Indian shul, cemetery to receive legal protection
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Indian shul, cemetery to receive legal protection

Recognition of sites as cultural assets sought after partial demolition of 16th-century synagogue

A crumbling old Cochin synagogue (photo credit: CC-BY, Emmanuel Dyan via Flickr)
A crumbling old Cochin synagogue (photo credit: CC-BY, Emmanuel Dyan via Flickr)

Officials sought protection for a historic synagogue in the city of Cochin, in southwestern India, and a nearby Jewish cemetery following the synagogue’s partial demolition.

The procedure seeking protection of the sites as cultural assets was initiated late last month, according to a report Wednesday on the website of STMEGI, an Azerbaijan-based organization representing Jewish communities in central Asia.

Under the procedure, Kadavumbhagom Synagogue at Ernakulam near Cochin and the Jewish Cemetery near the Kathrikadavu district in Cochin would be added to the Culture Ministry’s Archaeological Survey of India as sites intended for preservation.

The move follows the partial demolition last month of a section of the synagogue, following threats by moneylenders, the Times of India reported.

According to the daily, the building’s owner, identified only as Regina, is in debt to the moneylenders.

The Kadavumbhagam synagogue was established in the 16th century, but decades of disuse have left the building severely dilapidated, according to a report last year in The Hindu daily. It was being used a cattle shed, the paper reported.

Police asked the government to take over the building and the Association of Kerala Jews sent a petition to government officials urging them to protect the building.

An official from the local archaeology department told The Hindu that when the Jews from Cochin immigrated to Israel, they sold the synagogue to a businessman who later transferred ownership of the building to Regina.

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