The Magen Abraham Synagogue is an interesting piece of Jewish Heritage in Ahmedabad. The only Synagogue in Gujarat and one of the few active Jewish places of worship in India, this Synagogue is the spiritual center for the remaining Bene Israel Jew families in Ahmedabad.
The Bene Israel Jews came in the 1800s from Mumbai and the Konkan Coast, where they are said to have settled several centuries ago. The first Jew arrived with the British services. Most of the first Jews to come in Ahmedabad were employed in the army, railways and costal services. And later they worked in textile mills. They became lawyers, doctors and educationalists, adept in both English and Gujarati. One of their greatest contributions is to education in East Ahmedabad as many of the English Medium schools of Maninagar were started by Bene Israel Jews, and are even today thriving centers of school education in the area.
The most nationally celebrated Bene Israel Jews from Ahmedabad include the Reuben David who conceptualized the zoological park and gardens at Kankaria, the renowned Sanskrit scholar late Dr. Esther Solomon and award-winning novelist Esther David who still lives in Ahmedabad, all three of whom are Padma Shree Awardees, many Bene Israel Jews held important positions in public sector units like AEC.
Earlier the Jews gathered at a hall in Pankor Naka, before the synagogue was built in the 1930s. Interestingly it is located at Khamasa near the historical Parsi agiyari when the Israeli ambassador visited the Synagogue, he was touched to see its proximity to different religious monuments like mosques, temples and the agiyari. The Synagogue was consecrated in Ahmedabad on September 2nd 1934 and in memory of Dr. Abraham Erulkar, who had donated a large sum for the building. At that time there were 800 Jews from 300 Bene Israel families in the city.
Keeping with the European- style architecture that was in trend at the time, the Magen Abraham Synagogue has Grecian pillars, a triangular roof, a high ceiling, artistic grills, stained glass windows and chandeliers which lend an ethereal glow to the interior. The Synagogue has marble chequered floor and a large ark. The furniture consists of movable pews arranged around a central Bimah. There are interesting religious artifacts and architectural details in the Synagogue are especially proud of its collection of Hebrew Torahs. The ark is set facing Jerusalem with the Ten Commandments inscribed in marble with Hebrew and Marathi words. A satin curtain or hekhal, covering the Ark, is embellished in silver or gold threads with Hebrew words and Star of David Motifs.
Though there are only about 125 Bene Israel Jews remaining in Ahmedabad, the Synagogue is active with Shabbat services starting on Friday evening around 7:00pm. Hebrew classes are held from time to time for the community’s children. On some Saturday evenings, a mallida or offering for wish- fulfillment is held at the Synagogue in Ahmedabad. The community members celebrate High holidays or festivals together, followed by a community dinner at the pavilion next to the synagogue, which is bonding the community which is dwindling in numbers in Ahmedabad, into one big family. The feasts are catered according to Jewish dietary laws under the supervision of Julie Pingle, whose husband conducts the rituals and prayers at the Synagogue.
Notes for Visitor-
Visitors to the Synagogue need to carry a passport or similar proof that is checked before permitting entry. Call 99245 81946 for information about visits, feasts, or services.
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Temple remains closed to visitors between 11:00 to 16:00 Hours every day.
Timings :10:00 TO 18:00
Entry Fee : Free