The death of an 83-year-old Jew on the Sabbath leaves only nine Jews left in the Jewish Community of Mattanchery, a tourist area located in the Kochi, India region, formerly known as Cochin.
Isaac Judah Ashkenazi, bedridden for more than a year following a kidney ailment, was admitted to a private hospital in Kochi after he was taken ill and suffering from a fall. The funeral was held on Sunday in order not to violate the Sabbath. Ashkenazi was single and left behind two sisters who live in Israel.
“With the passage of time, the Jew town [the name given to Jews in Cochin nearly 500 years ago] witnessed an exodus of young people to their 'promised land' Israel, leaving behind the older generation who find it difficult to sever the ties with their land of birth,” according to India’s IBNLive website.
It said nine Jews are left in Mattanchery – Sarah Jacob Cohen, 87; Joseth Hallegua, 86; Juliet Hallequa, 69; Yael Hallequa, 41; Gumliel Abraham Salem, 83; Reema Salem, 82; Queenie Hallegua, 65; Keith Hallegua, 52; and Rachel Cohen, 65.
The town hosted more than 250 Jews before 1948.
Among the Cochin Jews who have made aliyah to Israel are those in the Nevatim community near Be’er Sheva and who brought with them materials from the synagogue in their hometown in order to rebuild it in Israel.
The Cochin Jews were the first Jews to come to India and were first referred to as “black Jews.” One tradition is that moved to the Malabar coast during time that the Kingdom of Israel was split into two during the period of King Solomon.
Most of Cochin’s Jews and their descendants live in Israel. Shavei Israel works to bring Jews from India, particularly the Bnei Menashe, to Israel as well as other “lost Jews and “hidden” Jews around the world.