(JNS.org) Lt. Gen. Jacob-Farj-Rafael Jacob (also known as “JFR” Jacob), a renowned Indian-Jewish military official who played a major role in the creation of Bangladesh, died Wednesday at age 93.
A recipient of many honorary awards from the Indian and the Bangladeshi governments, JFR Jacob is best known in India for his role in the 1971 war that brought about the independence of Bangladesh through negotiating the surrender of 90,000 Pakistani soldiers.
In a 2012 interview with OpenTheMagazine, Jacob said his family originated in Iraq but immigrated to India in the 18th century.
“I have never been a very religious man. I believe in God, I can say a few Jewish prayers, but that’s it. When we were young, our parents hired tutors to teach us Hebrew. Unlike my brothers, I was not bothered to learn. I regret that now,” he told the magazine.
While JFR Jacob frequently visited Israel, where he engaged in behind-the-scenes diplomacy to foster Indo-Israeli relations with various Israeli leaders, such as former president Shimon Peres, he was also a staunchly nationalistic Indian.
“Israel has outstanding military leaders of their own, they do not need me. Besides, India has always been very good to us. I am proud to be a Jew, but am Indian through and through. I was born in India and served her my whole life. This is where I want to die,” Jacob had said.
Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon told India’s The Tribune that Jacob “shall forever be remembered as a human bridge between our peoples.”
JFR Jacob was a “pillar of military leadership and personified the best qualities of a soldier and a statesman,” said the Dalbir Singh Suhag, the chief general of the Indian army.
In 2013, Jacob received the Global Leadership Award from the American Jewish Committee (AJC). He was “for decades the most prominent member of his country’s Jewish community,” AJC said in a statement on his death.
India has a small Jewish community of about 5,000 people, according to the Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv. A new study conducted by the the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India, shows most Indian Jews have Middle Eastern ancestry that is mixed with ancestry from surrounding Indian populations. The first Jews likely arrived in India about 1,500 years ago, according to the study, the Indian IANS news service reported.