It’s Shabbat in fort Cochin. Tonight is my 3rd Friday night here and my 3rd attempt to attend services in the 400 year old synagogue in the city. It is the only functional synagogue remaining from the 7 that once lined the streets of Jew Town in Montecherry.
As I approach the entrance, the Indian guard at the door stops me and says, “Closed. You can’t go in.”
But I’m Jewish”, I said. “I want to pray. It’s Shabbat.”
He seems confused, unsure of how to respond.
Just then, a lighter skinned man approaches. In his Indian accent he says,
“Minyan? Tomorrow will be a minyan. Tomorrow night.”
“But it’s Shabbat now.” I remind him. “Tomorrow night won’t be Shabbat anymore.”
“Many people will come tomorrow. “ he assures me. “Minyan tomorrow night.”
A vibrant active Jewish community used to exist here. The synagogue, though small, reflects a modest and traditional character. There are about 5 Jews left in this multi cultural, multi religious town. Most families have chosen to bring up their children in Israel. That migration has left the synagogue empty.
One of the things that I love most about Fort Cochin is the diversity of culture and religion that is apparent here. In the 19th century Fort Cochin was a place in Kerala where a multitude of religions co-existed with mutual respect and appreciation for each other. Jains, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, all had large communities of people who practised their own religion and lived and work in cooperation with each other in perfect collaboration and harmony.
Lately I am noticing that I am looking for ways of demonstrating my Jewish identity. As I travel to different places and experience various spiritual cultures in the world I rejoice in the discoveries of similar practices. Yoga is not a religion. It’s about prayer and selfless service. It’s about seeking love and connecting to the divine within. It’s about striving for compassion and generosity and wisdom and applying it all to our relationships with others and to our interactions with Nature. Yoga is chanting and singing and learning and seeking truth.
What I am learning through Yoga fits beautifully into my Jewish life. There is nothing keeping the two practises a part. In the name of Unity (Yoga) I can embrace it all and continue to practise towards a pursuit of tikkun olam (healing the universe) and a world of peace and compassion and love. Shabbat Shalom to all!