Explore Jewish India
A Personal Note from Rahel
India is a vast country of dramatic contrasts, extraordinary cultural richness, and religious diversity. Any visitor to India can choose from a wide array of tours. What distinguishes ours is its “insider’s” perspective.
I was born in Calcutta to a family with Baghdadi roots; I live in the United States today and speak widely about the Indian Jewish communities—always adding music wherever I go. My tour partner, Joshua Shapurkar, is a member of the Bene Israel community of Bombay and has been leading general and Jewish tours for twenty-five years. Together we have an intimate knowledge of the Indian Jewish communities and close relationships with its members.
You, too, will be treated as part of our broader family. You will meet and interact with community members, enjoy local hospitality, experience India’s magnificent cultural tapestry, and enjoy its rare Jewish treasures. We will attend Shabbat services together in Bombay and Calcutta. I will lead services in the Baghdadi-Indian tradition in the Magen David Synagogue, where my father was rabbi, and share my memories with you as we walk together through streets and bazaars. Our accommodations are deluxe—and you won’t have to worry about meals or transportation in India: everything is included.
Please join us on this unforgettable adventure!
Namaste and Welcome to India!
Arrive in Mumbai and transfer to the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel.
Late breakfast at hotel. Tour the city of Mumbai, including the Banganga Tank, a sacred pool hidden in the luxurious locality of Malabar Hill; the Dhobi Ghat, an immense, colorful outdoor laundry, and Mani Bhavan, Gandhi’s house 1917-1934, now a museum. Learn about India’s multifaceted religious heritage at a Hindu temple, the Hanging Gardens, and Parsi Towers of Silence. After lunch, visit synagogues that reflect the thriving presence of the Bene Israel and Baghdadi Jews: Tipheret Israel and Knesseth Eliyahu. Enjoy Shabbat services and a sumptuous kosher Indian-Baghdadi dinner with the community at Knesseth Eliyahu. Walk back to hotel.
Walk to the Knesseth Eliyahu Synagogue for Shabbat services and a gourmet kosher Baghdadi feast. After lunch, optional heritage walk featuring the David Sassoon Library, Flora Fountain, and Prince of Wales Museum with its huge collections of art, archaeology, and natural history (tickets will be purchased in advance). Dinner at a local restaurant.
Depart by ferry to visit the villages along the coast of Bombay where, according to Bene Israel tradition, seven couples were shipwrecked over 2,000 years ago. Visit the original landing site and monument at Navgaon, as well as the Magen Aboth Synagogue. Pick out the Jewish stars on some of the homes on Israel Street. Dinner at JCC Mumbai.
Fly to Cochin, on the southern tip of the Indian peninsula. Cochin was once home to another flourishing Jewish community. Today only 22 Jews remain. Visit the dramatic Chinese fishing nets and the Saint Francis Church, the burial place of Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer who discovered India. Walk along Jew Town Road to the exquisite 450-year-old Paradesi Synagogue and cemetery in Mattancherry; explore the area’s antique shops and spice markets, and visit the Dutch Palace. Meet two of Cochin’s last Jews, both women, and purchase hand-made kippot and tablecloths if you wish. Check in to the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Visit the 19th-century Chennamangalam Synagogue and museum. Its close proximity to a Hindu temple, church and mosque highlights India’s religious tolerance. Stop at the Parur Synagogue, an architectural gem dating from 1616. After a late lunch overlooking the beach, all aboard for a lush backwater tour along Kerala’s local canals. Before dinner, enjoy a Kathakali dance drama.
Visit the amazing synagogue in Ernakulam, part of Cochin (it’s hidden behind an aquarium and garden shop) before flying to Jaipur via Mumbai. Jaipur, the “Pink City of India” and capital of Rajasthan, is nestled in India’s mountains. Overnight at Double Tree by Hilton.
Prepare to be awed by the Amber Fort, the ancient citadel of Jaipur’s rulers, and ride an elephant! Stop at the city palace and the Jantar Mantar observatory. Take time to shop in this beautiful city, known for textiles, jewelry and carpets.
Take an early morning flight east to Calcutta, once the capital of the British Raj and…Rahel’s birthplace! Visit the dazzling and peaceful Jain Temple. Enjoy British-era architectural masterpieces including the Victoria Memorial, Raj Bhavan (Governor’s House), and Writers’ Buildings. Check in at the Lalit Great Eastern Hotel and prepare for Shabbat. Walk to the Beth El Synagogue, enjoy a Shabbat service that Rahel will lead, and savor a bountiful Baghdadi meal with members of the local community.
Rahel will lead Shabbat services at the Maghen David Synagogue. After lunch at the synagogue, enjoy a walking tour of local sites, including the flower market and the ghats (steps) that lead down to the holy Ganges River. For dinner, savor the hospitality, a cooking demonstration and a vegetarian feast at the home of Flower Silliman, a cookbook author and caterer who owned her own kosher restaurant in Jerusalem, and her daughter Jael, author of two books about the Calcutta Jewish community, and curator of the digital archive, “Recalling Jewish Calcutta.”
Fly to Delhi, the second most populous city in the world, and the seat of the Indian government. Visit the magnificent Red Fort built by the Moghul ruler Shah Jahan, who also built the Taj Mahal. Stop at the tomb of Sarmad, a Persian mystic, poet, and saint, who was born a Jew. Enjoy a bicycle rickshaw ride through the narrow, bustling lanes of Old Delhi. Check in at the Taj Mahal Hotel. Visit the Judah Hyam Hall, the local synagogue. Overnight at Taj Hotel.
