Camera rolling for documentary on Kolkata’s Jews

Kolkata, May 22 (IANS) A new documentary is on its way to showcasing the status of the dwindling number of Jews in the city through the eyes of the youngest member of the community.

Filmed by director duo Jaydip Mukherjee and Aloke Banerjee, the documentary will focus on Shalom Israel, caretaker of the Jewish cemetery and the juniormost of the now remaining 26 Jews of the city.

“I chose Shalom as he is the youngest member and fragile. Most people are aged in the community, so they can’t be asked,” Banerjee told IANS of the 41-one-year-old.

Shot in the Jewish cemetery where Shalom works, the film will shed light on his lifestyle living as he doubles as the guardian of the older members.

“This documentary is more of an observational film,” Banerjee said.

The film will also be shot in other prominent locations associated with the community, like the two schools – Jewish Girls School and The Elias Meyer Free School & Talmud Torah.

“I am doing this documentary because it will help people to know about the the decline of Jewish community,” said Israel who lives on the cemetry premises that houses around 3,000 graves of Jews from Russia, Europe and other parts of the world.

The director duo had previously worked on other television documentaries of which “Gaganendranath” was shown in the Indian Panorama section at the International Film Festival of India in 1991 at Madras (now Chennai) and the Dhaka International Short Film Festival in 1992.

Their other important films are “Soul Voice”, “Strings of Melody” and many others.

Shalom Cohen, a jeweller from Syria, arrived in Kolkata via Surat, Gujarat, in the 1790s with the intention to trade. Since then, many reputed Jewish families have made Kolkata their own, raising edifices like the Chowringhee Mansion, Esplanade Mansion and Ezra Hospital. They also built business empires.

At one point, the number of Jews in the city went up to around 3,000. But the creation of Israel in 1948 saw a majority of the population leave the city and gradually the younger generations branched out to other countries for better prospects, leaving the older ones behind.

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