The following is an excerpt from The Scarsdale Inquirer – Friday, May 3, 2013.

By ILENE NECHAMKIN

Dr. Shalva WeilThe Jews of India aren’t so much forgotten as unknown.

Dr. Shalva Weil, a senior researcher at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the author of more than 80 articles in scholarly journals, disclosed the fascinating history of this ancient population in a PowerPoint presentation Tuesday night at Westchester Reform Temple.

Many, if not most, Westerners react with disbelief when they learn of the existence of the sizable number of sari-clad Jews, who have adapted Indian music, art and cuisine and thrived in the Hindu country, largely free of persecution. Many even look “Indian” — dark hair and skin tone — quite distinct from the European norm. But it’s all a matter of perspective. Weil, who holds a bachelor’s from the London School of Economics and a master’s and doctorate from the University of Sussex, told a story about taking two Indian Jews out for dinner at a kosher restaurant in London. The other people in the restaurant, one told her, “don’t look Jewish.”

Indian Jews rose in society, becoming “educated and cosmopolitan” after several generations, boasting a poet laureate, top doctors, scholars — and contributing to Bollywood, she said. In fact, the first Bollywood talkie, released in 1931, “Alam Ara,” was written by a Jew, who gained experience writing pageants of biblical stories. And a descendant of an immigrant from Baghdad, Lt. General J. Jacob, was the governor of Goa until 1999, then Punjab. Though most Jews have left, the community still functions, providing “transnational” marriages with Israel and “roots” tours for relocated descendants.

Follow this link to the article in full: Dr. Shalva Weil.