Once again, Great Neck’s good friend Rahel Musleah is hosting a trip to India, an insider’s tour as she says. The trip, scheduled for this coming January 2016, offers an insider’s tour of the little known history of the Jewish-India heritage and history.
Musleah left India, where she was born, as a child of six, yet she has always held on to her love for the country, its people and its little-known Jewish heritage. She is now sharing her distinctive insider’s perspective by organizing and leading tours of Jewish India.
A Long Island based-journalist, author, speaker and singer, Musleah can trace her roots in India to 1820 and before that, to Baghdad, Iraq. She has teamed up with Joshua Shapurkar, a member of the Bene Israel community of Bombay, who has been leading general and Jewish tours for 25 years. Together, they share their intimate knowledge of the Indian Jewish communities with tour participants.
“India is a vast country of dramatic contrasts, extraordinary cultural richness and religious diversity,” says Musleah. “Any visitor to India can choose from a wide array of tours. Through our tour, visitors meet and interact with community members, experience India’s magnificent cultural tapestry and enjoy its rare Jewish treasures.”
The next tour, scheduled for January 2016, will introduce participants to the intriguing history, culture, customs and music of the Jewish communities of Bombay, Cochin, Calcutta and Delhi. The trip will feature India’s top attractions (including the Taj Mahal, Gandhi’s home, Hindu and Jain temples, a backwater tour along Kerala’s canals, an elephant ride in Rajasthan, a rickshaw through the streets of Old Delhi and more. Of course, there will be time to shop.
Side by side with India’s popular sites and experiences, visitors will stop at the legendary site of a shipwreck and the palace of a maharajah, as well as synagogues, libraries and monuments that are intertwined with Jewish history. Musleah explains that the tour offers a compelling look at the Jews who came to India to escape Hellenism in the land of Israel, to flee the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal and who created new lives under the British Raj on the heels of pogroms in Baghdad. For thousands of years, Jews in India enjoyed a rare and benevolent diaspora and that experience continues for the population of 4,500 Jews throughout India today.
Musleah continues, explaining that Shabbat (the Sabbath) in Bombay will feature services and a sumptuous, kosher Baghdadi-Indian feast at the distinctive, robin’s-egg-blue Knesseth Eliyahu Synagogue. In Calcutta, Musleah will lead a walking tour of the streets, bazaars and synagogues and share her own memories. She will also lead Shabbat services according to the tropes and traditions of the Baghdadi Jews of India. An Indian-Jewish chef will welcome guests for a meal in her home.
“It’s gratifying to show visitors the beauty of the synagogues first-hand, and to fill the awesome spaces with song. To lead services and stand on the tebah—the bimah—where my father, grandfather and great-grandfather stood is truly an indescribable experience,” says Musleah.
Musleah has been leading “virtual” trips to India for the past 20 years through her programs and presentations around the country as a speaker and scholar-in-residence. She currently lives in Port Washington and is a former Great Neck resident. She remains an active member of Temple Israel of Great Neck. She is an award-winning journalist and author, writes regularly for publications including Hadassah magazine and sings with New York’s Zamir Chorale.
Five-star hotels, three kosher and vegetarian meals a day and all transportation within India are included in the fully accompanied tour, which runs January 7 to 21, 2015 (international travel separate).
Deposits for the trip are required by Sept. 7. Participants are limited to 25.
For more information, a full itinerary and costs, visit www.rahelsjewishindia.com, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 516-829-2358.