Author Topic: India 1918 - Books didn't arrive  (Read 233 times)

Offline avrahamroos

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India 1918 - Books didn't arrive
« on: Wednesday 12 September 18 12:24 BST (UK) »
This is a strange question but maybe someone here can help.

I am researching English translations of a Hebrew semi-liturgical booklet called the Haggada, which is the order of service for Passover.

I stumbled upon the following intriguing source:

Title: Order of Service for Passover (Haggada) Issued by the Jewish War Services Committee for India.  Date: March 1918 Place: Calcutta.  Country: India
Imprint: Fort William, Calcutta : [Kuntaline Press, printed by P.C. Dass],

Note: "Copies can be obtained free of charge from the supervising officer for the Jewish soldiers in India."

This booklet (48 pages) was obviously printed at the height of the trench war in Europe and before the hundred days summer offensive. The introduction, aimed at the (Jewish) soldiers hints at this stating: "Great though our difficulties in keeping the feast may be, they are small compared with those of our distant comrades."

My question to you concerns the following: On the one hand, this Haggada shows of a deep familiarity with the Indian culture, society and Hindi language. It uses Hindi words in its English freely without any explanation e.g. "If the oven in the cookhouse is pucca, as in most barracks, it must be renewed.....If the oven is kachcha, it should be rebuilt." This seems to imply a long stay in India, which makes sense because the Indian army had been using Fort William since 1781.

On the other hand, the document seems to be prepared in a hurry because the official prayerbooks had not arrived. Passover in 1918 started on March 14. This document, dated March 1918 states: "An attempt will be made to provide every man with a Soldier's Prayer Book. Unfortunately, neither these, nor Singer's Prayer Books have yet arrived, and the majority of the Service, which is not in the small prayer books, will have to be supplemented by reading portions from the Bible. Practically the whole of the Haggadah is herewith given in English, but endeavors are being made to send at least one Hebrew book to every centre....etc." This seems to imply that either until 1918, no Jewish soldiers had been present  so no books had ever been sent, or the regular yearly supply had been interrupted because of German naval blockade (?), lack of printing paper due to war efforts (?) or  a naval priority for the European arena with less supply ships for India (?)

None of the above given suggestions seems true as German u-boat attacks had deminished by the beginning of 1918, paper was available (a new and extended praper book had been printed in 1917) and no great naval campain had been planned for the beginning of 1918.
 
In the beginning I thought that there might be a connection to the formation (in August 1917) of the Jewish Legion which was joined by the 39th Battalion in April 1918 and for which more than 1000 Palestine Jewish volunteers enlisted in 1918. This might then be the reason for a sudden increase in interest in Jewish prayer books in India. But although the timeline fits, the Jewish Legion did not fight in India; they fought the Ottomans instead. A secondary idea might be that because of the establishment of this Legion, all available prayer books had been sent to them leaving no for individual soldiers in other places?

Mind you that this document was clearly meant for British Jewish soldiers and not the ones drafted locally from the Benee Israel Indian Jewish Community as the introduction states "This Passover finds us once more away from home" and talks about "our parents across the sea."

Would you be able to shed any light on this little mystery? Or share your opinion on what happened here? Where had the ordered books gone?

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Offline Yasmina4

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Re: India 1918 - Books didn't arrive
« Reply #1 on: Wednesday 19 September 18 20:53 BST (UK) »
Interesting post

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Offline barryd

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Re: India 1918 - Books didn't arrive
« Reply #2 on: Wednesday 19 September 18 22:06 BST (UK) »
But why are we worried about German U-Boats. Printing and distribution seemed to be all done in India.

Offline avrahamroos

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Re: India 1918 - Books didn't arrive
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday 19 September 18 22:57 BST (UK) »
Indeed, the printing of this booklet was done in India but the introduction of the booklet states that this was done because the booklets ordered from Britain did not arrive on time. The question posed is if anyone can give a plausible reason WHY a shipment of Jewish books in February/ May 1918 from Britain to India was delayed.

Offline barryd

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Re: India 1918 - Books didn't arrive
« Reply #4 on: Wednesday 19 September 18 23:07 BST (UK) »
It is possible that the English Printing of the book was never actually done.

Offline avrahamroos

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Re: India 1918 - Books didn't arrive
« Reply #5 on: Wednesday 19 September 18 23:11 BST (UK) »
Prayerbooks did exist. As a matter of fact, a new extended version of the prayerbook mentioned has been printed in 1917.