Indian Jewish Community in Israel
According to Bene Israel tradition a Jewish merchant, David Rahabi, arrived in west India. He was surprised to find this Bene Israel community which followed some Jewish traditions and festivals. He decided to enlighten them with all the Jewish traditions. He chose three men from the Bene Israel community and taught them Talmud and other Jewish books. These three people became to be known as "Kaji" (meaning judge in Arabic) and were religious and social leaders of the Bene Israel community. They performed rites such as marriages, funerals and settled disputes until the synagogues were built. The mother tongue of the Bene Israel, when they first arrrived in India is unkown, but for centuries they have been speaking Marathi.
The first Bene Israel synagogue was built by Samuel Divekar in Bombay in the year 1796. Divekar served as a soldier of the British in India. In the second war of Mysore in south India, he with other British Indian soldiers was captured. The King of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, was a Muslim. He used to execute the captured soldiers, but when his mother heard of the Bene Israel captives, she begged her son to spare the Bene Israel soldiers. After being spared Samuel Divekar decided to thank the Lord by building a synagogue. Later on more synagogues were build by the Bene Israels in India. Among the synagogues in India, the synagogue in the town of Panvel (near Mumbai) is considered special and sacred where it is believed, prayers are fulfilled.
Though, the Bene Israel have never been a rich community, they have by Indian standards, been ranked as moderately well off.
Acknowledgement: Information is gathered from various sources including Mr. Haeem Samuel Kehimkar’s book "The History of the Bene Israel Jews of India".