Knesset Eliyahu Synagogue, Mumbai

By Ricky Rapoport Friesem

Published December 18, 2008, issue of December 26, 2008.
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the incongruity
of the sky-blue synagogue set
against the filthy Mumbai sky
screams of the innocence
of another
time

when dark skinned Jews
in saris and long kurtas
streamed through the great
blue doors to worship
their one
God

who dwelt among
them in this land of many gods.
Those Jews are long gone now,
returned to the Bible Land
they left eons
ago.

So on a Friday night
when we two peek inside,
the gabbai greets us
with a brilliant smile
He’s found a
tenth!

A minyan. We must stay,
he pleads, and pulls my
husband after him, dismissing
me with a brief nod
to where the women sit
above

and out of sight.
Thus banished I peek down
at the unlikely congregation.
Strangers, silent, ill at ease,
until a single voice rings
out

in a familiar chant
and one by one, all ten join in
the fugue that swells
with rising exaltation. Heads
down, feet stomping, arms
linked

they whirl around
the tribal fire kindled
by their passion. Flames
rise up, engulf me, and I yield. These
are my people. This too is

home.

Ricky Rapaport Friesem, a poet, journalist, filmmaker and grandmother of 12, has lived in Israel since 1972.


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