Rahabi, Ezekiel

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RAHABI, EZEKIEL

RAHABI, EZEKIEL (1694–1771), merchant and community leader in Cochin (*Kochi), India. In 1726, after the death of his father, Rahabi was appointed by the Dutch East India Company as "chief merchant and agent," and invested with a monopoly of the trade in pepper and other commodities in Malabar. He rose to a position of remarkable influence and prestige; for almost 50 years he was connected with all the company's major financial transactions in Malabar, and undertook for it diplomatic assignments to the king of Travancore (1734–42), to the zamorin of Calicut (1751), and to other native rulers.

Rahabi was also an outstanding leader of the Jewish community. He purchased land for the Black Jews near Cranganore and in 1756 built a synagogue there for ten Jewish families, supporting it until it was closed in 1761; improved and embellished the Parathesi synagogue of the White Jews in Cochin; and imported Hebrew books from Holland. Through his efforts to decipher the ancient copperplate inscriptions in Cochin, Ezekiel Rahabi also became the historian of his community. His letter of 1768 to the Dutch banker Tobias Boas remains a major source of information about Cochin Jewry. Rahabi's tombstone is preserved in the courtyard of the Parathesi synagogue. The changed economic and political conditions in Malabar after the English occupation of Cochin (1795) caused the decline of the Rahabi family.

bibliography:

S.S. Koder, in: Journal of the Rama Varma Archaeological Society, 15 (1949), 1–6; W.J. Fischel, Ha-Yehudim be-Hodu (1960), 97–111; idem, in: paajr, 30 (1962), 37–59; A. Das Gupta, Malabar in Asian Trade (1967), index. add. bibliography: J.B. Segal, A History of the Jews of Cochin (1993).

[Walter Joseph Fischel]

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