Magen David, or the Shield of David, Synagogue is located at the junction of Brabourne Road and Canning Street (Biplabi Rashbehari Road) in Kolkata. Magen David is the second operating synagogue in Kolkata, the other is the Beth El Synagogue at Pollock Street.
The synagogue was built in 1884 by Elias David Joseph Ezra in memory of his father David Joseph Ezra, who made his fortune in the real estate trade of Kolkata. Elias David Joseph Ezra is associated with some of the well known buildings of Kolkata including Esplanade Mansion, Ezra Mansion and Chowringhee Mansion. The Ezra Street is also named after him.
The synagogue is built in the Italian Renaissance style with a brick red finish. The entrance to the synagogue compound is hidden behind makeshift stalls ing hairclips and other trinkets. The Magen David Synagogue is approached through an arched door, containing the hexagonal “Star of David” and Hebrew inscription. The two side walls contains memorial plaques dedicated to the well known Jews of Calcutta (Kolkata). Although the services of the Magen David Synagogue have long stopped but the interior are astonishingly well maintained.
The chequered marble floor, gleaming chandeliers, stained glass windows and ornate floral pillars shipped from Paris enhance its Continental look. The altar of the Magen David Synagogue is crowned with an Apse (Half Dome) studded with stars. It represents the heaven. The large plaque in the middle contain the “Ten Commandments.” It also contains several other Hebrew inscription along with several other items of Jewish Iconography, including the seven branched lamp stand of Menorah. High above the wall opposite the altar is a beautiful circular stained glass. At the centre of the hall is a raised podium from where the Rabbi preached.
Two sets of stairs from either side of the hall leads to the upper balconies, reserved for women. Kolkata's Jews are mostly Baghdadi Jews who came to Kolkata to trade. At one point as strong as 6000, the community has dwindled to about 60 after the formation of Israel. Today there are only about 30 Jews left in Kolkata. The first recorded Jewish immigrant to Kolkata was Shalon Cohen in 1798 from Aleppo in present day Syria.
The most influential Jewish family in Kolkata was perhaps the father-son real estate magnates David Joseph Ezra and Elia David Ezra. The family founded the Jewish Girls School. The community has five independent synagogues in Kolkata, out of which the Beth El and Magen David operates to this day. The Jewish confectioner Nahoum's in the New Market holds a special place in Kolkata confectionery. Founded in 1902, Nahoum's moved to its present location in the New Market in 1916. A Permission from the Nahoum Shop is required to visit the Synagogues of Kolkata.