Synagogues Closing

The Jews are returning to their land, and many synagogues have closed. Since the first decade of the 21st century, there have been no functioning synagogues in Calcutta, a city that once hosted a thriving Jewish community and five synagogues. The first Jew, Shalom Aharon Obadiah Cohen, arrived from Allepo, Syria, in 1792. He led in the building of the first synagogue, Neveh Shalome, in 1831. Beth El synagogue followed in 1856; Magen David, 1884; Magen Aboth, 1897; Shaare Rasson, 1933. The Calcutta Jews were led by merchants trading in cotton, jute, spices, and opium. By the mid-20th century there were 6,000 Jews, but they are gone now. They began leaving after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. In 2019 there were only 30 Jews left in the city, all 70 or older. A report in the New York Times for Oct. 24, 2013, was entitled “The Last Jews of Calcutta.” Muslims are now caretakers of the defunct synagogues. In 2021, the last Jew left Afghanistan and the last synagogue closed. Jews had lived in Afghanistan since at least AD 500. At one time the Jewish population was thought to number 50,000. In 1948 the population was 5,000. By 1996, there were only 10 Jews in the one remaining synagogue in Kabul. The synagogue’s Torah was stolen by the Taliban. By 2001, there were thought to be only two Jews left, Zablon Simintov and Ishaq Levin. (Actually there was a third, Tova Moradias we reported in last week’s Friday Church News Notes.) “They were famous for being arch-rivals, and repeatedly turned each other into the Taliban. This feud was the plot-line for a New York City play entitled ‘The Last Two Jews of Kabul.’ In 2005, the feud ended when Levin died of natural causes, leaving Simintov as the only remaining Jew in all of Afghanistan” (“The Last Operating Synagogue,” Simintov, who has long been estranged from his wife and two daughters in Israel, left Afghanistan in September 2001 after the American military departure. Where are the Jews going? Large numbers of them are going home in preparation for the final fulfillment of Bible prophecy. “Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:11-12).

(Friday Church News Notes, November 26, 2021,,, 866-295-4143)