Beth El literally means the House of God.
Built in 1856, Beth El Synagogue is located on Pollock Street, just off the Brabourne Road and very near to the Magen David Synagogue. This is one of the busiest commercial areas of Calcutta and the beautiful edifice is madly surrounded by the unimpressive shops, temporary kiosks and trading centres. Though the top of the entrance is inscribed with the name of the Synagogue, thousands of people walking past it every day are not at all aware of its existence.
For the Baghdadi congregation of Calcutta, the Beth El Synagogue has served as the Beth El (House of God) for more than one and one-half centuries. Its construction was made possible with the funding mostly from David Joseph Ezra, a prominent member of the Baghdadi Jewish Community in Calcutta, and Ezekiel Judah. As more space was needed to accommodate the increased size of the congregation, the building was further enlarged and improved in 1885. The cost of the said renovation was, however, borne by another member of the community, Elias Shalom Gubbay.
While the elegant flight of marble stairs of the Beth El Synagogue is topped with an arched stained glass and finally crowned with a clock, its pale yellow façade is ornamented with the Jewish iconography of the hexagonal Star of David. The Synagogue is equipped with a big seven branched candlestick holder of the Menorah.
Though the services of the Synagogue have stopped long ago, the interior is well maintained. The checkered marble floor with adequate seating arrangements, the gleaming graceful chandeliers hanging from above, the stained glass windows and the ornate floral pillars creates a mesmerizing atmosphere. From the raised platform at the centre of the hall, the Rabbi used to carry out his services. The hall is surrounded by balconies on three sides. The aesthetically ornamented alter is crowned with a semi circular dome, known as the Apse. The Apse represents the heaven and is painted with the star studded sky. It also contains several other items of Jewish iconography and other Hebrew inscriptions, including the Ten Commandments. The beautiful arched shaped stained glass is best viewed from the balcony opposite the altar.
A flight of stairs leads to the upper floor. The upper floor has now been transformed into a mini museum, which depicts the history of Jews in Kolkata in documents and photographs.
Location of Beth El Synagogue