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May 1, 2016 / 23 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Bnei Menashe’

Two Communities, One Celebration: Bat Mitzvah Girl Adopts Bnei Menashe Immigrants

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Becky Melamed knows how tough it is to be a new immigrant. She arrived in Israel from New York with her family in 2009 when she was just six years old. So, as she was turning 12 and planning her bat mitzvah, she knew she wanted to give something back to other new immigrants who might have it even harder than she did.

Becky’s mother Lisa was friends with Shavei Israel’s director of marketing Laura Ben-David, who had helped the Melamed family with their own aliyah when Laura was working for the aliyah organization Nefesh b’Nefesh. In her new position at Shavei Israel, Laura had posted pictures of her trip to India when she went to assist with last November’s Bnei Menashe aliyah.

Lisa showed the pictures to Becky. “I wonder if there are any Bnei Menashe girls my age?” Becky asked her mother. “Maybe we could share my bat mitzvah with them?”

There were ten Bnei Menahse girls from India who fit the description and who had arrived in Israel at the end of 2014. Becky and Lisa drove up the Kfar Hasidim absorption center to meet the new immigrants.

From that very first meeting, Becky developed a close bond with her peers from so far away. “We brought games – jump rope and Chamesh Avenim,” a popular Israeli pastime played by throwing and picking up five small stones, Lisa recalls. “And we did an art project – we created a tile with their names and a mirror that you can hang on a wall or a door.”

While Becky was tossing stones with some of the Bnei Menashe girls, her mother was interviewing the others so that Becky could give a presentation to her classmates back home about her new Bnei Menashe friends.

Over the course of the next few months, Becky stayed in touch the Bnei Menashe girls in Kfar Hasidim and then as they moved out of the absorption center to their permanent homes in Safed. When the holiday of Purim came, the girls in Becky’s class prepared a Purim kit to deliver to her friends in the north, complete with costumes, groggers (noise makers used during the reading of the Scroll of Esther), candies and brachot (blessings) for each of the girls.

“We drove back up before Purim and gave them mishlochei manot (Purim gifts) and did another art project,” Lisa says.

The two groups also got together in Jerusalem when the Bnei Menashe came to visit the Kotel (the Western Wall) for the first time. “It was wonderful and heartwarming,” Lisa says, “not just for Becky and the girls, but for anyone who was at the Kotel that night. To see 250 Bnei Menashe, singing passionately about Jerusalem in their native language of Kuki – it was incredibly moving.”

Finally, the big day arrived. The Bnei Menashe girls came down from Safed by mini-bus and went straight to Becky’s school where they got to know Becky’s classmates, ate snacks and did another art project together. Then it was off to Becky’s house where the Bnei Menashe girls got all dolled up for the bat mitzvah – with fancy hair do’s and professional makeup.

The bat mitzvah party was held at a nearby restaurant, with dancing and food. Of the 100 guests, 70 were other 12-year-old girls, including the 10 Bnei Menashe. Becky was hoisted up above the crowd on a chair and tossed into the air with a large tablecloth. Had the Bnei Menashe girls ever seen such traditions? Apparently yes, Lisa says. “After the Bnei Menashe get to Israel, many of the couples go through a new chuppah (wedding ceremony) and there’s lots of dancing and fun there. Let’s just say that the Bnei Menashe girls were not timid on the dance floor!”

There was something the girls had not encountered before: American simcha “shtick” – all kinds of wild and crazy paraphernalia meant to enhance the festivities. Pompoms, oversized sunglasses and Hawaiian necklaces are apparently not part of Bnei Menashe celebrations back in India!

The Bnei Menashe girls brought their own modest gifts for Becky. One in particular stood out: a beautiful Indian necklace. A Bnei Menashe girl named Elisheva had brought three such necklaces from India but she’d lost two of them along the way. This was her last one and she gave it to Becky.

The Bnei Menashe girls enjoyed themselves tremendously, but Becky and her mother also received a lot from the experience. “Becky was very sensitive to the fact that the Bnei Menashe girls may not have a lot,” Lisa explains. As a result, “she gained an appreciation for what it’s like to make aliyah without things. We came with a lift and all our furniture and moved into a big house. The Bnei Menashe went straight to an absorption center with just a suitcase. It changed Becky’s idea about what aliyah is. Israel is not just another ‘destination.’ It’s a place people dream of coming to with all of their hearts. Immigrants like the Bnei Menashe identify so much with the Jewish nation; they are part of us. That really strengthened Becky. She admired their courage.”

And yet the girls also had a lot in common. “They both came to a place where they didn’t understand the language and culture,” Lisa says. “It was hard for Becky, going into first grade and not being able to read Hebrew yet.” As a result, although “they came from a very different starting place, we’re all here together.”

