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Praying for Zion in Tamil

Ari Z. Zivotofsky and Ari Greenspan

The women are draped in saris and the men have that unmistakable swarthy Indian visage, but the yarmulkes on their heads, the rousing clapping in rhythm to the traditional Jewish songs, the supplications for peace in Israel, and the mechitzah make us do a double take. Are we really in a Christian village somewhere in southern India?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

We had just finished a spirited dance and young Moshe — a kippah-clad boy who kept in step like a yeshivah bochur at a wedding — was showing us bottles of sacramental wine made especially for Kiddush. But this was no NCSY shabbaton — in fact, the crowd wasn’t even Jewish. This is what life looks like at theChristian “Zion Torah Center” in the Tamil-speaking, southern Indian town of Erode, popularly known as “Turmeric City.” What we witnessed there is part of a compelling phenomenon taking place around the globe. People in surprising, off-the-beaten-track settings are discovering Judaism and pining to become adherents. While only about 14 million of today’s monotheistic believers are Jewish, there’s a surprising momentum of non-Jews moving closer to Judaism. Our most recent trip, where we visited a special group of Christians in Erode, India, was yet another manifestation of this quiet movement. As the first Jewish-born people to have visited them, their developing story is even more inspiring for us.

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