Synagogue under threat

The Times of India

The Times of India
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Synagogue under threat from illegal moneylenders

KOCHI: Even synagogues are not spared by illegal moneylenders at a time when operation Kubera is in progress. The monument in question is Kadavumbhagam Synagogue, the worship places of Malabari Jews and a heritage site. Regina, the owner of the synagogue, had borrowed money from illegal moneylenders and failed to repay it, following which they tried to demolish it and sell the property. Police have registered a case against Saitmohammed (alias Chendu) and Bava of Mattancherry for threatening her. Saitmohammed has been granted bail.

"We have sent a report to the revenue divisional officer of Fort Kochi asking the government to take over the monument. We have registered cases against the illegal moneylenders," said M Binoy, assistant commissioner of police.

Police said Saitmohammed and Bava had given Rs 7 lakh and Rs 2 lakh respectively to Regina a few years ago and later offered to buy the building for Rs 50 lakh since she did not repay the money. "Nobody was willing to buy it as the synagogue was located on the land. So the moneylenders wanted to pull it down," police said.

Following the demolition threat, the association of Kerala Jews sent a petition to the director of archaeology department to protect the monument. "We have given instructions to city police commissioner to take immediate steps to protect the monument," said G Premkumar, director of the archaeology department.

"When the Jews from Kochi returned to Israel, they sold the synagogue to a businessman in Kochi. From him, Regina got the ownership of the synagogue," he said. According to local historian and tourist guide Biju Thomas sale or demolition of synagogue is illegal as per Ancient Monuments and Archaeological and Remains Act.