At the bat mitzvah party, Becky spoke about the mitzvah (commandment) of living in Israel and how lucky she was to be here. She congratulated the Bnei Menashe girls on their aliyah and called them up individually to give them presents – necklaces with their names on them.

Exhausted, the girls all piled back into the Melamed’s home for a post-party sleepover. In the morning, the Bnei Menashe girls were in for a final surprise: sushi – something none had ever eaten before. But they liked it – especially the spicy green wasabi sauce. “I remember that when we visited them at Kfar Hasidim, we were eating together in the dining room and some of the girls ran back to their rooms to get extra hot sauce to put on their food,” Lisa says. “They really like their spicy food!”

Most of the communication with the Bnei Menashe was done, surprisingly, in English, which is widely taught in India. The Bnei Menashe girls are still at the beginning part of the Hebrew acclimatization.

Lisa Melamed had been dreaming about aliyah ever since she and her husband honeymooned in Israel 17 years ago. Four children later, they finally made aliyah and their family has since grown to include two Sabras (children who were born in Israel).

It is traditional for a bat mitzvah girl to give a portion of any cash gifts she receives to charity and Becky found the perfect recipient – the Bnei Menashe. But not her new friends. Becky participated in a new campaign Shavei Israel launched earlier this month on the website Jewcer to raise money for the next Bnei Menashe aliyah, The first 80 Bnei Menashe in this group arrived in Israel last week, with another 170 due by the end of July.

Brian Blum

Bnei Menashe Olim from India Settle in Golan Heights

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

The Shavei Israel organization brought a group of 78 Bnei Menashe immigrants on Aliyah Thursday from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, which borders Burma and Bangladesh.

Absorption Minister Zev Elkin greeted the immigrants upon arrival.

The new Olim will settle in Katzrin on the Golan Heights, which was the tribal patrimony of Manasseh in Biblical times.

This is the first time that Shavei Israel is settling a group of Bnei Menashe on the Golan, approximately 2,700 years after their ancestors were exiled from the land.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Hundreds of Bnei Menashe from India Arriving in Israel

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Ben Gurion Airport, Israel, June 19 – Forty-three members of the Lost Tribe of Bnei Menashe arrived yesterday in Israel. The new Olim (immigrants to Israel) hail from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, and they bring the total number of Bnei Menashe who have made Aliya this month to 250. Thus far, since the start of the year, 410 Bnei Menashe have come here, the largest number that has ever been recorded. The immigrants were brought to the Jewish state by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, which received permission from the Israeli government last October to bring 900 Bnei Menashe to Israel by 2015. The remaining 490 Bnei Menashe (out of the total of 900) will be brought to Israel by Shavei Israel by year’s end. “It is so moving to see the Lost Tribe of Bnei Menashe returning to Zion and rejoining the people of Israel,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund.

“After 2,700 years, the Bnei Menashe are returning to our people and our land, and we won’t stop until all the remaining 7,000 community members still in India will be able to come here,” Freund added.

“This is a great day for me and my family, and for all of the Bnei Menashe,” said Bnei Menashe community chairman Yochanan Phaltual, who made Aliya this morning from India and was reunited with his father and siblings in Israel. “It is a dream come true, the dream of our forefathers, and we thank G-d that we have come home,” he added.

The Bnei Menashe are descendants of the tribe of Menashe (or Manasseh), one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel who were exiled by the Assyrian Empire after King Solomon’s death more than 2,700 years ago. In recent years, Shavei Israel has brought some 2,400 Bnei Menashe back home to Zion. Another 7,000 still remain in northeastern India, waiting for the day when they too will be able to return to Israel and the Jewish people.

Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency

Bnei Menashe Children Celebrate Their First Shavuot in Israel

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

On May 26 the Jewish State welcomed home members of the Bnei Menashe community of Northeast India. Today they are already celebrating their first Shavuot in Israel at the Shavei Israel immigrant absorption center in Kfar Hadidim, near Haifa.

The new Olim, who hail from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, were brought to Israel by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, which received permission from the Israeli government last October to bring 900 Bnei Menashe to the Jewish State by 2015.

The Bnei Menashe are considered to be descendants of the tribe of Menashe (or Manasseh), one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel exiled by the Assyrian Empire after King Solomon’s death more than 2,700 years ago.

“After 2,700 years, we are bringing members of the Lost Tribe of Bnei Menashe home to Israel. Their arrival here on the eve of Shavuot is particularly fortuitous, since they will now be able to celebrate the festival of the giving of the Torah for the first time here in the Jewish state,” said Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel.

Recently arrived Bnei Menashe children with Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel.

Recently arrived Bnei Menashe children with Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel.

