Students stage play on Karachi’s lost Jews

Last month a group of students in Pakistan staged a play about Karachi’s lost Jews. It’s a story that is neither preserved nor remembered, and serves as a dangerous precedent for other struggling minority groups. Insightful article by Bilal Lakhani in Asia Society blog:

At the beginning of the 20th century, Karachi alone had about 2,500 Jews
engaged as artisans and civil servants in the city. In 1893, the Jews
of Karachi built the Magain Shalome Synagogue, and, in 1936, one of the
leaders of the Jewish community, Abraham Reuben, became the first Jewish councilor on the Karachi city (municipal) corporation.

A number of Jewish organizations catered to the needs of Karachi’s
Jews. The Young Man’s Jewish Association, founded in 1903, was
established with the purpose of encouraging sports as well as religious
and social activities. The Karachi Jewish syndicate, formed in 1918, was
created to provide homes to poor Jews at a reasonable rent.

Even though the majority of Pakistan’s Jews lived in Karachi, a small
community served by two synagogues also lived in Peshawar. After the
founding of the state of Israel in 1948, violent incidents against the
small Jewish community forced an exodus of Jewish refugees to flee to
India and Israel. Incidentally, Magain Shalome — Karachi’s synagogue —
was demolished in the 1980s to make way for a shopping plaza.

'The Lost Jews of Karachi' poster

The history of Jews living in Karachi is neither preserved nor
remembered in Karachi today. Instead, Jews have become a favorite
punching bag of the religious right as they habitually invoke a “Jewish
conspiracy” to explain away the failures of the Pakistani state.

The story of the disappearance of Jewish community within two
generations serves as a dangerous precedent for other minority groups
currently struggling to fight for their rights, in the face of violence,
discrimination and forced conversions.

A recent surge
in violence against minorities — be they Hindu, Christian or the
supposedly non-Muslim Ahmadis — has enabled Pakistan’s civil society to
thrust the plight of minorities into the national spotlight, sparking a
conversation about tolerance and religious harmony.

Last month, a group of students attempted to inspire a discussion about Karachi’s long-lost Jewish heritage with a short play, The Lost Jews of Karachi,
performed at the Alliance Francaise de Karachi. The play revolved
around two Jewish sisters struggling with the decision to abandon their
ancestral hometown (Karachi) and move to Israel. In the final scene, the
sisters are separated at the railway station as they attempt to flee.
One of the sisters misses the train, and remains behind in the city — as
the other manages to leave Karachi forever.

 Read article in full

“Cemetery of the Lost Tribe,” a documentary short about the the Jewish cemetery in Mewa Shah, Karachi.

One Comment

  • Pakistani Canadian journalist and founder of the secularist Muslim Coalition of Canada, Tarek Fatah, was a guest speaker at an event about antisemitism. Fateh had a few interesting things to say, as always, that Pakistan is a much greater danger to world peace than Iran and that one of his grandmothers was a Jew.


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