Fifteen Bnei Menashe (sons of Manasseh) couples, all of whom immigrated to Israel from Manipur, India two months ago, were remarried on Tuesday in a festive and emotional group ceremony at the nonprofit NGO Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Kfar Hasidim, after completing their formal conversion.
The 15 couples were among 225 new Bnei Menashe Olim who arrived in Israel in June thanks to the efforts of Shavei Israel. They all hail from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, on the border with Burma, which is home to the largest concentration of Bnei Menashe in India. The new immigrants plan to settle in the Galilee, in Israel’s north, after they leave Kfar Hasidim at the end of August.
“After realizing their dream of making Aliyah and returning to the Jewish people, these 15 Bnei Menashe couples now have an additional reason to celebrate,” said Shavei Israel founder and chairman Michael Freund. “They have now been remarried in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony which symbolizes the new lives they are building here in the Jewish state. We wish them a hearty Mazel Tov and much joy, health and success here in Israel.”
During the weddings, the brides had their hair and makeup done and wore traditional white wedding gowns, while some of the grooms wore traditional suits with Bnei Menashe tribal designs.
Among the couples who married were Sharon Hangshing (79) and Hillel Hangshing (80) from Churachandpur, Manipur, whose married daughter and grandchildren are living in the Israeli town of Migdal Ha’emek. The couple came to Israel with a widowed daughter and her two sons, as well as with a son who is single. They left behind a daughter-in-law and her children.
“I’m very excited! We wanted to see Israel with our own eyes but unfortunately our vision is weak,” said the groom Hillel. “I feel like we’ve come home! Israel is like coming to paradise on earth. It’s not comparable to any other place. My excitement is beyond all imagination,”.
“If only our grandchildren who we left behind could come here and experience this as well,” Sharon added.
The Bnei Menashe claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 2,700 years ago. They believe that their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh.
According to newspaper reports, a total of 350 genetic samples of the Bnei Menashe were tested at Haifa’s Technion, and the researchers found no genetic evidence of Middle-Eastern ancestry. Several additional tests have been conducted since, with similar results.
Over the past 15 years, Shavei Israel has made the dream of aliyah possible for more than 3,500 Bnei Menashe and plans to bring more members of the community to Israel. Currently there are 7,000 Bnei Menashe in India.
Shavei Israel reaches out to “lost Jews” like the Bnei Anousim (“Marranos”) of Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, and the “Hidden Jews” of Poland. The organization also engages in the absorption of new olim in Israel, including assistance with housing, employment, and job training.