In the last decade, the nation of Pakistan has frequently been in the news, all too often connected to reports of violence, bloodshed and war. Pakistan itself is actually a very young country - it was created when it was separated from India on August 14, 1946.
At the time of the creation of Pakistan, there were approximately 2,000 (reports vary between 1,500 and 2,500) Jews living there, the majority in the city of Karachi. These Jews had, for the most part, come from India and were members of the Bene Israel community.
Despite having only one synagogue, Magain Shalome, built in 1893, the Karachi Jews were able to successfully build their community during the first half of the 20th century. A Young Man’s Jewish Association was established and there was a special fund, the Karachi Bene Israel Relief Fund, to support poor Jews. The Jewish community was accepted enough within the city that Abraham Reuben became a councilor in the Karachi City Corporation in 1936.
Life for the Jews of Pakistan began to change not long after it became an independent country, and Israel moved toward its own independence. In 1948, Pakistani rioters, opposed to the creation of the State of Israel, attacked the synagogue. Many of the Pakistani Jews left, heading first to Bombay and from there to Israel, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Similar violence recurred during each of Israel’s wars, and the Jews of Pakistan continued to flee. Those who remained hid among the general population.
On July 17, 1988, the Magain Shalome Synagogue was destroyed by presidential order so that a shopping mall could be built on the site. The Jewish cemetery remains and is maintained by local non-Jews.
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