Israeli diplomat in India Kobbi Shoshani on Tuesday visited the Magen David Synagogue in Kolkata and lauded the efforts of authorities for conservation and upkeep of the heritage structure.
“I am very happy to be is midst of Jewish heritage. This is a beautiful synagogue one of the most beautiful I have seen in my life,” Mr. Shoshani, who is Consul-General, Mid-West India, told The Hindu.
Going through the majestic monument on Brabourne Road, the Consul-General said it was a surprise to him the way the synagogue had been maintained. “I am surprised because there is no Jewish community in Kolkata,” the diplomat said.
The number of Jews in the metropolis is estimated between 20 and 30. Kolkata has two synagogues —Magen David Synagogue and Beth-El Synagogue — both protected monuments by the Archaeological Survey of India.
Designed by a British firm, Macintosh Burn, the Magen David, unlike many synagogues has a steeple about 142 feet high and it had a clock imported from London. The synagogue was built in 1884. The Beth-El Synagogue, located on Pollock Street, was built in 1855-56.
The diplomat, who was on his first visit to West Bengal, said such heritage structures reflect the centuries of link between India and Israel. “Jews in Europe suffered years of persecution, holocaust and terrible things but in India there was nothing of this sort. I mention it all the times that Indian government and Indian people gave the Jews possibility to live here without any persecution,” he said.
The diplomat, who is based in Mumbai, said that the visit to West Bengal marked a closure to his first visit to India which was 32 years ago.
Biplab Roy, Administrator General and Official Trustee of West Bengal, who took around Mr. Shoshani and other members of his family around the synagogue, said it was always an honour to showcase such historic heritage and the cosmopolitan culture of Kolkata to dignitaries from across the world.
Mr. Roy, who holds the designation of a District Judge, said that Kolkata provided a mix of Jewish, Armenian and British properties while in the city’s suburbs one could see French, Danish and Portuguese architecture.