Jew in India






Largest Religion

Main Language


Introduction / History

A significant number of Jews live among the growing masses of Bombay, India, and its surrounding areas. They are commonly known as the Bene Israel, or "Children of Israel." The language they speak, Marathi, is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by many other peoples in the region.

According to tradition, the Bombay Jew are descended from seven Jewish families who were shipwrecked off the Indian coast around 175 B.C. They lost all the Jewish holy books but retained Jewish customs such as circumcision, observance of the Sabbath, and dietary regulations. They settled in villages along the coast and remained completely unknown to other Jews until the 1900's.

In the following years, they gradually adopted modern Jewish religious customs. Leaving their small villages, most moved to Bombay. In the late 1940's and throughout the 1950's, the great majority migrated to Israel, but some remained in India.

What Are Their Lives Like?

At some point after their arrival in India, the Bombay Jew were incorporated into India's strict system of social classes, or "castes," and became recognized as a distinct caste. They were eventually subdivided into two sub-groups, the Gora and the Kala. The Gora claimed direct ancestry from the original Jewish settlers in India, while the Kala were the descendants of mixed marriages between Jews and Hindus. Traditionally, the Gora and the Kala never intermarried and even refused to eat together. Today, however, there is little or no distinction between the two groups.

In Bombay, most of the Jewish population live in typical apartment houses. The wealthier people, however, live in private homes. Traditionally, their most important occupation in the villages was the extraction of oil from seed. Today, the few Jew that still remain in the villages work primarily as farmers or in industries that are indirectly associated with oil pressing.

Within the city of Bombay, the Jew are employed in numerous professions. Some of them work in service industries, while others work as clerks, mechanics, white-collar workers, or skilled laborers. A significant number are professionals, such as doctors, teachers, and lawyers. Still others are employed in the armed forces or in the transportation and communications industries.

Most Bombay Jew families are typical nuclear families; that is, they are composed of a man, a woman, and their children. In order to keep wealth and prestige within the family, the Bombay Jew have traditionally preferred marriage between cousins. Divorce is completely unacceptable to them and is a very uncommon occurrence in their culture.

At one time, the Bombay Jew practiced polygamy, (having more than one spouse), but now most of their marriages are monogamous (having only one spouse). Children are raised by all the older females in the house, but discipline is carried out by all the older males. Education for the children is highly valued by the parents.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Following the law of Moses, the Bombay Jew traditionally practice all of the conventional Jewish beliefs. They observe strict dietary laws, circumcise male children, and observe the Sabbath. In addition, they recite the Shema, the Jewish confession of faith found in Chapter six of the book of Deuteronomy. They also celebrate Jewish festivals such as Passover and Yom Kippur. However, a few of their beliefs, especially those pertaining to the afterlife, reflect a Hindu influence.

What Are Their Needs?

The Bombay Jew are strongly dominated by tradition. As a result, they are not very receptive to change. In addition, their emphasis on intellectual achievement may prove a stumbling block to their acceptance of the Gospel. The Bible, the Jesus film, and Christian radio broadcasts are all available to the Bombay Jew; nevertheless, if they are to be reached with the Gospel, Christians must commit to fervent intercession for them.

Prayer Points

* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send Messianic Jews to share Jesus with the Bombay Jew of India.
* Pray that the Jesus film will effectively reveal the person of Jesus to the Bombay Jew.
* Ask God to open the spiritual ears of the Bombay Jew as they listen to Christian radio broadcasts.
* Pray that many Bibles will be distributed among the Bombay Jew.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among them.

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

People Name General Jew
People Name in Country Jew
Population in India 12,000
World Population 16,000
Countries 4
Progress Scale 1.1
Least-Reached Yes
Indigenous Yes
Alternate Names Bene Israel, Shanvar Teli, Yahudan, Yahudi, Yudan
Affinity Bloc Jews
People Cluster Jews
People Name General Jew
Ethnic Code CMT35
People ID 19239
Country India
Region South Asia
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 21  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Total States on file:  16  (up to 20 largest shown)
Maharashtra (9,500) Mizoram (800) Manipur (500) Gujarat (400)
Kerala (200) Rajasthan (200) Madhya Pradesh (100) Delhi (100)
West Bengal (90) Karnataka (80) Goa (40) Haryana (40)
Jammu and Kashmir (20) Daman and Diu (20) Tamil Nadu (20) Himachal Pradesh (10)
Total States on file:  16  (up to 20 largest shown)
Maharashtra (9,500) Mizoram (800)
Manipur (500) Gujarat (400)
Kerala (200) Rajasthan (200)
Madhya Pradesh (100) Delhi (100)
West Bengal (90) Karnataka (80)
Goa (40) Haryana (40)
Jammu and Kashmir (20) Daman and Diu (20)
Tamil Nadu (20) Himachal Pradesh (10)

No people group map currently available. Use the above button to submit a map.

Enthologue Language Map

Ethnolinguistic map from University of Texas or other map

Languages & Dialects on file:  7  (up to 20 largest shown)
Marathi (9,000) Meitei (1,300) English (800) Hindi (500)
Malayalam (200) Hebrew (200) Gujarati (100)
Languages & Dialects (speakers if known) - up to 20 shown
Marathi 9,000 Meitei 1,300
English 800 Hindi 500
Malayalam 200 Hebrew 200
Gujarati 100
For Primary Language: Marathi

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible Portions Yes   (1807-1957)
New Testament Yes   (1811-1982)
Complete Bible Yes   (1821-2002)
Audio Bible Online
Resource Format
Audio Bible teaching (GRN) Audio Recordings
Bible Visuals General
Bible-in-Your-Language Text / Printed Matter
Bibles, Bible League Text / Printed Matter
EasyBibles Text / Printed Matter
Fathers Love Letter Text / Printed Matter
Following Jesus (India, JF Project) Film / Video
God's Story Video Film / Video
Gods Simple Plan General
Got Questions Ministry General
Jesus Film: view in Marathi Film / Video
Magdalena (Jesus Film Project) Film / Video
My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime) Film / Video
Online New Testament (FCBH) Audio Recordings
Online New Testament (FCBH) Audio Recordings
Online Scripture (Talking Bibles) Audio Recordings
Online Scripture / Bible Audio Recordings
Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project) Audio Recordings
Story of Jesus for Children (JF Project) Film / Video
World Missionary Press Booklets Text / Printed Matter
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions

Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
100.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %

Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
0.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
0.0 %
Roman Catholic
0.0 %
Photo Source: Bethany World Prayer Center  
Profile Source: Bethany World Prayer Center  
Data Sources: Data is compiled from various sources. Read more

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