This tour starts with a brief orientation on India’s Jewish communities – the history of their arrival in India 2000 years ago, geographical spread, the different sects and their culture. The guide will provide you with illustrated handouts and notes to deepen your understanding of India’s Jews. Over these 2000 years, the Jewish experience has been marked by local acceptance of Jewish people and their customs.
After the orientation, we will begin our sightseeing. If you are able to start early, then we can visit Sassoon Docks, built by an influential family of Baghdadi Jews. The docks are bustling with activity in the mornings, as the day’s catch is bought and sold. It’s a great introduction to Mumbai’s traditional fisher-folk, an interesting community where the men fish, and the women handle the commercial transactions (they are expert negotiators!!).
From here, we will drive to the Gateway of India, and see the Fort Heritage District and the Kala Ghoda Art District. Among the beautiful buildings that we will visit in this district are the Kenneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, with its beautiful interiors, and the David Sassoon Library.
Next, we will visit the oldest synagogue in Mumbai, the Shaar Harahamim or Gate of Mercy Synagogue, built in 1796, by Samaji Hasaji Divekar (Samuel Ezekiel Divekar), a Bene Israeli. The street on which the synagogue is housed is also named Samuel Street after him. From here, we will drive to the Magen David Synagogue, a tall blue building with a Gothic feel that towers over all the other buildings in the area. We will visit the Sassoon Children’s school in the same compound.
On the way to these synagogues, you can see the stunning Victoria Terminus (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Bombay Municipal Building. If you’d like to walk through a traditional market area, you can also ask the guide to show you Crawford Market and the “native” bazaar area of Bombay, with its mix of Hindu, Muslim and Jain traders who alongside the Jewish businessmen, formed part of Mumbai’s business community.
From Magen David, we will drive to Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai’s unique outdoor laundry system. We will also see Haji Ali, the city’s unique mosque in the sea. Near Dhobi Ghat is The Tippereth Israel synagogue of the Bene Israelis. If feasible, we will also visit the Magen Hassidim which is nearby.
Your tour will also take you through Marine Drive / Chowpatty, Oval Maidan, High Court, Bombay University, Flora Fountain, Old Banking District, Horniman Circle, Asiatic Library, Regal Circle, etc. The tour also includes a visit to Mani Bhavan, Gandhi’s home in Mumbai, and a truly inspiring place.