A group is out to conserve the last vestiges of Jewish heritage

A group of sociocultural activists here are on a mission to preserve 1,000-year-old Jewish monuments in Mala.

They are out to conserve the Jewish synagogue and cemetery, the only remaining structures representing the rich Jewish culture in Mala, which they say are in a state of neglect.

The conservation attempts gained momentum following a move to establish a park under the Tourism Department on one-and-a-half acres of land on the western side of the four-acre cemetery.

The K. Karunakaran Sports Academy is also proposed to come up on the two-and-a-half acres of land on the eastern side of the cemetery.

Important settlement

“Mala has been recorded in history as an important Jewish settlement. Historical evidence indicate the presence of Jews in Mala for more than 1,000 years. They later became part of mainstream society. There were more than 40 Jewish families in Mala. Their Church in Mala is one of the oldest Jewish churches in the State,” said P.K. Kittan, secretary of the Mala Paithruka Samrakshana Samithy.

Conservation pact

On the basis of a discussion held at the Israeli Consulate in Mumbai between then Mala panchayat president A.D. Joseph and Jewish representatives, a contact was signed for the protection of the monuments. The contract was registered at the Vadama Registration Office on January, 4, 1955, Mr. Kittan noted.

According to the contract signed before the Jews left for Israel in 1955, the responsibility for preserving the historic monuments, including the Jewish synagogue and the cemetery, belongs to Mala panchayat, the samithy pointed out quoting historical documents.

“The panchayat should maintain the monuments using their own funds. The monuments should be protected within a compound wall and gate. Boards should be set up. The land should not be used for any other purpose. These are the main conditions of the contract,” said C. Karmachandran, president of the samithy.

There have been frequent encroachments and attacks on the monuments, Prof. Karmachandran said. The synagogue first became a school and then a community hall. A shopping complex came up on the northern side of the synagogue. The compound wall was demolished. Later, three-fourth of the cemetery became the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium.

Cemetery threatened

“Now they are planning to transform the stadium into the K. Karunakaran Sports Academy. Of the 30-odd graves in the cemetery only three remain,” the samithy noted.

Under the banner of the Mala Paithruka Samrakshana Samithy, the sociocultural activists will conduct a cultural gathering on December 18 in Mala.

The activists will put up boards in front of the Jewish synagogue and cemetery. Film director Priyanandan will inaugurate the meeting.

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