Rifka's Resources

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Copyright (c) 2008 Padma Venkatraman

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Rifka's Resources - Indian Judaism and Diversity
Kitta's Choices - Colonization and World War 2
“…Opening with the festival of Krishna Jayanthi, Venkatraman so skillfully weaves Hindu words, traditions, and religious festivals into her story that readers understand the vocabulaty and appreciate the beliefs…Vidya achieves the psychological distance to ponder cultural and religious similarities and differences by way of her philosophically minded appa and her Jewish best friend…With a delightfully strong female protagonist who struggles between tradition and the values she holds dear, this novel will capture the imaginations
of many readers…”

VOYA, 5 Q 4P S
Rifka’s character is based on Jewish Indian women who were friends of my family in India. As a child, my first introduction to the horrors of the Holocaust was through conversations with a close friend of my sister.

There were several waves of Jewish immigration to Indian shores over the centuries. Jews fled to India from Spain during the Inquisition and Persian Jews came seeking refuge from persecution. Pardesi Synagogue, built in 1568 in south India, is one of the oldest existing synagogues in the world.

Jews are not the only religious group that have immigrated to or have been granted asylum in India. Zoarastrians (Parsis) and Syrian Christians also settled in India to avoid religious persecution. Respecting religious diversity has long been an Indian tradition. In modern times, India gave political asylum to His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet.

Below is a list of resources on Judaism in India.
Resources on Indian Judaism

Fernandes, Edna.
The Last Jews of Kerala: The Two Thousand Year History of India’s Forgotten Jewish Community. 2008. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing.
From the publisher: “Two thousand years ago, trade routes and the  fall of
      Jerusalem took Jewish settlers seeking sanctuary across Europe and Asia. One
      little-know group settled in Kerala, in tropical southwestern India. Eventually
      numbering in the thousands, with eight synagogues, they prospered… their
      comfortable lives, however, were haunted by a feud between the Black Jews of
      Ernakulam and the White Jews of Mattancherry… Today, this once-illustrious people
      is in its dying days… The Last Jews of Kerala narrates the rise and fall of the Black
      Jews and the White Jews over the centuries and with the context of the grand history
      of the Jewish people. It is the story of the twilight days of a people whose community
      will, within the next generation, cease to exist. Yet it is also a rich tale of weddings
      and funerals, of loyalty to family and fierce individualism, of desperation and hope.”

Gautier, Francois.
“India, the land of refuge.” Indian Express. June 5, 2000. Embassy of India New Media Reports.

For the complete list of resources on Indian Judaism, click here.
“Climbing the stairs by Padma Venkatraman is anovel about a teenage girl, VIdya, growing up in India during World War II. ..I enjoyed how this book has a lot of very interesting historical and cultural information…This book illustrates the struggles of India as a country and how war can tear families apart… While many families fought nonviolently against the British occupation… others chose to fight along side the British in the quest to defeat Hitler…This is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read. The balance between plot and history makes it so enjoyable. I would most definitely recommend this book to any reader, especially one who loves historical fiction.”
Haley DiBiase, NK Library Teen Review