THE FOUNDING FAMILY: SHALOME OBADIAH HA-COHEN AND MOSES DUEK COHEN
The founder of the Calcutta Jewish community arrived in Calcutta on August 4, 1798 from Aleppo, Syria via Surat as a trader. He and his retinue took up residence in Murghihatta.
Shalome Cohen traded in gems, rosewater, import of Arabian horses, spices, silks and Indigo.
He was a court jeweler to the Nawab of Awadh and also traveled to Punjab to the Court of Maharaj Ranjit Singh.
Calcutta traditions say that he was asked to value the Kohinoor diamond. On seeing the precious jewel Ha-Cohen told the King that the diamond had no value. When asked to explain himself he said that the diamond had no value because it would either be given as a gift or taken with bloodshed.
When Shalome died, his son-in-law Moses Duek Cohen assumed the leadership of the growing community. Moses Duek Cohen was involved in purchasing the land for both the Neveh Shalome synagogue and the Beth El. At this time, in the 1830’s the community numbered about 600 people.