Tour Guide for Jewish Tour of Cochin

Jun 28th, 2015, 07:03 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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Tour Guide for Jewish Tour of Cochin

We have only one day in Cochin and would like to use a tour guide that will put an emphasis of the Jewish history of the city. Obviously we would also like to see the other important sites.
ladyrep is offline  
Jun 28th, 2015, 08:48 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 941
Here is the phone number for the Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin:

+91 1800 425 4747

I would call the Rabbi and see if a temple member would like to show you around for the day. Maybe a college student would like to earn a little extra money.

Are you going to Mumbai? There's a nice synagogue there as well.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Jun 28th, 2015, 09:44 PM
  #3  
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CaliforniaLady, I am also from California, Sherman Oaks. That is a good suggestion. Our trip is being organized with Arvind from Castle and King but we really want a Jewish guide for the Jewish sites. I know that all of the guides are knowledgeable but I think you get a better insight using a Jewish Guide. I will e-mail the synagogue or I will call them. No we are not going to Mumbai, as we are going to Kerala for two days. Tried to squeeze in everything just could not.

Thank you
ladyrep is offline  
Jun 28th, 2015, 09:56 PM
  #4  
 
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Ladyrep, You're so welcome! Please post here and let me know if you were successful. Maybe ask the Rabbi also if they need anything--lightweight medical supplies? A couple of tallises?
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Jun 28th, 2015, 11:25 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: May 2004
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Hello ladies, from another Californian!

FIrst, make sure you do not go to The synagogue on a Friday! It's closed all day Friday not just in the evening (and of course, all day Saturday). My first time in Cochin we showed up on a Friday morning, unable to enter. More than 6 yrs later--this past Feb--i finally returned. Totally worth the wait!

Great idea to phone!! However, a few things. I don't think the synagogue has its own official full time resident rabbi. You probably know there are only about 45-50 Jews still living in Cochin. But, there may be a "visiting rabbi" who can help you. If not, the woman who issues the tickets at the synagogue will hopefully answer the phone and be able to help you.

Whomever you go with, TRY to meet Sarah!! It was a highlight of the day! We were lucky in that our tuk tuk driver knew her from many past visits to Jew Town. Sarah Cohen is the oldest Jewish resident in Cochin--a still beautiful woman now in her 80s or 90s. She'll smile graciously, say hello, ask how she knows you--or will tell you how she knows you! She is what we RNs call "pleasantly forgetful." She sometimes sits in the entry to her store with her lovely young woman caretaker, who will tell you which of the many items for sale were actually made by Sarah. When you go in the shop, look for the wonderful old formal photo of Sarah and husband on their wedding day decades ago. Her face lit up, followed by laughter, when I asked about the photo.

Have you heard of Kulanu.org? If not...now's the time!! (I first learned of the organization when visiting Uganda...another story!) Go to their website
Kulanu.org, on left side of homepage look for "Communities"--then "India" then "Cochini" where you will find three articles. Especially recommended "Synagogue Searching in Kerala" written in 2006, and in particular for your upcoming trip, another called "How I Became a Cochini Jew" was published a couple months ago. It has a great description of Jew Town and of the synagogue now. (Apologies for this roundabout description --the URL link does not work on my computer settings --go figure.)

Are you staying overnight in Ft Cochin? If so, you can stay in Koder House, which belonged to the best-known of the local Jewish families, the Koders. it is now a hotel, right by the Chinese Fishing Nets, and next to Old Harbour Hotel. Whether or not you stay, both these places are beautiful refurbished historical buildings and worth having a wander 'round.
CaliNurse is online now  
Jun 29th, 2015, 04:03 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,900
Calinurse,
What amazing info you've got here!

I'm saving this for that (hopefully soon) future trip to South India.

Thanks for all the great details - I love the description of Sarah -- she sounds like so many of my neighbors! A visit to the synagogue sounds fascinating, too.

Many thanks for posting!
progol is offline  
Jun 29th, 2015, 10:08 AM
  #7  
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I love this forum. If I cannot get assistance from the Synagogue, has anyone used a guide they like. I have found several on the web but would love a suggestion that is tried and true. The web descriptions always sound wonderful, but it is easy to write a beautiful description.
ladyrep is offline  
Jun 29th, 2015, 02:08 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: May 2004
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Thanks, Progol! I pray Sarah is still alive when yo make it. Yes, she is that special! To think of what she has seen in her decades there, staying on in Kerala as most of the community of friend and family emigrated to Israel and beyond. Perhaps I imagined it, but i saw so much wisdom and sweetness in her face.

Ladyrep, there's an interesting booklet you can buy at the synagogue with history. I understand it's no substitute for a great guide, but it's a good source of info. The entry hallway to the synagogue also has interesting historical paintings and descriptions. Which reminds me--you will have to remove your shoes! Also, no photos allowed in the synagogue.

IF you have no luck finding a guide, I think doing your reading and research at home , followed by a good tuktuk driver, will be adequate for your appreciation of this marvelous section of Cochin. Honestly, we did not see a guide among the many tourists at the synagogue.

We loved our tuktuk driver, Saneesh. There are of course numerous tuk tuk drivers, and i'm sure most are fine, but this particular driver was highly recommended by Tim, our tour planner at Indianpanorama who almost never makes a mistaken recommendation. Saneesh had such an air of courtesy and respect for Sarah!! My friend wondered if it might have been because Sarah is Jewish, he Moslem...and in very Catholic (and partly Hindu) Cochin, they are both religious minorities. (He also took us to some interesting off-the-beaten-tourist-track places, and did NOT push us into particular restaurants or shops.) If interested, let me know, and i'll send his email address and/or phone number which you can call upon reaching Cochin.

There are many clothing /scarf/etc shops in Jew Town-- most owned by Kashmiris. Also some large knick-knack/antique shops. Fun shopping.

Somewhat off topic...should you ever get there, the synagogue in Kolkata is amazing!!!! HUGE. It is locked almost always--you need a special pass to get in, I believe. (Our tour guide there knew the caretaker of the synagogue also, so it was no problem.) There are only about ten Jews still in Kolkata--the patriarch died about two yrs ago.
CaliNurse is online now  
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