India’s Jewish War Legend Looks Back
Aimee Ginsburg has a wonderful, startling, moving interview-profile of General Jack Jacob, the Calcutta-born Jewish war hero of modern India, in the current issue of OpenTheMagazine.com.
I first saw Gen Jack Jacob ten years ago, during the Sabbath services at the Judah Hyam synagogue, Delhi’s only Jewish temple. When he walked through the door, the (small) sea of congregators parted and an excited hush filled the hall. “It’s Gen Jack Jacob!” the lady next to me, beautiful in her Sabbath salwar of turquoise silk, whispered in my ear. Her husband’s back straightened discernibly; “Gen Jacob is our topmost Jew!” he said. Of that long ago evening of prayer, that suddenly upright back is what I remember most. “People throw around the phrase ‘larger than life’,” the Israeli ambassador said to me that night. “Not many people fit the bill. Lt General Jack Jacob is larger than life.” Jacob, a large man with silver hair and posture becoming of his rank, was immaculate in his navy blue suit. Far removed from military affairs and not interested (at the time) in matters of my tribe, I looked, nodded and moved away.
Years later, environmental and social activists in Goa introduced me to Jacob’s remarkable legacy as the state’s most effective and beloved (ex) Governor. Later still, the General’s autobiography An Odyssey in War and Peace became a besteller. I wrote to him finally, asking for a series of interviews. Eight minutes later, his reply was in my inbox: ‘I am approaching 90. I think I have earned a rest. I intend to now slowly fade away. If you want to write about me, you better be quick. Regards, jfrj.’