Sarah Cohen, The Woman in the Window
Call her the woman in the window. Seeing Sarah Cohen sitting by the window of her Cochin home was always one of the highlights of all our tours.
Sarah Aunty was 96 when she passed away on August 30, 2019. She was the oldest member of the Jewish community in Mattancherry.
The first time I visited Cochin, in 1997, I met Sarah and her husband Jacob, a lawyer. accountant and former journalist who often conducted services at the Paradesi Synagogue. I was struck by the window, which displayed blue wrought-iron Stars of David. To me it was a sign that the Jews of India were not afraid to express their identities openly.
Most of the members of the prosperous and respected Cochin community made aliyah in the 1950s, but Jacob and Sarah were among the few Jews who chose to remain. Jacob's words will forever ring in my memory: “My heart burns. This was a little Jerusalem," he said. "Israel is my spiritual land, the land of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, but India is my motherland; the only land that offered tolerance, scholarship and prosperity.” Jacob passed away in 1998.
Sarah is legendary for never having missed voting in an election! An example for us all! She has left a legacy worldwide, as many visitors bought her hand-embroidered kippot and hallah covers that she sold in a small shop. They are being used in homes around the world.
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Rahel Musleah was born in Calcutta, India, the seventh generation of a Calcutta Jewish family that traces its roots to 17th-century Baghdad.