About 40 people came home to Israel on this trip. That 40 are part of the larger group of 250 that Shavei Israel is bringing to Israel through the summer. Altogether, Shavei Israel has already brought 1,500 Bnei Menashe to Israel. There are 7,000 Bnei Menashe still living in India who hope to make Aliyah to Israel.

Shavei Israel is a non-profit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, with the aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world.

The organization is currently active in nine countries and provides assistance to a variety of different communities such as the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim (referred to as the derogatory “Marranos” by historians) in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, descendants of Jews living in Poland, and others.

Jewish Press Staff

Ancient Chinese Jewish Community to Hold First Traditional Seder in China

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Kaifeng, China, April 7 – Nearly 100 members of the ancient Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, are expected to attend a first-of-its-kind traditional Passover Seder that will take place next Monday, April 14, at the start of the holiday in Kaifeng. The Seder, which is being sponsored by the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization, will be conducted for the first time by 28-year-old Tzuri (Heng) Shi, who made Aliyah from Kaifeng a few years ago with the help of Shavei Israel and completed his formal return to Judaism last year.

As part of the preparation for the upcoming Seder, Tzuri was sent to Kaifeng by the Shavei Israel organization with all of the traditional Passover items including: Kosher Matzah packages from Israel, Kosher for Passover wine, Passover Haggadahs, which were prepared especially in Hebrew and Chinese, Kosher for Passover cakes, traditional red horseradish, and traditional Charoset.

“We are proud and excited to organize this historic event,” said Shavei Israel Chairman and Founder Michael Freund. “Kaifeng’s Jewish descendants are a living link between China and the Jewish people, and it is very moving to see the remnants of this community returning to their Jewish roots as they prepare for Passover,” he added.

Scholars believe the first Jews settled in Kaifeng, which was one of China’s imperial capitals, during the 8th or 9th Century. They are said to have been Sephardic Jewish merchants from Persia or Iraq who made their way eastward along the Silk Route and established themselves in the city with the blessing of the Chinese emperor.

In 1163, Kaifeng’s Jews built a large and beautiful synagogue, which was subsequently renovated and rebuilt on numerous occasions throughout the centuries. At its peak, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the Kaifeng Jewish community may have numbered as many as 5,000 people. But widespread intermarriage and assimilation, as well as the death of the community’s last rabbi, brought about its demise by the middle of the 19th century.

Nevertheless, many of the families sought to preserve their Jewish identity and pass it down to their descendants, who continued to observe various Jewish customs. Currently, there are estimated to be approximately 1,000 Jewish descendants in Kaifeng.

“In recent years, many members of the community have begun to explore their heritage – thanks in part to the Internet, which opened up new worlds for them and provided access to information about Judaism and Israel that was previously inaccessible to them,” Freund noted.

Shavei Israel is a non-profit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, with the aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world. The organization is currently active in nine countries and provides assistance to a variety of different communities such as the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim (referred to as the derogatory “Marranos” by historians) in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, descendants of Jews living in Poland, and others.

Watch the video of the Kaifeng community preparing for Pesach, being led in v’hi sh’amda by Ram, a chazan from the Kaifeng Jewish community.

Jewish Press Staff

Seventh Hanukkah Candle to Be Lit in Seven Nations Simultaneously

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Immigrants to Israel from seven countries will light Hanukkah candles Tuesday night simultaneously with Jews in seven other countries in a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption and The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The candle lighting in Israel will take place at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, where 300 young olim  from France, Ethiopia, the United States, Yemen, Latvia, Latin America, and the Bnei Menashe community of India will be joined by Jews lighting at the same time in Paris, London, Moscow, Kiev, Tashkent and Budapest.

The event will be broadcast live  here at 3:30 p.m. Israel time (8:30 a.m. EST).

JTA

Indian Tribe Aliyah Approved

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Israel’s government approved the immigration of the Bnei Menashe, an Indian tribe that claims Jewish ancestry.

The approval comes after a five-year gap since the last group of Bnei Menashe arrived in Israel.

Members of the group, who claim descent from the lost tribe of Menashe, must undergo a conversion process even though it is accepted as fact that they have Jewish roots.

The Cabinet on Oct. 25 voted to restart the tribe’s aliyah. A flight of more than 270 Bnei Menashe reportedly will arrive in the coming weeks, according to Army Radio.

The new immigration reportedly will be funded and facilitated by Shavei Israel, a non-governmental organization that helps locate and reconnect to Judaism and Israel the descendants of Jews.

Some 1,700 Bnei Menashe are living in Israel, and as many as 9,000 remain in India and Burma, according to the Times of Israel.

JTA

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/indian-tribe-aliyah-approved/2012/11/06/

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