Judaism in Kerala

Paradesi Jews, Malabari Jews and Meshuchrarim

During the years following their immigration, the Jews of Kerala started identifying themselves on the basis of their perceived ethnicity.  This led to the creation of two separate communities – Paradesi “White” Jews of “pure” European blood and Malabari “Black” Jews born of union between the European Jews and the natives. The Arab-speaking Baghdadi Jews who came later from Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan were included in the former category. To complicate matters still further, there was the case of the Meshuchrarim (literally, “the freed people”), a derogatory term often used to refer to a motley group that included freed slaves who were brought from Europe, specifically, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, as well as converts and their descendants.  They were considered inferior, not granted entry into the synagogue (Jewish place of worship) but made to sit outside.  They had no synagogues of their own or special rights either.