The sole synagogue of Delhi

Ezekiel Isaac Malekar at Judah Hyam Synagogue in New Delhi.

It is Friday morning and as part of an academic assignment, I am to visit a little known place of worship in New Delhi.

On my way to the Judah Hyam Synagogue, I meet Saleem Khan. Saleem, 35, hails from Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh and runs an auto rickshaw in the Indian capital to make ends meet. He agrees to take me to my destination on the condition that I pay him Rs 20 more than what the electronic metre installed in his auto rickshaw computes as travelling fare.

“I hate the Jews for what they’re doing in Palestine. I once saw internet videos of Palestinian children who had been amputated as a result of bombardments by the Israeli Army,” says Saleem, after learning that I was going to visit a Jewish place of worship.

I try to convince him that not all Jews can be held accountable for the excesses committed in Palestine. We discuss several issues ranging from Islam to ISIS and by the time our journey ends, he concedes, “It would be wrong to say that all Jews are responsible for the violence perpetrated on Palestinians”…

…The establishment of a formal building was made possible due to a handsome donation given by Dr Rachael Judah in the memory of her father Dr Judah Hyam, who happened to be a prominent religious scholar. Prior to this, the Jews of Delhi held their prayers in a private residence located in the older part of the city.

The synagogue is attached to a Jewish cemetery, which shares its boundaries with two more cemeteries belonging to the Parsi and Christian communities. This in turn makes the place a sort of meeting spot for the micro-minorities of India. Since it is Sabbath day and the Rabbi is busy with preparations for the weekly prayers, he agrees to speak to me for no more than 15 minutes…