Introduction / History
For over two thousand years, Jews lived on the Malabar Coast of India now in the state of Kerala. These Jews came to India at the times the destruction of the first temple in 586 BC and the second temple in 70 AD. These "Black" Jews were given special privileges by their Hindu rulers and prized for their language skills in trade. These Jews are not as dark as the Dravidian descendants of Kerala.
Another group of Jews came to India at the time of the expulsion of the Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1511. These later Jews are called "White" Jews as their complexions are the same as other European Jews. The Black and White Jews of south India had nearly the same customs and religious practices but maintained separate communities and did not intermarry.
When the Portuguese came to south India in the early 16th century they discriminated against the Jews in a similar way as they did in Portugal. Some synagogues were burnt down and many Jews fled to other parts of India. After the Portuguese came the Dutch. They were much more tolerant of the Indian Jews and used them extensively in their business dealings.
With the founding of the State of Israel in 1947, nearly all Indian Jews, both Black and White, immigrated to the new Jewish nation. The Cochin Jews have been incorporated into the Israeli population. Many retain their Malayalam language and spicy cuisine.
Where are they located?
The Cochin Jews once lived in India, but moved have now moved to Israel since 1947.
What are their lives like?
In Israel the Cochin Jews are most famous for bringing a delicious hybrid cuisine that incorporates spicy Indian food. Their lifestyles are no different from other Jewish people in Israel. Some Cochin Jews work on cooperative farms while others live in the cities. There are Cochin neighborhoods in many Israeli cities. Many have opened restaurants that feature hot, south Indian foods.
What are their beliefs?
These people are Jewish, though some are more orthodox in their beliefs than others. Some take the Torah and the prophets very seriously, and they believe these came directly from God. Others believe that religion changes to fit the needs of modern man. Still others doubt the existence of God, but they remain part of the Jewish culture.
What are their needs?
The Jews have a wonderful understanding of their connection with the Abrahamic Covenant. However, they also have a history of rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah, the one who has fulfilled that covenant. The Cochin Jews need to realize that Jesus is their Messiah.
Pray for gospel workers to catch a vision for reaching the Cochin Jewish people in Israel for Jesus and that in God's sovereign timing their hearts would be open and ready to follow Him.
Pray for Jesus movements to bless extended Cochin Jewish families so the gospel will spread rapidly among this people group.
Pray for the spiritual lives of the Cochin people to become fruitful as they follow Christ.
Pray for the lives and culture of the Cochin people to evidence the rule and reign of the Kingdom of God as they open to the gospel, and for the beauty of Jesus to be seen in them.
Pray that the spiritual eyes of the Cochin Jews are opened to see their Messiah.
Text source: Keith Carey