Two hundred and fifty years ago, a group long-settled on the rural Konkan Coast, located on the outskirts of Mumbai (Bombay), embarked on a remarkable journey: to reclaim their Jewishness.
At the time, they belonged to the Shanwar Teli, or “Saturday oil pressers” caste, so-called because they made their living pressing sesame seeds into oil – except, that is, on Saturdays when they refrained from any form of work.
With a compelling story of where they came from and how they got there, they were cut off from world Jewry for centuries. Yet, they held firm to certain traits, including circumcising their male infants on the eighth day.
Then they became “discovered” – by the Kochi (Cochin) Jews, the Baghdadi Jews in Mumbai, their Hindu and Muslim neighbors, and Christian missionaries – and everything changed.