighbours because of the non-proselytising nature of major religions in these countries. Also, these countries never felt threatened by Jews because of Judaism's non-proselytising nature.
But Chinese Jews ceased to exist as a result of complete assimilation – Indian Jews, on the other hand, never lost their distinctive identity, helped by India's endogamous nature and its tolerance. The fact that Indian Jews maintained their identity and, in their small way, prospered, is an impressive example of their tenacity.
Could you tell us about some contributions made by Jews in India?