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Elias Meyer Free School Talmud and Torah, Kolkata, India


The Elias Meyer Free School Talmud and Torah was originally founded as a Jewish Boys and Jewish Girls school in 1841. The school was known by various names and underwent leadership changes until 1909 when the school was led by Elias Meyer, its president and Mr. Arakie as principal. Their leadership fostered great growth of the student population. When Meyer passed, his widow created a trust fund to keep the school running, and thus the name of the educational institute was then retitled Elias Meyer Boy’s School and Talmud and Torah.  It is currently known as Elias Meyer Free School Talmud and Torah. 1


This school primarily served Jewish students from 18th-19th centuries but since India's independence from British rule in 1947, the Jewish population has nearly died out in Kolkata, India. Since the creation of the state of Israel, the ongoing Palestinian and Israeli conflict has been creating animosity between Jews and Muslims. Yet since conflict began, Kolkata became a city that welcomed it's arms to Muslim communities.3


In 2009 the Times of India reported that the school had been growing to become a beacon of interfaith relationship buidling between Jewish
culture and Muslim students.  The school served Muslims students, teaching them Jewish history, culture, philosophy, arts and other subjects especially English. Because of the affordability of Jewish schools, many Muslim families from low income backgrounds sent their children to these schools. 4


The school itself had run an active Facebook page where members of the community could be updated on news about the school. Since September 2015, it posted it's last status, stating that because of varying unspecified conflicts, the management had chose to close down the school and the remaining students would be switched over to other Jewish school branches. 5
 
The site Jewish Calcutta, dedicated to archiving the Jewish history of Kolkata, has had a few former students of the school contribute snippets of student memories such as communal prayers recited before sunrise and recollections of how the school has shaped their Jewish identity and allowed their minds to be prepared for the world ahead.6

Description

The Jewish Community of Kolkata

The first Jewish settlement in Kolkata, India was founded by Shalom ben Aaron ben Obadiah ha-Cohen, a Syrian Jew who came to search for riches in 1798.   He opened up many pathways for Jews to aid him in his trade of diamonds, silk, indigo and cloth. News of ha-Cohen's success reached Jewish communities across Syria and Iran and resulted in the trade's expansion.

The population of Jews in Kolkata blossomed as the Baghdadi Jewish communities flowed into the city later on in the 18th and 19th centuries searching
for economic advancement .During this time, waves of Jewish communities also came in hopes that India would be the passage way for them to emigrate to other Commonwealth nations including England and Australia. During the 20th century at the end of World War II, American and European Jews immigrated to Kolkata. 8

Currently, the lack of a Jewish population in Kolkata is attributed to the Indianization policies that were enforced in Kolkata after India's independence in 1947. Jewish communities who feared the rise of Indian nationalism would subject them to antisemitic policies, chose to immigrate to countries such as Canada, England and the United States, where they could freely practice their faith.

 

 

 

Kolkata, India

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