Maharashtra to support Jewish memorial in Alibaug

Updated: Feb 02, 2018, 10:35 IST | Fiona Fernandez

Backed by the Jewish community and the governments of India and Israel, the country's first ever Bene Israel heritage memorial and community centre will be set up in Alibaug

President of the host rotary club of Bombay Queen City Shyam Vakharia (left) exchanges city plaques with Zina Isakov, president of Rotary Club of Ramle, Israel as Ashutosh Rathore, joint managing director, MTDC (centre) looks on. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
President of the host rotary club of Bombay Queen City Shyam Vakharia (left) exchanges city plaques with Zina Isakov, president of Rotary Club of Ramle, Israel as Ashutosh Rathore, joint managing director, MTDC (centre) looks on. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

"The link between Israel and Maharashtra is fascinating because of the presence of thousands of Marathi-speaking Jews in your country," said Ashutosh Rathore, joint managing director, MTDC, while welcoming Rotarians from the Israeli city of Ramle at the Royal Bombay Yacht Club.

Rathore went on to announce the news about the setting up of a heritage museum and convention centre in Alibaug to commemorate the roots of the Bene Israel community, who arrived on the western coast of Maharashtra centuries ago. Also in the audience were prominent members of the Jewish community from Mumbai, Pune and Israel, as well as Rotarians from Bombay Queen City and Thane Premium. They had all gathered to commemorate the first incoming Rotary Friendship Exchange delegation from Israel to Maharashtra and to announce the setting up of the museum.

Rathore assured the audience of MTDC's full backing for the initiative, and went on to spell out plans that will unveil in the coming months, including the hosting of heritage walks with a Jewish connect, and sustained focus towards developing tourism across both regions.

Earlier, the singing of the national anthems of India and Israel kicked off the event, to the tunes of a pianist. Exchanges in Hebrew, Marathi and English filled the air as members mingled and retraced their roots within and beyond Mumbai. "There's a lot of excitement around the news. We are thrilled that both governments (Israel and the state government of Maharashtra) have backed this project," said Ralphy Jhirad, president and managing trustee of Bene Israel Heritage Museum and Genealogical Centre, and facilitator, RFE Israel-India.

"They are our brothers and sisters, and we must ensure the ties stay strong. This centre will be a huge boost for Indo-Israeli ties. In fact, the office of Israeli Prime Minister sent us a message last week, extending his support for this project," he shared.

The architects working on the centre, Shruti Mahimtura and Foram Gandhi, spoke of the template and syncing it with the community's idea of returning to one's roots. Byculla-born Dr Shaul Sapir, a professor at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, shared his ongoing project that involves designing plaques across city landmarks with a Jewish connect.

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