Open today: 10AM - 5PM

Jews Into and Out of India: From the Bene Israel to Siona Benjamin

Date(s) - Wednesday, August 3rd
7:00 pm CDT - 8:15 pm CDT


dsc0801-version-2One of the many theories regarding the Bene Israel Jewish community is that they arrived in India sometime in the first or second century. Since that time, the Bene Israel gradually assimilated to the Indian culture around them while keeping Jewish customs alive. By the 19th and 20th centuries, the Bene Israel community had gained prominence in the British colonial government, the Indian Army, and even became active in the popular Indian film industry known as Bollywood.

Join author and historian Ori Z. Soltes as he places the story of the unique Bene Israel Jewish community within the larger narrative of Jewish migration to, residence within, and emigration from India—largely to Israel. Soltes will also connect the story of the Bene Israel to the fascinating life and vibrant, multivalent art of Siona Benjamin, an internationally recognized artist from within the Bene Israel community. 

Ori Soltes’ recently published volume, Growing Up Jewish in India, includes a historical account of the primary Jewish communities of India, their synagogues, and unique Indian Jewish custom, as well as the memoir of growing up Jewish in India by Siona Benjamin, and over 150 images exploring how Indian Jews retained their unique characteristics while integrating into the larger Indian society.

Museum Members $5 | Nonmembers $10

dsc0801-version-2Sponsored by The Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In connection with Beyond Borders: The Art of Siona Benjamin, an exhibit on display at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, June 17 – September 25, 2022. 

About the Presenter
Ori Z. Soltes teaches at Georgetown University across a range of disciplines, from art history and theology to philosophy and political history. He is the former Director of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, and has curated more than 90 exhibitions on history, ethnography and modern and contemporary art at that museum and in other venues across the country and overseas. 

Soltes is the author or editor of 25 books and several hundred articles, exhibition catalogues, and essays on a variety of topics; and the writer, producer and narrator of diverse documentary videos, including a 26-part video course, Tradition and Transformation: A History of Jewish Art. Among his recent art-related books include Fixing the World: Jewish American Painters in the Twentieth CenturyOur Sacred Signs: How Jewish, Christian and Muslim Art Draw from the Same SourceTradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish Art and Architecture, and most recently, Growing Up Jewish in India: From the Bene Israel to the Art of Siona Benjamin.

All Events >>