Rare Marathi-Hebrew text found in Manchester

London: A rare book used by the Bene Israel community in western India in the 19th century with text in Marathi and Hebrew has been discovered by a Manchester-based historian in a second-hand garage sale in Salford.

Titled `Poona Haggadah`, the 137-year-old book was discovered by the University of Manchester historian, Yaakov Wise.

He paid a "substantial" fee after recognising it at the sale. The language of Bene Israel community is Judaeo-Marathi.

Members of the community have mostly migrated to Israel in recent decades, but hail from Konkan and are based in cities such as Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad.

Wise told the BBC: "I knew it was a very rare book - in fact, it may be the only copy of it in Britain".

He said he found the Haggadah, which features text in both Hebrew and Marathi, in a pile of books at a local sale in Salford`s Higher Broughton area.

He said: "A man had passed away and his family were selling his library. There were hundreds and hundreds of books for sale, but as soon as I saw it, I knew what it was".

According to the historian, the book came to England during the post-colonial turmoil in India, when many Jews, who had British passports because of their work with the Imperial government, moved to London.

Wise said: "The format and illustrations give an insight into the Black Jews. The illustrations, in particular, are fascinating, as the major Biblical figures, such as Moses and Abraham, look Western, while the people celebrating Passover are very Indian".

He added: "There are very few books that have translations from Hebrew into any Indian language".

"As far as I know, there is only one of these in the whole of North America and that is in the Library of Congress in Washington DC".



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