The Jewish community came together on Sunday to celebrate the 180th anniversary of the "Shaare Rason" (Gate of Desire) Bene Israel Synagogue, the city's second oldest synagogue. Built in 1843, the synagogue holds great importance for community members, known for its reputation of fulfilling wishes. However, on this occasion, prayers and remembrance of a late community member who made significant contributions to the synagogue took precedence.
Gathering of Community Members
Consul General of Israel Kobbi Shoshani (centre) speaking during the celebration of 180 years completion of Shaare Rason Synagogue, in Mumbai as Secretary of Synagogue Sinora Kolatkar (right) listens. | Salman Ansari/FPJ
Jewish community members from across the city and state joined in the festivities to relive the experiences of their ancestors who frequented the synagogue. Isaac Nowgaonkar, who traveled from Andheri, expressed, "My forefathers would come and pray here. I am the third generation to come here." In its early days, the synagogue could accommodate up to 150 people and served as a religious hub for Jews residing in what is now predominantly a Muslim neighborhood. Known as Israel Mohalla (Jewish neighborhood) at the time, Jews settled in Mumbai for better job prospects. Shaare Rason was established due to differences within the management of the city's first synagogue, Shaar Harahamim Synagogue (Gate of Mercy).
Preservation of Traditions
Despite a decline in the population of the Jewish community, the synagogue continues to operate daily. Nowgaonkar, also a trustee, highlighted that they have extended Shabath prayers, a practice that remains intact even in Israel. Essential aspects of Jewish tradition, such as Shema (oneness of God), Kashrut (Kosher food), and Brith-Milah, have been preserved and continue to be observed, demonstrating the community's commitment to its religious customs. Sinora Kolatkar, the synagogue's secretary, shared that prayers are held every fourth Saturday and during festivals.
Consul General of Israel Kobbi Shoshani addressing the gathered audience during the celebration of 180 years completion of Shaare Rason Synagogue, in Mumbai | Salman Ansari/FPJ
Renovation and Interfaith Contributions
The interior of the synagogue has undergone refurbishment, featuring a new golden-red appearance and a renovated antique Hekhal made of teak wood. The re-dedication took place in 2015, thanks to contributions for renovation from individuals of various faiths, including Hindus and Muslims. Abdul Rab, a Muslim neighbor, expressed his presence at the celebration, stating, "I am here because I have been a neighbor, and the secretary calls me her uncle. It is important to be part of the celebrations as it spreads love. After all, humanity is the biggest religion."
Proudly Indian, Grateful Community
Consul General of Israel Kobbi Shoshani accepting flowers during the celebration of 180 years completion of Shaare Rason Synagogue, in Mumbai as Sinora Kolatkar, Synagoge secretary looks on | Salman Ansari/FPJ
Dr. Daniel Penkar, a special guest at the event, shared his perspective, saying, "All communities have lived here happily, and there was never a problem for synagogues. Jews have lived happily here in India. I take more pride in being an Indian than being a Jew. India stays inside us, and we have to give back to the nation." The event highlighted the harmonious coexistence of diverse communities in India and the Jewish community's gratitude towards the country they call home.