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03 Notable Members of and from the Community

Hacham Twena, Religious leader

Hacham Twena

Hacham Twena


Hacham Twena was the most learned religious scholar from the Calcutta community. He was born in Baghdad (1885) and trained in the yeshiva beth Zilka, headed by Rabbi Abdullah Somekh. Somekh’s  nephew Yeheskel Ben Yohosua Gubbay was a prominent businessman in Bombay related to the Sassoon family. At the request of Gubbay for a rabbi, Somekh choose his student Twena. Twent spent a year and a half in Bombay and then moved to Calcutta.

Hacham Twena was first employed to teach Talmud in J E D Ezra’s benevolent institution, and he sold religious articles to support himself. He also performed ritual slaughter of poultry, taught Hebrew and conducted services first at the Neveh Shalome synagogue and later at the Maghen David synagogue. He branched out to establish his own synagogue in Blackburn Lane where he administered primarily to the poor in the community for daily and shabbath services. He preached in Arabic, and ran a printing press to publish his own prolific writings in Arabic and Hebrew.

There are several legends about the learned rabbi who died in 1913. It is said that 7 years before he died he became seriously ill and the community was very afraid that he would die. One member of the community said that whatever is left of his one life he would give half those years to Hacham Twena. Seven years later both men died. 

A scholar and man of great learning, he left behind a library of 400 books.

Professor Yitzhak Avishur of Haifa has written a book about Hacham Twena entitled The Hacham From Baghdad in Calcutta: Hacham Shlomo twena and Works in Hebrew and Judaeo-Arabic Archaeological Center (Telaviv, 2001).