Jewish Identity and Literature in Contemporary India
State and secular society in India proudly refer to the Jewish mosaic stone in India’s religious texture as a integral part of its "unity in diversity" approach to the religious and cultural traditions of India. However, emigration to Israel and assimilation has decimated the traditional Jewish communities considerably and even threatens the very existence of Indian Jewry at the core, efforts to revive and transform Jewish identity notwithstanding, as for example the documentary film “Next year in Bombay” illustrates.
The majority of India’s political leaders before and after independence were critical of Zionism, which they say as a product of communalism as well as of European colonialism. In recent decades however, the Indo-Israeli as well as the Indo-Jewish relationships are blossoming on several levels. While Judaism and Hinduism are trying to trying to come to terms with each other, deepen interreligious dialogue and reassure Hindu-Jewish and India-Israeli alliance in the fight against terrorism, Narendra Modi visited Israel recently as the first Indian Prime Minister, about 25 years after the establishment of diplomatic ties.
The focus of the lecture will be three Indo-Jewish authors, two in English and one in Hindi: Nissim Ezechiel, Esther David and Sheila Rohekar. While Ezechiel and Rohekar have more or less always stayed in India, David is a returnee after many years in Israel and France, christening her return to her mother country as her personal Aliya – the Jewish return to the land of origin, mostly used for the emigration to Israel.