1 December: Edna Fernandes, ‘The Last Jews of Kerala: the incredible story of India’s oldest Jewish Diaspora’

Ten years after its publication, author Edna Fernandes discusses her book The Last Jews of Kerala and how this moving story has resonated with Jews and non-Jews alike from around the world. How does it feel to know you are the last of your community after two thousand years of history? To know there will be no more weddings, only funerals? In 70 CE, the Roman capture of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Second Temple scattered a wave of Jewish immigrants across the globe like the seeds of last hope. One group settled in Kerala, southern India. Feted as foreign kings by Kerala’s rajas and lavished with land, privilege and autonomy, they lived in peace for many years until division set in. By the end of the twenty first century, despite finding acceptance in this Indian paradise, despite every advantage, they found themselves on the brink of demise. This is the story of the Black and White Jews of Kerala and their centuries-long feud  – a community that chose to bury itself instead of burying their differences to survive. In the end it was not persecution, pestilence or war that destroyed them, but one another. Theirs is the story of a Jewish apartheid, a civil rights movement and finally a love story between a Black Jew and a White Jewess who smashed apart the old divide.

Edna Fernandes is a British Indian writer. Her first book Holy Warriors was a finalist for the UK’s 2008 Index on Censorship TR Five prize and nominated for India’s Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Best Book Award. Her second book, The Last Jews of Kerala, was a finalist for India’s 2009 Vodafone Crossword Literary prize and named a UK Sunday Times Travel Book of the Year. In 2018, Edna released her third book, The Hollow Kingdom: ISIS and the Cult of Jihad. Aimed at the general reader wishing to understand the most dangerous terrorist group in modern history, the book deconstructs Islamic State’s ideology, funding and recruitment structure.

She is former Special Correspondent for Britain’s Mail on Sunday, former foreign correspondent for The Financial Times and UK political correspondent for Reuters. She has appeared as a commentator on religious extremism and terrorism on BBC News, Channel 4 News and Sky as well as speaking at international literary festivals including the Delhi Literary Festival, Edinburgh Book Festival, Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression conference in Oslo, Jewish Book Week in London, Cumberland Lodge in Windsor and the Cheltenham Literary Festival.

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