Meet the Last Jews of Calcutta

TIME

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This article has been enhanced with interactive sound clips. To hear the voices of the surviving community members, click the phrases highlighted in red.

From the late eighteenth till the mid-twentieth century, there was
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content=a thriving “Bagdadi” Jewish community
in Calcutta. Jewish traders from the Middle East prospered in British India. Originally Judeo-Arab in identity, they attained a Judeo-British one. Calcutta Bagdadi Jews settled in a cosmopolitan urban environment, met no prejudice, and excelled in all spheres of endeavor. They played a key role in the city’s mercantile development, engaged in governance and civic affairs, built impressive synagogues, established schools, and constructed magnificent buildings. Though never more than 4,000 in number, the community was influential and thoroughly integrated in the fabric of Calcutta.

The 1940s were tumultuous years, when Baghdadi Jews from Burma, and many European Jews fleeing Nazi oppression found safe haven there. With…

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