Information on the Chennamangalam synagogue

The Chennamangalam synagogue is open daily except Mondays.

Directions: Take MG ROAD to PALARIVATTOM; to EDAPALLY BYE PASS; to NORTH PARAVUR. After North Paravur, there is a green sign board directing you to the right, to the Chennamangalam Synagogue.

The Chennamangalam synagogue museum shop has beautiful postcards of Chennamangalam and the synagogue, and sells the exhibition brochure in English and Malayalam. The shop also sells CDs recorded by the cantor of the synagogue in the 1950s, who now lives in Israel, and a CD of the women's group in Israel which is reviving the old Malayalam Jewish women's songs. The museum shop will also be offering lovely jewelry made in India.

The Paradesi Synagogue in Cochin, built in 1568 and still functioning as a synagogue, is open to visitors during business hours, except for the Jewish sabbath and holidays. It is in the Mattancheri area of Kochi, to the south of Fort Cochin, in Jew Town, where you will find bookstores, curio shops and stores with local crafts. (add photo of Paradesi synagogue)

Restoration of the synagogue in Parur, 2 kilometers from Chennamangalam, is in the planning and fund-raising stage. Access must be arranged in advance to see the synagogue, which dates from 1621. Look for granite pillars marked "Jew Town" at the entrance to the street where the synagogue is located. (add small photos from Radovan of ark and torah scrolls).

The two synagogues in Ernakulum, the synagogue in Mala, and the Kadavumbagam and Tekkumbagam synagogues in Mattancheri, Kochi, are not open to the public at this time.

The Kerala Department of Archaeology carried out the restoration of the synagogue in Chennamangalam with funds from the Department of Tourism.

The exhibition in the synagogue in Chennamangalam was funded by The Koret Foundation, The Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture, Marc and Anita Abramowitz, and other private donors.

Credit for the restoration of the Chennamangalam synagogue goes to Dr. V.M. Nair, Director of the Department of Archaeology of Kerala. Although the Tourism Department became interested in restoring the synagogue ten years ago, it was not until Dr. Nair became director of the Archaeology Department that the project went to contract. Dr. Nair persuaded Mr. V. Thampi, whose 30 years of experience in restoration made him the ideal contractor, to take on the job. The work was completed in 18 months under the supervision of Mrs. Deepa, an engineer from the Department of Archaeology.

Dr. Nair described the meticulous work of the craftsmen who did the restoration. The hollows and cracks which had developed in the walls were repaired using laterite blocks of stones with lime mortar and the "stitching" method. Wooden frames, which had been attacked by termites, were replaced with new wood members, and deteriorated floors were replaced. The heichal (ark, or cabinet for Torah scrolls), the "teibah" (raised platform for reading the Torah), the staircase and other wooden elements were also repaired. The wooden carvings, ceiling painting and floral designs were painted with herbal mixes and supervised by an artist from the Department of Archaeology. The synagogue re-opened on March 4th, 2005, and the exhibit was inaugurated on February 24, 2006.

At the opening event, Dr. Nair, gave a brief history of Kerala and the long-established Jewish community in the region. He mentioned the architectural similarities among the synagogues of Mattancherry, Kochangadi, Kavumbhagom, Kochi and Thekkumbhagam, and the harmonious coordination of traditional Kerala and foreign architecture. Dr. Nair congratulated the Jewish community from Kerala on the exhibit, noting that their culture contributed to the making of history in Kerala. Dr. Nair concluded his remarks with the exciting news that he hopes to complete the renovation of the synagogue at North Parur before he retires at the end of the year.

Exhibition curators:

  • Dr. Shalva Weil, Professor of Anthropology, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
  • Prof. Jay A. Waronker, Southern Polytechnic State University, Marietta, Georgia, USA

Exhibition project director:

  • Marian Scheuer Sofaer, Palo Alto, California, USA

[The Chennamangalam Synagogue: full ark]

Photos, February 2006

Cochin Brochure [pdf]
Cochin Brochure in Malayalam
Welcome Kerala, Jan-Mar 2008 article

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