Not every book is turned into a story, but every structure, whether modern or historical, has a development story that helps us understand it better. Jewish heritage of the Deccan: Mumbai, the Northern Konkan, Pune, written by Kenneth X Robbins and Pushkar Sohoni, is one of the most in-depth books about the diminishing cultures of India, called Judaism.
Kenneth X Robbins and Pushkar Sohini are among the few authors who have taken an in-depth look at India’s Jewish culture. Robin is a psychiatrist in Washington DC by profession, but he also has a keen interest in collecting South Asian art and is a historian of India’s expatriates. Pushkar Sohini is an Indian architect and a historian. Both the authors have written many books based on architecture and culture, like – The architecture of a Deccan Sultanate, Jews and the Indian National Art Project, African Elites in India, Silent Splendour: Palaces of the Deccan, to name a few.
The book “Jewish Heritage of the Deccan: Mumbai, The Northern Konkan, Pune” covers a crucial topic ‘Jewish Heritage of India’, specifically in the parts of Deccan India. The book gives the readers an introduction to the wide range of the Jewish tradition present in India as they are divided into three categories; The Bene Israel, located in the coastal region of Konkan, which also is the oldest Jewish community, The Baghdadi Israel, situated in the cosmopolitan, British Mercantile world of Mumbai and Pune, and the European Jews who resided in Goa.
The book covers the cultural growth of the Jewish heritage in India and how their tradition and architectural values shaped India over time. The main focus area is divided into three parts: Mumbai, The Northern Konkan and Pune, while further bifurcating it into internal locations.
The authors take the readers on a journey of exploring Jewish structures across the three locations; these monuments capture the time and essence of their traditions. The synagogues of Mumbai depict a story of how they were repaired and enlarged during the 19th century and early 20th centuries. In contrast, the synagogues found in Konkan villages were built small due to fewer Jewish populations. Most of the structures were made from cast-iron columns, beams and roof trusses while having significant details related to Neo-Gothic and Neo-Classical architectural styles, depending on the location.
Overall, the book slowly and steadily introduces readers to different structures, from Magen Hassidim Synagogue in Mumbai to Succath Shelomo Synagogue in Pune. As said, every structure has a story; the authors carefully unravel the history and traditions of the Jewish Heritage of the Deccan while educating the reader about the Synagogue and the growth of Judaism in India. Today, though the culture is rapidly decreasing in number, structures like Shaar Ha-Tephila Synagogue, Magen Aboth Synagogue, or the cemeteries are keeping the heritage alive.
The book may be focused on the architectural community overall, but an enthusiast can also easily understand the book’s content.