Jewish community in India mostly unaffected by deadly floods

Two Jewish families relocate after homes submerged, but tiny community of just 26 members otherwise okay in once-in-a-century floods in Kerala state

Locals cross flood water en route to  Chengannur on August 20, 2018 in Kerala, India. (Atul Loke/Getty Images/via JTA)
Locals cross flood water en route to Chengannur on August 20, 2018 in Kerala, India. (Atul Loke/Getty Images/via JTA)

JTA — The Jewish community in Kerala has largely escaped harm from the deadly floods in the southern Indian state, one member of the community told JTA.

More than 350 people have been killed and over 1 million have been displaced by the floods, which started in June and are the worst the state has experienced in a century. But the small Jewish community is mostly unaffected, said Ofera Elias, who lives in the city of Ernakulam.

The community has about 26 members, most of whom reside in areas that were not flooded, Elias, 56, told JTA on Tuesday. Two members’ houses were flooded; the families found shelter elsewhere.

However, Elias said he was not sure of the fate of the one functioning synagogue because the floods had prevented her and her husband from going there. She said three synagogues that are no longer used by the community for religious services have experienced flooding.

Kerala is home to a historic Jewish community, but most members left for Israel starting in the early 1950s.

Indian residents are evacuated by rescue workers in Paravoor in Ernakulam district in the south Indian state of Kerala, on August 19, 2018, as the state recovers from substantial flooding. (AFP Photo)

On Tuesday, IsraAID, a coalition of Israeli rescue organizations, dispatched a three-person relief team to the state. The group, assembled from the organization’s team stationed in Nepal since the 2015 earthquake, includes an engineer, project manager and relief specialist, co-CEO Yotam Polizer told JTA.

When the team arrives on Wednesday, it will assess the situation and focus on distributing non-food relief items, including blankets and tents, Polizer said. IsraAID will send additional people later this week and is planning a long-term operation in Kerala to deal with the aftermath of the flooding.

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