Magain Shalome Synagogue

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Magain Shalome Synagogue
בית הכנסת מגן שלום
امن کنیسہ کے سٹار
Basic information
Location Corner Jamila St & Nishtar Rd
Pakistan Karachi, Pakistan
Affiliation Orthodox Judaism
Rite Sephardic
Country Pakistan
Status Demolished (1980s) to make way for a shopping plaza
Completed 1893

The Magain Shalome Synagogue (Hebrew: בית הכנסת מגן שלום‎‎) (Urdu: امن کنیسہ کے سٹار‎) was the cornerstone of a former Jewish community in Karachi, Pakistan. The Synagogue was built by Soloman David Umerdekar in 1893.[1][2] The synagogue was extended in 1912 by Umerdekar’s two sons, Gershon Solomon Umerdekar and Rahamim Solomon Umerdekar. A community hall named “Shegulbai Hall” was built by Abraham Reuben Kamerlekar in memory of Shegulabai Solomon Umerdekar. In 1916-18 the Karachi Jewish community opened a Hebrew school on the synagogue premises and in 1918 constructed the Nathan Abraham Hall. There was a signboard on the synagogue, reading as “Pakistan Bene Israel Association”, “Bani Israel Masjid” and also something like, “Only Jewish people are allowed to enter this place”.[3]

The synagogue soon became the center of a small but vibrant Jewish community, one of whose leaders, Abraham Reuben, became a councilor on the city corporation in 1936. On July 17, 1988, the Magen Shalom synagogue was destroyed to make way for a shopping plaza (Madiha Square) in the Ranchore Lines neighborhood of Karachi.

In 1989, the original Ark and podium were stored by a non-Jew in Karachi; a Torah scroll case was taken by an American Jew to the US. In 2004 she donated synagogue registers covering the period 1961-1976 to the Ben-Zvi Institute Library in Jerusalem. In these ledgers, a circumcision was recorded in 1963 and several weddings in 1963-64. In 1973 only 15 names were written down, of whom nine were listed as “left Karachi”.[4]

Location of Magen Shalom[edit]

Walking past the NJV School and moving towards the Young Women’s Christian Association building (both beautiful structures of historical import) there’s a road that separates the two and leads into a lively locality. They call it Jamila Street, a representative of the Karachi that’s slowly but surely slipping our minds. To its left are Anjuman Bagh (a compound where Parsis live) and two Ranchhore Lines schools, one of which is a pre-partition entity.

Before you arrive at a place where a few years back Jubilee cinema screened countless Punjabi and Urdu flicks (not anymore though) there’s a bunch of old buildings that have undergone many changes but still maintain most of their original architectural attributes.

First up the Ibrahim Mansion will grab your attention. Annexed to it are Haji Bashir Beg building, Karim Manzil, Halima Bai and Pandia buildings. Dates of construction are mentioned at the entrance of a couple of these structures, for instance 1941 is etched on top of Karim Manzil’s entryway. Obviously additions have been made to these beauties, turning them into look-alike of contemporary Karachi concrete high-rises. Just when you inch closer to a bustling round-about, you’ll see an unusual edifice called Chandio building. Reason being that it is topped by a dome. Now stop here for a moment. Turn right and get pleasantly surprised. Who would’ve thought that there was a Maharashtra Mitra Mandal in Karachi? Well, there is. It is a tiny house-like building that may have been used as a Mitra Mandal (friends’ council) for Maharashtrans before 1947. After all, Karachi used to be a part of the Bombay Presidency. Not much information is available on the Mandal, but what can’t be disputed is that Maharashtrans too were a component of the pluralistic rainbow of Karachi before partition.

A few steps ahead of the Chandio building lies the Hassanli Hoti Market constructed in 1926. The big columns at its entrance impart a unique touch to it. Move a hundred yards or so forward, and you’ll see a residential-cum-commercial structure in the corner of a road intersection on whose ground floor cloth-sellers and other vendors make their presence felt by waving their hands as if carrying magic wands to lure potential buyers. That’s the site where, arguably, some people believe the synagogue survived until the 1980s.” [5]

See also[edit]

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