It is fitting that the inauguration of the restored Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in Mumbai’s art precinct of Kala Ghoda coincided with the annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in February 2019, because the Indian Baghdadi Jews’ contribution to this area is multifarious and all encompassing. The most obvious is the very name of this art district and the festival itself, Kala Ghoda or black horse. It refers to the original black equestrian statue of Prince Edward VII, donated to the city by Sir Albert Sassoon, a leading Baghdadi Jew, in 1875, to mark the Bombay visit of the then heir-apparent to the British throne.
Other well-known Sassoon endowments in the area are: the David Sassoon Library, formerly the David Sassoon Mechanics Institute and Reading Room, and the (Royal) Institute of Science. Less known is the fact that an entire Jewish ecosystem once flourished in this area, with the Keneseth Eliyahoo synagogue at its centre.
The restoration was done by Architect Abha Narain Lambah. It won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of merit for conservation.
Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue is the second oldest Sephardic synagogue in Mumbai. Constructed in 1884, the synagogue was designed by Bombay architects Gostling and Morris and was paid for by the Sassoon family, who were prominent philanthropists in Bombay in the nineteenth century.