MUMBAI ~ A young woman’s plan to compile a Yellow Pages of Indian Jews has got the community worried about terrorists using it to attack them.
While estimates vary, it is believed that there are not more than 5,000 Jews in India. They once formed a sizeable community, but most migrated to Israel or other countries. Recently, newspapers reported that 25-year-old Judith Hillel from Thane, Maharashtra, was putting together a comprehensive directory of Jews in India to help them stay in touch with one another.
However, many Jews fear it could be used by terrorists to locate and attack them. Aaraon Benjamin, honorary secretary of the Tiphereth Israel Synagogue in Mumbai, says, “Jews have been targeted in different parts of the world throughout history. We have remained relatively safe in India because we are few and our numbers are scattered. But a directory like this will help terrorists pinpoint each of us.”
Jewish residents of Mumbai say that the 26/11 attacks—which had Colaba’s Chabad Lubavitch Jewish centre as one of their targets—have made them feel insecure. Most Indian synagogues now have round-the-clock security and multiple CCTV cameras. Caretakers thoroughly screen visitors, who are often asked for identity cards. According to Yael Jhirad, a co-founder of the Indian chapter of Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), while the directory may seem a good idea, its dangers are evident. “It will be impossible to confine it within the community,” she says, “We saw what happened during 26/11. We need to be more cautious.”
Hillel refused to speak with Open. According to her mother, members of the community have been chiding her efforts. Several Jews, however, think that people are overreacting. Solomon Sopher, president of the Indian Jewish Congress and managing trustee and chairman of Sir Jacob Sassoon Synagogues and Allied Trusts, says, “Ever since 26/11 many members have become extra cautious. But, I don’t think a terrorist will look up a directory to find people to kill.”▪