Jay A. Waronker is an American architect and architectural historian educated at Cornell, Harvard, and the University of Michigan. In 1990, he began the study and documentation of India's thirty-five synagogue buildings. This has lead to various publications of his work, including a chapter in India's Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art, and Life-Cycle (Marg Publications, 2002), and an article in Journal for Indo-Judaic Studies (2010). Waronker has also extensively exhibited his watercolors of India's synagogues throughout the United States and abroad, including at the Manav Sangrahalaya Museum in Bhopal India, Mizel Museum in Denver, Smithsonian's International Museum of Art and Design in Atlanta, Skirball Museum in Los Angeles, and the Graham Foundation Gallery in Chicago. He and colleagues Dr. Shalva Weil and Marian Sofaer were founders of India's first Jewish museum in the restored synagogue in Chendamangalam, Kerala in 2006, and together he is serving as an advisor for the 2010 restoration of the Parur Synagogue, also in Kerala.
Dr. Shalva Weil, editor of India's Jewish Heritage: Ritual, Art, and Life-Cycle (Marg 2002), co-editor (with Nathan Katz, Ranabir Chakravarti and Braj M. Sinha) of Indo-Judaic Studies in the Twenty-First Century: A Perspective from the Margin (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007), and co-editor (with David Shulman) of Karmic Passages: Israeli Scholarship on India (Oxford University Press, 2008) is Senior Researcher at the Research Institute for Innovation in Education at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She has published over sixty articles, chapters and encyclopaedia entries on the Bene Israel, Cochin Jews, Baghdadi Jews, and the Shinlung (“Bnei Menasseh”) Jewish community found in India.
Marian Scheuer Sofaer, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and Columbia Law School, is the Project Director of the exhibition in the Chendamangalam synagogue that opened in 2006. Mrs. Sofaer's husband grew up in the Jewish community in Bombay, and they are frequent visitors to India. After the synagogue in Chendamangalam was restored by the Kerala Department of Archaeology and the Department of Tourism, Mrs. Sofaer organized the exhibition to benefit the local population, give tourists an opportunity to visit, provide an outlet for local crafts, and help preserve a cultural landmark. Mrs. Sofaer is also part of the international group advising the Kerala conservationists on the restoration of the synagogue at Parur. Mrs. Sofaer is an attorney and co-founder of an arbitration firm in northern California.
V. Issac Sam was born in Kochi and attended college in Kerala's Thrissur district. After his studies, Sam began his own graphic design and multimedia company in 1998. Two years later, Sam decided to shift the focus of his work exclusively on print media, and that same year he took up photography on a professional basis. Since that time, Sam has photographed a range of project types. Along with his assistant, Sam was commissioned by "The Friends of Kerala Synagogues" in 2009 and 2010 to photograph all six of the former synagogues in Kerala. Many of his color photographs appear in this website.
TIRZA MUTTATH LAVI
Tirza Muttath Lavi was born in Parur, in Kerala, and immigrated to Israel with her family at the age of 13. She graduated from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Archaeology and History of Jewish People, and is completing her MA thesis about the history of the Cochin Jews. She was the founding curator of the Center for the Heritage of the Jews of Cochin in Nevatim, Israel. She has curated the collection of the Center since 2006. Tirza has been involved since 1995 in efforts to preserve and document the history and heritage of the Jews of Cochin, most of them now living in Israel.