Chennai Journal
Monday, April 18, 2005
Travels to Cochin
This past Thursday was the Tamil New Year and a similar holiday in Kerala (the next state over) called Vishu. Both of these are Hindu holidays to honor the new year which starts with summer here. In Vishu there is a belief that the first thing you see upon waking on the new year sets the tone for the entire year, so there is a custom of gathering a plate of auspicious fruits, vegetables, and sweets to stack the deck in your favor, so to speak.

Because the plant took a long holiday weekend, I decided to fly over to Cochin, on the western coast in Kerala--about an hour's flight. I visited the old synagogue located at the end of a street called Jewtown, and hope to upload some of the pictures later. The street is lined with shops that used to be owned by Jews. Some of the shops still have Stars of David on the windows or walls, but most are now owned by Catholics, of which there are many in Kerala. In fact, almost every store I walked into along Jewtown carried massive numbers of antique or faux antique wooden statues or body parts of the crucifixion, Mary, or Catholic saints!

I did have the privilege of meeting one of Cochin's few remaining Jews (who now number only about 20), Sammy Hallegua, who lives at the first block of Jewtown and who invited me up for a Coke and conversation. Can you imagine my surprise to learn that his son did his medical internship at Sinai Hospital in Detroit? It is indeed a small world!
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