The Cochin Jews (also called as Malabar Jews) is the oldest known Jewish settlement in India. They are of Mizrahi heritage with possible roots to the time of King Solomon. They settled in the town of Cochin (Kochi) in South India now part of the state of Kerala. They became known as the Malabari Jews and built synagogues in Kerala in the 12th and 13th centuries and created Judeo-Malayalam, often called a dialect of the language Malayalam. The once vibrant community of nearly 8000 people has now dwindled down to less than 10 members who live in the close vicinity of Kochi's Jewish synagogue, also called as the Paradesi synagogue. This quarter of old Kochi known as Jew Town is a famous tourist destination and many visitors come from all corners of the world to admire and visit the intricate architecture and beauty of this oldest active synagogue in the common wealth nations.
Even though Jew Town is of great cultural and historical importance, very little documentation is done on the culture and language of the Jews who remained in Cochin when the rest of the community migrated to Israel post India's independence in 1947, a tradition known as Aliyah. The community currently is highly endangered and their language, Judeo Malayalam is spoken today by a few dozen people in Israel and fewer than 20 in Kochi. This project is important as there is very little documentation on Judeo Malayalam as spoken by the remaining Jews in Kochi.
The coffee table book hopes to be a visual documentation of the life and culture of the Cochin Jews. This project will preserve a record of the culture and the language of the community of Cochin Jews.
Mythili grew up in Kochi, a Kochi which for her is a multi-cultural diaspora. Being a linguist, she is interested in preserving Judeo Malayalam and the culture of the Cochin Jews from a historical and socio-linguistic background. The Kochi that she knew will no longer be the same if the Jewish community becomes endangered. This project is an effort to preserve and visually document what is left of this once vibrant community for posterity.
You can read more about her research and her work at: Visit Mythili Menon
Hari Menon is a world renowned travel photographer whose photographs are simple yet eloquent. His photographs have appeared in top magazines like Lonely Planet, Jade, coffee table books like India For A Billion Reasons and his work has been commissioned by the Indian government for the Incredible India campaign.
An instinctive photographer, his magical touch is evident in the numerous photos he has taken ranging from stills to faces, and abstract to reality. He hails from a beautiful village near Cochin called North Paravur.Visit Hari Menon Photography
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