“I wake up in the morning and take the name of Allah, go off to sleep after reciting some suras, after namaz and all. I believe no matter what happens Allah will be with me wherever I go.” What? Doesn’t sound like the words of a student at a Jewish school?
Welcome to Kolkata, India, whose Jewish Girls’ School has served exclusively non-Jewish students since the 1970s, and whose three synagogues are tended by a dynasty of Muslim caretakers.
“We grew up with that so it’s nothing strange to us,” says community member Flower Silliman in The Last Jews of Kolkata, a wonderful short video by Audrey Gordon and Ben Hoffman on Al Jazeera English. “It may sound very strange to people from other parts of the world but it’s never been otherwise so it’s not at all strange.”
In a city of 15 million people but only 20 remaining Jews, for principal Aline Cohen, the non-Jewish composition of the school “is a source of great pride. I feel it is something we have accomplished to have developed that level of trust with the Muslim community…because daughters are always considered as needing to be protected and to be sheltered, so that they entrust with their daughters is an achievement for us.”