The Big Idea: Zilka Joseph


The world is wider than we often know, with more people and communities in them than many of us have heard of before. In Sweet Malida: Memories of a Bene Israel Woman, author Zilka Joseph explores her own connection and history with a largely little-known group, and why she decided to open up her past and place it on the page.


Who are the Bene Israel Jews of India? Where did they come from? How did they survive in India? What is their legacy? What does it mean to me as a descendant of the Bene Israel, how do our stories/lives connect?

The history of my Bene Israel ancestors, my exploration of their life and traditions, and how these stories reflect on the narrative of my own memories and journeys, are at the core of my book. The origins of this micro-minority, an ancient Jewish community from India known as the sons of Israel—the Bene Israel, has always been fascinating to me. I read books about my ancestors by pioneering researchers in this field, and later my study of this subject deepened, as I read books by contemporary scholars. I’ve been publishing books rooted in my life experiences mingled with a myriad other subjects, but this is the first time I created a book focused exclusively on the stories of the Bene Israel, and my personal journeys.

My ancestors are believed to have been survivors from a shipwreck on the west coast of India, and have lived there since their arrival in 175 B.C.E. Some think they came after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., that they were descendants of the Lost Tribes who came around the tenth century, perhaps around King Solomon’s reign. I want people to read about our great and unique culture. Many people, especially in the West, are knowledgeable about the dominant European/East European Jewish cultures, and seem to know little about Jewish communities/cultures from around the world.

Sweet Malida: Amazon|Bookshop

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Read an excerpt.

Source: The Big Idea: Zilka Joseph

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