Recalling Jewish Calcutta
The Baghdadi Jewish community came to Calcutta during the British Raj. When India gained its independence they were unsure of what their future would be in an Indian India. Some of the wealthy in the community were not sure about their economic futures as India talked about Socialism and nationalization of many enterprises. The War brought many European and American Jews to the City. Some came as GI’s and a few married Calcutta Jewish women who left as war brides. Many other community members responded to the increased possibilities for emigration to Australia, England and other Commonwealth countries through the forties and fifties as was the case among other Indians and minority communities too.
The Calcutta Jews have left a few traces behind. There are three impressive and large synagogues, two schools, and a cemetery in Narkeldanga. Ezra Mansions and the Ezra hospital, Nahoums Confectionary, and two buildings in the zoo that are owned and endowed by Jews still bear Jewish names. There is the Belilios Street, Ezra Street and Synagogue Street. There are many other mansions, residences and office buildings that still stand but they no longer bear their Jewish names and few know they were once Jewish owned. Today, with barely thirty Jews left in the community, most very elderly, the community lives on as a memory. Soon those who knew Jewish Calcutta will no longer be with us.
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This exhibit represents those who were leaders in the Jewish community. These include the founders, the members who were active in Jewish community affairs, civic leaders, philanthropists, well known personalities, as well as religious leaders. Jews also served in the British army, and General JFR Jacob rose to be Lieutenant General of the Indian Army. Among the personalities represented are those who left Calcutta, and made their mark in other countries. There were also many women pioneers who have been represented in another section, as are those who were in the media.