By Dr. Sohail Ansari
Karachi’s Jews, mostly, belonged to India’s Bene Israel community, besides Bagdadi and Cochin sections. Some came in with British and others via Afghanistan. So much was the influence that one of them, Abraham Reuben, became the first Jew elected to Karachi’s city council. There were about 2500 Jews in Karachi before partition. In 1948, rioters burnt down the Megain Shalome Synagogue of Karachi and attacked some Jews, sparking their migration out of Pakistan.
“Moslem customers of mine,” wrote a Jewish merchant of Karachi, ”have advised me to go, at any rate for a time, to Bombay. But I am staying, and hope that nothing will happen. The last 400 Bene Israel here have now decided to emigrate; the synagogue has been despoiled of almost everything, including the silver ornaments of the Sifre Torah and even the carpets.
“A meeting was held recently to decide whether the synagogue building should be sold, and the proceeds distributed among the Jewish poor. A European Jew who attended the meeting opposed this proposal on the grounds that no synagogue should ever be sold.
But there is little doubt that if all the Jews of Karachi leave the city the Moslem inhabitants of the city will turn the building into a hotel, as they have already done in the case of abandoned Hindu Temples here,” the letter continues.
“Everything depends on the issue of the Palestine question. Should the final decision be favourable to the Arabs, or if the parties come to terms, there seems no reason to think the situation here will deteriorate. If — as we hope — Jewish aspirations in Palestine are fulfilled, then there will be great danger for all of us. The Government has assured the Jews of its protection; but, unhappily, we all know how easily the mob can be swayed by demagogues.”
“To Jews as Jews, we bear no malice,” said one of the Pakistan’s Prime Minister
Yet, the Election Commission of Pakistan reported in 2013 that 800 Jewish voters were registered in Pakistan.
And so a vibrant community of Karachi was lost.