Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


The Third Way

Sadia Shepard grew up part Protestant, part Muslim. Then she found out about her grandmother.

Print Email
Mr. and Mrs. Waskar, Revdanda, 2003
Mr. and Mrs. Waskar, Revdanda, 2003

Growing up in Newton, a suburb west of Boston, filmmaker Sadia Shepard was an anomaly, with a Protestant father from Colorado and a Muslim mother from Karachi, Pakistan. The picture became even more complicated when she discovered, at age thirteen, that her grandmother, Rahat, who lived with Shepard’s family and was called Nana by her grandchildren, was actually born Rachel Jacobs, and was a member of the Bene Israel—a Jewish community centered in what was then known as Bombay.

Nana died in 2000. A year later, Shepard headed to India, making good on a promise she’d made to uncover her grandmother’s roots. She spent the next two years traveling the country, meeting members of the Bene Israel community, and documenting their history and rituals.

The result of that journey is a new book, titled The Girl from Foreign, and a documentary film which premieres this week at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

Shepard talks to Nextbook about her travels among the Bene Israel, the evolution of their presence in India, and the thorny question of her own religious identity.

two photos of Nana and Sadia
Left: Nana and Sadia, Denver, 1975. Right: Sadia and Nana, Newton, 1977.

Photos courtesy of Sadia Shepard.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

Fantastic website. Plenty of useful info here. Iˇ¦m sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you for your effort!


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

The Third Way

Sadia Shepard grew up part Protestant, part Muslim. Then she found out about her grandmother.

More on Tablet:

Ancient Archaeological Site Torched at Israel’s Midburn Festival

By Jonathan Zalman — Flint tools from Paleolithic, Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods are history