Edna Fernandes - writer and Journalist on India

Background to the Jews of Kerala

In 70 CE, the Roman capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple scattered a wave of Jewish immigrants across the globe like seeds of last hope. One group settled in Kerala, southern India. Feted as foreign kings by Kerala’s rajas and lavished with land, privilege and autonomy, they lived in peace. Despite finding acceptance in this Indian paradise, despite every advantage, by the twenty first century they found themselves on the brink of demise.

This is the story of the Black and White Jews of Kerala – a community that chose to bury itself instead of burying its differences, fueling a centuries-long feud instead of forsaking it to survive. In the end it was not persecution, pestilence or war that destroyed them, but one another. This is the story of a Jewish apartheid, a civil rights movement and finally a love affair between a Black Jew and a White Jewess who smashed apart the old divide – all set within the tranquil beauty of the backwaters of southern India.

In a land where Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Jew have lived and prayed in harmony for many centuries, the story of The Last Jews of Kerala is all the more apposite to our discordant times.