The death of Sarah Cohen, India’s oldest Jew, leaves the Paradesi Jewish community in Kochi with just two members left. Ms. Cohen, a resident of the Jewish street in Mattancherry, Kochi passed away at the age of 96.
Ms. Cohen owned the embroidery store that offered traditional challah covers, decorative pieces of cloth for the synagogue and Jewish brides. She was a local source of information on Jewish traditions and kept the community’s history alive.
The Paradesi Jewish community is dating back more than 500 years. The Paradesi Jews (Paradesi means foreigners in Tamil) have come to India from Portugal, Spain, Syria, and Iraq.
The Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry was constructed by Sephardic Jews in 1568 and is the oldest synagogue in India. Unlike the seven synagogues in the area, the Paradesi Synagogue is still active.
In 1951 there were over 2,500 Paradesi and Malabari Jews in Kerala. However, the community shrunk in size over the years due to migration to Israel, the US, and the UK.