Yes, there were once Jews in Pakistan

Yes, there were once Jews living in Pakistan. I met one yesterday.

Fritha, whose family was encouraged with others of the Bnei Israel community to move to Karachi by the British – they needed their linguistic skills and trade contacts – attended a British school. At its height the community in Pakistan numbered almost 1,000. Life was comfortable. They had servants, but social interaction with all Muslims, save those who had lived in East Africa, was minimal. Fritha never visited a Muslim home.

A few Jews stayed on after the 1947 Partition and the massive wartime population exchange between Muslims and Hindus. It was in 1964, when Fritha was 12, that persecution finally drove the family to flee Karachi for India, leaving all their possessions behind. They were allowed to take just one rug with them. Frita’s mother sewed gold coins into the lining. The women left wearing saris weighed down with coins. Once in India the family managed to survive by converting the coins into cash.

The Jewish Agency then arranged for them to make aliya to Israel, where the Jews were welcomed and helped to find jobs and housing. Many Bnei Israel Jews, who speak good English, found work at Ben Gurion airport.

Fritha recalls that the neighbours were a family of Turkish Jews whose daughters had flame-red hair. They had no idea that there existed dark-skinned Jews from Pakistan, anymore than the Pakistani Jews knew that there were Jews from Turkey with red hair. Despite the language barrier, the two mothers found they had plenty in common – and spent hours discussing how to handle their teenage daughters.

6 Comments

  • Hi.. If you can tell the exact location of your home in Karachi near Capri Cinema in MA Jinnah. I can go and get some pictures of it which might make you nostalgic. Email me at [email protected]

    Reply
  • My parents are aware of Jewish families living in Karachi, and my parents had a good relationship with them. Most of them were in Carpet / Rug business. They were there till mid 70's and then migrated to Israel. When they were living in Karachi they were living near or arround Capri cinema (M.A Jinnah Road's surrounding). I could recall of my family visit to them when I was hardly 5 year old, and I think this family was living on the same street where the 'Rainbow Center' is located but more closer to M.A Jinah road.

    Reply
  • I am a pakistani living near islamabad
    some ten years ago i went to Havana there some friends talked about jews i became interested where can i learn more about this relegion? my e mail is [email protected]

    Reply

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This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

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