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Yaheh Hallegua, a Paradesi Jew
|7 (as of September 2014)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Initially Ladino, later Judeo-Malayalam, now mostly Hebrew|
|Related ethnic groups|
Paradesi Jews (Malayalam: പരദേശി യെഹൂദൻ, Paradēśi Yehūdan) are a community of Sephardic Jews settled among the larger Cochin Jewish community located in Kerala, a coastal southern state of India. They were followers of Halakhic Judaism and are known in Kerala as Juda Mappilas.
Paradesi Jews, who were integrated in the Cochin Jewish population, were originally Sephardic immigrants from Sepharad (Spain and Portugal) during the 15th and 16th centuries who fled conversion or persecution in the wake of the Alhambra Decree expelling Jews from Spain. They are sometimes referred to as White Jews, although that usage is generally considered pejorative or discriminatory and refers to relatively recent Jewish immigrants (end of the 15th century onward), predominantly Sephardim and Mizrahim.
The Paradesi were endogamous during their settlement in Kerala. Many those who left and married the local population joined the Nasrani community. This tradition only began to break in the late 1940s or not at all, as most preferred to emigrate to Israel rather than mixing with the darker Malabar Jews.
The primary original language of the Paradesim was Ladino, which contributed a number of loanwords to Judeo-Malayalam, the pre-existing Jewish language of the Kerala Jewish community. The Pardesi Jews had one place of worship: the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Cochin.
Most of the Cochin Jews, both Paradesi and Malabari, emigrated to Israel following its establishment in 1948. The remaining Paradesi community dwindled as its members assimilated into the Nasrani Christian community.
Persecution by Portuguese
The Spanish-speaking Paradesi Jews prospered as traders under the Portuguese (since 1504) and Spanish rule (between 1580 to 1640. They were not persecuted as Jews by the Portuguese, being under the protection of their allied Raja of Cochin, unlike those Christian converts of Jewish descent living in Lower Cochin, Santa Cruz de Cochim (Fort Kochi) under Iberian rule that tried to reconnect with their roots through their kin in Upper Cochin, Cochim de Cima (Mattancherry). Among these, many were forced to practice their faith in private, some were judged by the Inquisition from 1570 and even burnt at the stake and others allegedly became a part of the Syrian Malabar Nasrani community. The inquisition targeted the Nasarani community as well, who had close ties to the Paradesi and even closer ties to other Christian denominations.
Last remaining Paradasi Jews
Yaheh Hallegua (born c. 1973) is the youngest female Paradesi Jew in Cochin, Kerala, South India. She is employed as a ticket seller in the Paradesi Synagogue, handling entrance fees and monitoring attire.
- http://www.ucanews.com/news/keralas-dwindling-jewish-community-ponders-its-fate/71856 2014.
- The Jews of India: A Story of Three Communities by Orpa Slapak. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 2003. p. 28. ISBN 965-278-179-7.
- Cole, Teresa Levonia (28 November 2010). "India: The key to Kerala". United Kingdom: The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 24 May 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
- Abram 2010, p. 181.
- Fernandes, Edna (2008). The Last Jews of Kerala. London, United Kingdom: Portobello Books. pp. 12, 25, 26, 32. ISBN 978-1-84627-098-7.
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