Solomon Sopher, president of the Baghdadi Jewish community in Mumbai, and Sangita and Sajjan Jindal of the JSW Group dedicated the restored Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue to the Jewish Community and the cultural heritage of Mumbai today, in the august presence of Hon’ble Governor of Maharashtra, Shri. Vidyasagar Rao. This monument is one of the most significant Jewish synagogues in India and is a place of worship for Mumbai’s Baghdadi and Bene Israeli Jewish Community.
Located in the heart of Mumbai’s art district, the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue is a Grade IIA Classical Revival Structure protected under the Heritage Regulations for Greater Bombay 1995. Originally designed by Bombay architects Gostling and Morris, the Synagogue has now been restored to its original grandeur through the collaborative efforts of JSW Group, Sir Jacob Sassoon & Allied Trust, Kala Ghoda Association and World Monument Fund. Ms. Abha Narain Lambah has served as the Principal Conservation Architect of the Bombay Synagogue project while Ms Swati Chandgadkar has restored the stained-glass panels.
Key Highlights of Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue Restoration
Some of the key highlights of restoration undertaken at the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue include:
- To restore the structural strength of the monument, roof repairs, terrace waterproofing, splice repair of damaged sections of timber rafters, repair of cracks as well as repair of structural wooden members have been undertaken.
- The damaged terracotta tiled roofing has been replaced with new tiles to match the original profile of timber boarding, wherever found missing in the roof areas.
- Lead flashing, originally used in most buildings for gutters, window frames and areas prone to water leakages, has been re-introduced in a similar fashion.
- Several of the Synagogue’s original religious symbols – grape vines, citron fruit, and the Star of David among others – that had been obscured under years of blue paint have also been beautifully restored back on the walls.
- The original colour tone of the monument has also been restored along with the stencil of the motifs.
- The intricate stained-glass windows were removed, cleaned and painstakingly restored.
A special feature of the Synagogue is the use of rusticated plaster to decorate masonry courses on the ground floor. The prayer hall space has high ceiling contains large windows and clerestories with operable louvered shutters. The hall is arranged along an east to west orientation, with the entry doors placed east orientation and the Bechal, or Ark, containing the Torah scrolls, facing west towards Jerusalem. The sanctuary features a centralized or freestanding podium, a Sephardic, eastern Jewish tradition, from where the service is conducted. Surrounding the Synagogue’s podium are several wooden benches set on the floor which is finished in Minton tiles originally imported from Stoke-on-Trent in England. Separate seating areas for men and women are provided with sizeable upstairs galleries around the sanctuary’s double-height perimeter along the sides and rear.
Synagogues have never conformed to stylistic rules anywhere in the world or, as a building type, never been resolved in unique or recognizable terms and the Synagogues in India are no exception. They vary considerably in size, extent and quality of detail. In the case of Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, it was built in the Classical Revival style with decorative Victorian interiors.