7 October 2011
Yosef Hallegua blows the shofar in a synagogue in Cochin. (photo: Ellen Goldberg)
Today marks Yom Kippur, the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jewish community. It is also known as the Day of Atonement and is traditionally marked by a 25-hour period of fasting and praying. The shofar (pictured above) is blown in synagogues to mark the end of the fast at Yom Kippur.
In the July 2006 issue of ONE Nathan Katz reported on the dwindling Jewish community in Cochin, India:
Visiting Jews often are confounded by the unique liturgy of Cochin. As waves of immigrants came to Cochin from Persia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and even Poland and Italy, each left its imprint on Cochin’s prayer service. Some composed liturgical songs in fluent Hebrew, known as piyyutim. Scribes collated these songs and copied them into manuscript books, many of which remain in use to this day.
Midway through the prayer services in Cochin, worshipers will set down the Sephardic books from Israel and open these older songbooks. Most do not need to, however. They know the songs by heart.
Within the temple’s walls are the famous hand-painted floor tiles from China, Belgian chandeliers, prayer books from Israel and Torahs copied by local scribes. Atop one of the Torahs rests a magnificent 22-karat golden crown, given to the congregation by the Maharajah of Travancore in 1803.
The ancient copperplates, bequeathing autonomy at Cranganore, are stored in the synagogue’s ark along with Torahs and a huge shofar (ceremonial horn). Characteristic of Kerala’s unique synagogue architecture is the presence of a second bima (pulpit) upstairs in the women’s section, from which the Torah is read during prayer services.
For more about the Cochin Jewish community see The Last Jews of Cochin.
Learn more about the Jewish holy day, Yom Kippur, on the web site JewishEncyclopedia.com.
Tags: India Jews