Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage by Dr. Shaul Sapir

4 Feb

I read “Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage” by Dr. Shaul Sapir on the recommendation of a Swapbook friend, Aadil Desai. Aadil is an avid reader, collector of antique books, maps & collectibles and a Mumbai story-teller. He leads many walks around Mumbai and shares stories about the city, its history, architecture and culture. So when Aadil recommended this book there was no doubt in my mind that it was a must read.

Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage by Dr. Shaul Sapir

The author, Dr. Sapir is a professor of historical geography at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. He was born in Byculla, Bombay but immigrated to Israel in the sixties, though with an ever burning desire to return to Mumbai. In this book, which draws upon his extensive and meticulous research, he tells us the fascinating history of the small Baghdadi Jewish Community in Bombay (Jews of Iraqi origin), how they prospered as businessmen here and their unique contributions to the urban landscape of the city. Dr. Sapir covers this history through some of the famous Jewish personalities in Bombay, their stories, sites and the famous landmarks (many of them are still surviving). Alongside this, he also covers Mumbai’s history and evolution into a modern metropolis with many pho­tographs from the exten­sive col­lec­tion of Dr. Rob­bins.  

This book is a must read for everyone who loves reading or learning about Mumbai, its history, its evolution, architecture, Jewish history & culture and of Mumbai’s famous personalities. It provides a good background on the multiple Jewish communities that resided in India i.e. the Baghdadi Jews, the Jews of Kochi, and the Bene Israel Jews and the Sons of Menashe and of the Baghdadi Jew neighborhoods of the 1950s i.e. Nagpada’s Jew Garden, Ballard Estate, Masjid’s Samuel Street, Israeli Mohalla, Sassoon Docks, JJ Hospital and Parel’s Sassoon Mills. It also covers important contributions made by the Baghdadi Jews in the field of education, healthcare, finance, trading, industry, culture and youth empowerment.

This book is a treasure trove of information and I totally recommend it to everyone. As a Mumbai-kar I have lived all my life here but had missed so many sites and architectural details mentioned in this book. I especially loved the stories of David Sassoon, his vision for the city and his contribution to several important fields and  landmarks (not just limited to the David Sassoon Library). Though I walk around exploring Mumbai frequently, I realized that there are synagogues (in different colors) in Mumbai I haven’t visited, so many small Jewish design elements in buildings I have been blind to and so many contributions of Jews that I haven’t paid attention to. I learnt of their lives in Bombay, their unique Jewish traditions, communities, clubs and festivities and now can only hope to witness this in Israel someday. It’s sad to see that such few Jews remain in the city they have contributed so much too.

Unfortunately this book is out of print and I had to contend with a soft copy available on Kindle. But for these kind of books, you need a hard copy – to flip back and forth through the pages, mull over the beautiful photographs and to stand in the locations mentioned in the book and refer to the notes / book in your hand. So I tried looking for it with all the second hand booksellers I know but unfortunately have still not found a copy. However my search continues and if anyone of you come across a copy, do consider pointing me it that direction.. 🙂

36 Responses to “Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage by Dr. Shaul Sapir”

  1. Deepti Kc February 4, 2020 at 22:19 #

    Thank you for sharing. I need to explore this when I am in Mumbai.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. arv! February 4, 2020 at 22:42 #

    Looks like a promising book

    Liked by 1 person

    • getsetandgo February 5, 2020 at 10:23 #

      I loved it.. Hope to read more such books on other cities too i.e. apart from just Mumbai and Delhi..

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Life...One Big Adventure February 5, 2020 at 02:12 #

    I have found a copy for you here at Abe Books. It is not cheap, but is available in New Delhi! I would love to walk around Mumbai with this book in hand. My idea of the perfect day out! Thanks for sharing, Mel


    • getsetandgo February 5, 2020 at 11:00 #

      Hey Mel, thanks so much for locating this one for me… Walking around with this book in Mumbai is a unique way of experiencing the city and totally recommended.. Happy travels 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. setinthepast February 5, 2020 at 21:56 #

    This looks fascinating. I read up on the Sassoons before going to Shanghai a few years ago, but I haven’t been to Mumbai, only northern India. Very interesting, thanks.


