Beth El synagogue is situated in the busy Pollock Street, one of the busiest roads in Kolkata. The place is surrounded by shops and thousands of people walk down the road giving the yellow gigantic structure a miss. In fact, on a busy day, you will see the white marble stairs of the building inviting you, but will barely notice it. So after visiting the Magen David Synagogue and the Neveh Shalome Synagogue, we walked down the busy Pollock Street looking for Beth El.
Beth El stands tall with an arched entrance. Above the arch there is a glass panel having an elegant pattern. The glass panel is flanked by the Jewish star of David and the Star of Menorah (symbol of Israel).
At the top there is clock with a black dial on which time has taken its toll! As we climbed the marble stairs and entered the room towards the left, we saw the large portrait of David Joseph Ezra, the business tycoon who is said to be the builder of many prominent buildings of Calcutta including the Ezra building. Built in 1856, Beth El literally means “the House of God“.
The interior of the Beth El synagogue is simply outstanding. It has long slender columns with beautiful designs. The chandeliers hanging add to the grandeur of the place. The chequered marble floor and the stained glasses made a mesmerizing sight. In the middle of the hall, there was a raised platform for the Rabbi to pray and preach.
Like the other synagogues, there is an alter at the far end with a semicircular dome. Inside the dome, there were inscriptions written in Hebrew. They were prayers from the Torah and the Ten Commandments.
The holy Torah is placed at the Beth El synagogue and to view it permission is required from Ms. A Cohen, Secretary of the Jewish community Kolkata.
A flight of stairs leads to the upper floor. The upper floor has now been transformed into a mini museums where the history of Jews in Kolkata has been depicted through photographs.
It all started with a handful of merchants coming to trade in India. They ended up building a community rich is their culture and tradition. Now after years of thriving successfully and contributing immensely to the city that embraced them with open arms, the Jews left in Kolkata can now be counted. The few Jews living in Kolkata considers Kolkata their homeland.