Persistent identifier:
MS137_AJ95_150_3
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We have no tradition whatsoever about any particular place from which our earliest ancestors migrated to this country, but it is believed by our people that we originally came from Arabia.
2. Have they any tradition in which of the Indian provinces their earliest settlement took place ?
We have a tradition that our people first settled in a village named Naugaum, near Chaul or Alibaug, where there are two large tombs, which up to the present day are looked upon by the Hindoos as well as by the Beni Israel as the sepulchres of our earliest ancestors, who perished in shipwreck, and of those who died subsequently. There are still old families living in Alibaug, Chaul, Naugaum and other towns on the coast, both in the British territories and in those of the Hubshisar Abyssinians, who support themselves by retail shopkeeping and agriculture. Though our people, chiefly those in the above-mentioned villages, dress like the Hindoos, and conform to their social habits and manners, they are quite distinct as regards religion. From the earliest time, long before missionaries gave them the Old Testament in the Marathi language, the vernacular of that province, they have strictly observed the Levitical code, and kept themselves aloof from the Gentiles. They have always strictly observed the Sabbath day, refraining from cooking their food and from doing any other work. They do not eat unclean fish and flesh. They have also observed the great feasts. Our people have the Arabian or Jewish type of countenance. We are very much indebted for our present religious position and standing to the influence of the Jews from Jerusalem, Bagdad, and Cochin, who visited this province for the purpose of collecting money. David Bababia, a Jew either from Bagdad or Cochin, came to this part of India about 900 years ago, and he having discovered that we were observing the Levitical code, was convinced of our Jewish origin, and established a Hebrew school, in which several youths were trained. He lived for some years in the Koukou, and before his death gave a written order to two of his scholars to succeed him as religious ministers. This ministerial office has been retained to this day by their descendants as an hereditary office. These ministers are styled " Kajees;" they are considered superior to the ordinary religious ministers who receive payment for officiating in the Synagogues. They are in some respects like high priests and civil heads of our Community. All ecclesiastical and civil matters are investigated and settled by them with the aid of a council, but in many
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