CEYLON (Sri Lanka), island, south of India, now an independent state. Legend and tradition, Islamic and Samaritan in origin, connect Ceylon with biblical personalities and events. Adam is said to have descended on the island after his expulsion from Paradise, and Noah's Ark allegedly rested on the mountains of Serandib, which tradition equates with Mount Ararat. The presence of Jews in Ceylon is alluded to by the 9th-century Muslim traveler Abu Za'id al-Ḥasan Sirāfī and the 12th-century Muslim geographer al-Idrīsī. According to the latter, four of the Council of 16 appointed by the king of Ceylon were Jews. The number of Jews living there cannot be ascertained, though an obscure and doubtful passage in *Benjamin of Tudela (mid-12th century) reads either 3,000 or 23,000. When the Dutch East India Company established its foothold in Ceylon, Jews from the Malabar coast may have gone there for the purpose of trade. From 1758 to 1760, Leopold I.J. van Dort, a former Jew born in Holland, was professor of Hebrew at the Christian Theological Seminary in Colombo. In 1809, while Ceylon was under British rule, the chief justice Sir Alexander Johnston was seriously interested in a large-scale immigration of Jews to Ceylon and submitted his project to the government; however no further action was taken. According to the traveler J. *Saphir a small group of European Jews led by the brothers Wormser established a coffee estate in the hills above Kandy in 1841. No Jewish communal organization appears to have existed in any part of Ceylon.
J.E. Tennent, Ceylon, 2 (Eng., 1860), 250ff.; J. Saphir, Even Sappir, 2 (1874), 95; D.W. Marks and A. Loewy, Memoir of Sir Francis Henry Goldsmid, bart. (18822); Reissner, in: Ceylon Historical Journal, 3 (1953), 136–44, 228–33.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.