BENARES, capital of Benares district, India. This sacred city of the Hindus became the residence of Anglo-Jewish merchants toward the end of the 18th century because of its proximity to the diamond mines. Among these early Jewish merchants was Jacob Barnet, an English diamond merchant who moved from Madras to Benares in 1780. His clients in London included the merchant-house of Israel Levin Solomons. In 1786 Lyon Prager was sent by this firm to Bengal and established his headquarters in Benares. Prager also became inspector and purchaser of drugs, indigo, and other commodities for the English East India Company. After his death in 1793 his activities were continued by his brother George Prager, who moved from Benares to Calcutta. The Jewish association with Benares was maintained by the affluent Anglo-Portuguese Jewish diamond merchant Benjamin d'Aguilar (d. 1813), and Pellegrine Treves (d. 1825), who obtained permission to settle in Bengal in 1774.
W.J. Fischel, in: REJ, 123 (1964), 433–98.
[Walter Joseph Fischel]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.