    • getsetandgo February 6, 2020 at 10:17 #

      Yah.. As I understand a branch of family had moved to China as they had significant trade with China.. It’s such an interesting family…Hope you can visit Mumbai at some point too…


  5. ninazee78 February 6, 2020 at 07:14 #

    Sounds like a interesting book. I was in the same boat as you last year wandering around the city that I have lived in and really seeing places for the first time. So funny how something can open up your eyes to something that has been there all along!


    • getsetandgo February 6, 2020 at 11:07 #

      I know.. And some of the things have been right in front of me and I just couldn’t believe how I missed it… But glad to see I am not the only one doing this 🙂


  6. Ruchi February 6, 2020 at 12:44 #

    You’re a great writer. That aside, so poignant. We just pass by life and things without noticing.


    • getsetandgo February 6, 2020 at 15:24 #

      Thanks so much for the kind words.. :):):) words like these make all the effort worthwhile 🙂


  7. teacherfish February 6, 2020 at 23:28 #

    I read your post last week about the churches in Mumbai, and it made me really want to plan a trip there, now after reading about this one I really, really want to go. On a different note, I am fascinated by being a traveler in your own city. I live in NYC and there is no lack of new experiences here- I hope I can get adopt your enthusiasm about traveling at home!


    • getsetandgo February 8, 2020 at 14:52 #

      I had started exploring my own city as I felt that we spend so much time, effort and money on exploring new places but somehow end up ignoring the city we stay in… And till date I haven’t been disappointed with Mumbai…Even visiting same spots again I have discovered so many new things about it..
      If there is another city I love after Mumbai it’s NYC. I have visited it multiple times and love how you stumble upon pretty corners, art, cafes etc when you least expect it.. I would love to explore it as I do Mumbai… Hopefully you can make it to Mumbai soon too 🙂


  8. sarahshahzad1 February 8, 2020 at 13:04 #

    hi i’m sarah..! i like your blog, you wrote really amazingly.. brilliant work, best wishes for you.. well i love to write short poems so plz visit my website Goodbye Poems you really like it, thank you, & I look forward to reading more of your.. 🙂 bless & love..


  9. Bharat Taxi February 11, 2020 at 11:28 #

    Thanks for a marvelous posting! I really enjoyed reading it, this post is very interesting and informative. Thanks for sharing…


    • getsetandgo February 12, 2020 at 00:20 #

      Thank you for always visiting my blog and sharing kind words on my posts 😊


  10. Sanjay Kukreja February 21, 2020 at 16:45 #

    Wow… it’s true there is still so much to explore in our own city, your post has piqued my interest in reading more on this.. will lookout if I can get this book somewhere.


    • getsetandgo February 24, 2020 at 16:09 #

      Hey, this book is available on Kindle and is a part of Kindle Unlimited.. For starters, you can check that out…


  11. Still a Runner February 21, 2020 at 20:00 #

    Thank you for this lovely review. I’ll keep an eye out for the b
    ook at some of my literary haunts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • getsetandgo February 24, 2020 at 16:45 #

      Thanks for visiting the blog and the kind words.. Hope you find this one soon 🙂


  12. Akshay Iyer February 29, 2020 at 22:28 #

    Lovely post about mumbai!


  13. selectionsfrombarb March 7, 2020 at 23:40 #

    Wonderful post with great information. We used to travel alot, unable to do so anymore. Thank you for sharing.


    • getsetandgo March 11, 2020 at 14:15 #

      Thanks so much for the kinds words.. Currently we are unable to travel too, so traveling the world with books 🙂


  14. adventuresinarabic March 15, 2020 at 20:52 #


    I love your stuff about Mumbai, so inspiring. I’m glad you liked my post, hit me up if you ever want Malawi travel tips

    Liked by 1 person

    • getsetandgo March 16, 2020 at 20:58 #

      Hey, thanks so much for the kind words… `I will check out your blog on Malawi and have you even been to Mumbai?


      • adventuresinarabic March 16, 2020 at 23:12 #

        Sadly I’ve never had the chance. I spent a few years in the middle east, but other than that the only country in Asia I’ve been to is the phi6

        Liked by 1 person

      • getsetandgo March 17, 2020 at 08:22 #

        Hope you can make it here soon 🙂



  1. Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage by Dr. Shaul Sapir | aadildesai - February 5, 2020

    […] via Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage by Dr. Shaul Sapir […]

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