City tour of Old Delhi, including Raj Ghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi, and New Delhi, including Qutab Minar; Humanyun’s Tomb; India Gate; Parliament and President’s Houses, and Sikh Temple.
Leave by road to Agra and marvel at the city’s Red Fort. In the evening, visit the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, built by the emperor Shah Jahan in the 17th century. Overnight at Double Tree by Hilton.
Visit Fathepur-Sikri, the ghost city of palaces and fabulous Moghul architecture. After lunch, return by road to Delhi. Overnight at Holiday Inn-Airport.
Namaste! Transfer to the Delhi International Airport for flights home or for post-tours.
Explore Jewish India: What You Need to Know
- $4,850 pp double occupancy.
- $6,400 single occupancy (includes single supplement of $1,550).Cost includes:
- 15 days, 14 nights at five-star hotels.
- All meals (vegetarian, with some fish and two kosher meat meals).
- All sightseeing costs.
- All travel within India, including flights, boat and ferry trips, and air-conditioned buses.
- Fully escorted by highly experienced, English-speaking guide from arrival until departure.
- Specialized talks about Jewish India and get-togethers with members of the local Jewishcommunities.
- All current applicable taxes and most gratuities.What is NOT included:
- International airfare Please call Mark at 800.247.7235 for competave air pricing
- Gratuities for guides and drivers. visa fees.
- Schedule of Payments and Other Requirements:
- $1,000 non-refundable deposit due Sept.7, 2015. Payable by check to Rahel Musleah. Please send to Rahel Musleah, 61 Marino Ave., Port Washington, NY 11050.
- Final balance due Oct. 7 (90 days prior to departure). Final payment can be made by check or credit card. There is a 2.5 percent fee on all credit card payments.
- Visa and valid passport required.Optional Add-Ons:
- $250 per additional night at Taj Mumbai (cost is the same for single or double);
- Mumbai day tour will be available at additional cost.
- Post –Tour: Please request itinerary if you are interested.
Option A: Two nights, Delhi-Varanasi: $675 pp double occupancy
$1,460 single occupancy (includes $785 single supplement)
Option B: Five nights, Delhi-Rajasthan (Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur):
$1,550 pp double occupancy
$3,575 single occupancy (includes $2,025 single supplement)
Looking forward to having you join us!
Testimonials from Past Participants
―Of the many trips abroad that my wife and I have taken, our India journey with Rahel and Joshua was the best! Joshua is the most wonderful travel guide, our exploration into Jewish India was fascinating and spiritually meaningful, and India’s people, colors, food, smells, and wonders were a constant delight!‖—Stephan U., Denver, CO
―It was a delightful, memorable and fascinating tour of India with the added bonus of learning about another facet of Jewish history and culture. Joshua was excellent. Rahel was a full hands- on guide, providing the insights as only an insider can.‖—Judith P., Boston, MA
―Joshua was fantastic. Can’t think of a thing he could have done to better help us. He was constantly aware of what people needed, was resourceful and able to resolve issues on the fly, and wonderfully knowledgeable about both the Jewish histories of India as well as the non- Jewish political and religious histories. He really knows his stuff, and shares it in a fascinating, informative and humorous way. Joshua and Rahel worked incredibly well together, in a beautiful melding of the Bene Israel and Baghdadi traditions. Rahel’s leading the Shabbat morning Torah service in Delhi was a total treat, and singing [Salamone] Rossi in the synagogue in Calcutta was a real gift. Rahel’s personal and musical history in combination with Joshua’s experience as a tour guide really made this a special trip.‖—Fredrica B., Brooklyn, NY
―The tour was well-managed and stress-free considering we had a lot of ground to cover. I enjoyed the visits to the synagogues and the Taj Mahal; even crossing the streets was a highlight!‖—Carol D., Brooklyn, NY
―What a sensory experience! The tour was a compelling introduction to India through the lens of the history of Jews in India. It was revelatory in many ways, bringing to light how Jews thrived in India.‖—Karen C., Santa Fe, NM
―I loved all the meals and meeting members of the communities! Joshua and Rahel were outstanding guides and brought to life the history of the Jewish people of India. I would highly recommend traveling with them!‖—Loni B., Great Neck, NY
―The tour was an eye-opening adventure from start to finish. I enjoyed learning about a Jewish culture and history that was new to me. I also came away with tremendous respect for the vitality, resilience and diversity of the Indian people.‖—Mara W., Wyomissing, PA
―Thank you for putting this tour together! My eyes have been opened to the Indian Jewish community and to India in general. It’s a great combination. The musical addition was wonderful.‖—Bonnie K., Denver, CO
―The trip offered a very nice balance between Jewish content and Indian sites. The time we spent with members of the Jewish community in Mumbai, Cochin, Calcutta and Delhi made it a unique experience. Rahel and Joshua planned the trip with amazing attention to detail and with love.‖—Karen R., New York, NY
―Highlights included Shabbat at Knesseth Eliyahu in Mumbai, the tour of the Kerala backwaters, the dinner at Flower’s house, and the amazing Moghul palaces around Agra and Delhi.‖—Gabriella J., Jerusalem, Israel
―We appreciated the opportunity to visit Jewish sites in India that we could not have seen on our own. We learned a lot about India as well. Hotel accommodations were excellent.‖—Marvin and Judy S., Center Conway, NH
―This was a superb experience. My expectations were more than met! I connected with my personal past and gained a better understanding of past and present Jewish Indian life and community. Joshua gave me a strong message that there is a future for the Jews in India.‖— Nancy S., Newton, MA
―What a pity you only do India! What about Japan, China . . .?‖—Shulamith D., Brazil
Rahel and Joshua. Photo by Joan Roth/Photographer