Thursday, November 20, 2014

Cleaning up the Jewish Cemetery in Mumbai-connection with the past; commitment to the future

Working together to clean the cemetery
The Jewish Cemetery of the Worli Bene Israel Jewish Community in Mumbai received some unexpected visitors last week: The volunteers of Gabriel Project Mumbai (GMP).

Several dozen volunteers, including GPM-JDC Entwine international volunteers, representatives of the Indian Jewish Youth Pioneers (JYP) and members of the local Jewish community spent the morning last Sunday cleaning up the Jewish cemetery. Braving the mid-morning Mumbai heat, they spent hours clearing away vegetation, garbage and rubble from the centuries’ old Jewish cemetery that is in disrepair.

A group picture of the international and local volunteers
The activity was coordinated by Herzel Simon head of The Jewish Cemeteries Trust, India, Salome Abraham of JDC India and Sigalith Isaac Kurulkar of GPM. 

“It was so moving to see Jewish Peoplehood in action - different generations of Indian Jews, international Jews and others join hands in respecting and honoring our ancestors,” said Sigalith Isaac Kurulkar.  

Clearing away debris
“Indian Jews are a religious minority of India and one of the first foreign religions to have arrived here. The Bene Israel are a historic community of Jews in India who have migrated from villages in the Konkan area, where they lived for two thousand years,  to the nearby cities like Mumbai. In Mumbai, their history dates back to the 18th century when the first member of the Bene Israel community arrived,” Mr. Simon explained.  A cemetery for Bene Israelis is on E Moses Road with the first grave dating back to 1927. The cemetery has graves of several famous Jews including Bollywood choreographer Herman Ezra Kolarkar, Dr. E Moses the ex. Mayor of Mumbai, architect Simon Reuben of the Jehangir Art Gallery, film historian Bunny Reuben and Judah Reuben Nowgaonkar, the first umpire of a Test match between India and England,  amongst others. Till date 6555 burials have taken place at this cemetery.”

Removing weeds covering the graves
This was the first time the community has come together and physically helped clean the cemetery! 

The cemetery was in disrepair, with garbage seeping in, broken walkways, old drainage lines, and more. The volunteers helped with cleaning weeds from around and on the graves, on the pathways and the fence. The Jewish Cemeteries Trust previously repaired one wall, and added a grill to stop the garbage, tiled the walkways, added three water tanks, drainage line, and more. 

Half of the cost of the cemetery clean-up was covered by donations from a cemetery fundraiser that took place in August this year, and the rest came from the cemetery reserve fund. “We now need to raise money to cover the upkeep of the cemetery,” Mr. Simon added. 
JDC fellow Kimberly, leading a session after the clean-up

Following the clean-up, JDC Fellow Kimberly  conducted a though-provoking session on the meaning of working in the cemetery, responsibility to the past and how it effects our future. 

To make an online donation to the repair and restoration of this and other Jewish cemeteries in India via The Jewish Cemeteries Trust, India, please press HERE, 

No comments:

Post a Comment