MADRAS (today Chennai), city in S. India. Formerly known as Fort St. George, Madras was the first territorial acquisition of the English East India Company in 1639. In the last decades of the 17th century its diamond trade attracted Anglo-Portuguese Jewish merchants, who were allowed by the Company to establish a merchant colony which continued until the end of the 18th century. In the Madras corporation, established in 1688, the "Hebrew merchants" were represented by Jewish aldermen. Among the Jewish merchants prominent in the early days were bartholomew rodrigues , Domingo do Porto, alvaro da fonseca , jacques paiva , Francis Marques, Isaac do Porto, Joseph d'Almanza, and isaac sardo abendana . In the 18th century many Ashkenazi Jews from London participated in the profitable trade, including marcus moses and his family, Ephraim Isaac, the franks , and later the Portuguese family de castro and salomon franco . The Jewish merchants in Madras were integrated into the English society and were on good social terms with several of the governors. The fluctuating nature of the merchant colony apparently prevented the organization of a Jewish community and the only communal institution seems to have been a cemetery. Some tombstones still remain, but they have been transferred to a new municipal site in Madras called the "People's Park," the entrance of which bears a tablet inscribed in Hebrew Beit ha-Ḥayyim. Only 20 Jews were living in Madras in 1968. Unlike those of Cochin, bombay , and calcutta , the Jews in   Madras did not create any literary works. It was only due to the Christian mission that some Hebrew books were published there in the 19th century. A noteworthy Jewish literary event there was the publication of the Travels from Jerusalem… of David d'Beth Hillel in 1832. In the early 21st century the Jewish community of Chennai consisted mainly of expatriates. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Fischel, in: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 3 (1960), 78–107, 175–95 (incl. bibl.); Roth, Mag Bibl, 106; H.D. Love, Vestiges of Old Madras, 4 vols. (1913); A. Yaari, Ha-Defus ha-Ivri be-Arẓot ha-Mizraḥ, 2 (1940), 98–99. (Walter Joseph Fischel)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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