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October 30, 2014 / 6 Heshvan, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Bnei Menashe’

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.

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.

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).

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.

A Homecoming For A Lost Tribe Of Israel

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

In the farthest reaches of northeastern India, a long-lost community is about to fulfill its age-old dream of returning to its ancient homeland, the land of Israel.
 
The Bnei Menashe, or “sons of Manasseh,” are descendants of one of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, exiled by the Assyrian empire more than 27 centuries ago. The community – which numbers some 7,232 – resides primarily in the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh.
 
Despite generations of wandering, the Bnei Menashe never forgot who they were, where they had come from, or where they aspired to return.
 
Three times a day, every day, they turn in silent prayer toward Jerusalem, pleading with the Creator to put an end to their long exile and bring them home to Zion.
 
That dream is now poised, at last, to become a reality.
 
In late June, an extraordinary meeting of Israel’s Ministerial Committee on Immigration and Absorption took place in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. At the top of the agenda was the issue of the Bnei Menashe.
 
As chairman of Shavei Israel, an organization that has been assisting the community for over a decade, I had lobbied intensively for much of the past year for the committee to address the issue.
 
Testifying before the assembled ministers, I spoke of the 1,700 Bnei Menashe who have already made aliyah, and their success in integrating into Israeli society.
 
Approximately 96 percent of Bnei Menashe immigrants to Israel are employed, supporting themselves and their families and contributing to the state and its economy. A mere 4 percent – less than half the national average – are reliant on social welfare to make ends meet.
 
Nearly all young Bnei Menashe men are drafted into the army, with a majority serving in combat units. And a growing number of Bnei Menashe youth are pursuing higher education at Israeli colleges and universities in fields ranging from computer science to social work. Several have also received rabbinical ordination after years of study in yeshiva.
 
Rest assured, I told the ministers, the Bnei Menashe are our lost brethren. In March 2005, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar recognized them as “descendants of Israel,” and said they should be brought to the Jewish state.
 
He also ruled that because they were cut off from their people for millennia, the Bnei Menashe are required to undergo conversion to remove any doubt about their personal status.
 
Put simply, I said, the Bnei Menashe are a blessing to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel, and they strengthen us no less than we do them.
 
So I turned to the members of the committee and made a simple yet forceful plea: It is time for Israel to let the remaining Bnei Menashe come home.
 
And then a miracle took place. After deliberating the matter, the ministerial committee, headed by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, formally decided to draft a government resolution and bring it to the cabinet over the summer.
 
The resolution will permit all the remaining Bnei Menashe in India to make aliyah, and will finally bring an end to their years of waiting.
 
This means there will soon be a historic turning point, one that will restore these 7,232 precious souls to the Jewish people.
 
The Bnei Menashe are part of the extended Jewish family. They are committed Zionists who observe the Torah and its commandments, and who are reaching out across the centuries to reconnect with our people. We need to extend a welcoming hand back, and bring them to Jerusalem.
 
As I listened to the committee approve its decision, I truly felt as if I was standing on the banks of the Red Sea, watching the waters begin to part.
 
Soon enough, I am sure, the Bnei Menashe will cross the sea, reuniting with the Land and people of Israel after a remarkable journey.
 

Just as the prophets foretold, Manasseh’s children are at last coming home. Let’s welcome them with open arms.

 

  

 

Michael Freund is a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is the founder and chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based organization which assists the Bnei Menashe and other “lost Jews” to return to the Jewish people.

Bring The Bnei Menashe Home To Israel

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Several time zones away, in the farthest reaches of northeastern India, live thousands of men and women longing to rejoin the Jewish people.
 
Scattered throughout the Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, they follow Jewish law, observe the Sabbath and festivals, and even pray in Hebrew, turning their faces, and dreams, toward Zion.
 
Known as the Bnei Menashe, they trace their ancestry back to the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes that were exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrian empire more than 2,700 years ago.
 
Despite centuries of wandering, the Bnei Menashe clung to their Jewish heritage and preserved their traditions. They never forgot who they were or where they came from, or to where they dreamed of one day returning.
 
In 2005, the Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel, Shlomo Amar, formally recognized the Bnei Menashe as “descendants of Israel” and encouraged their return to Israel and the Jewish people.
 
Over the past decade, more than 1,700 members of the community have made aliyah to Israel thanks to Shavei Israel, the organization I chair.
 
All have undergone formal conversion by the Chief Rabbinate to remove any doubts regarding their personal status and have been granted Israeli citizenship.
 
But another 7,232 remain in India, anxiously awaiting their chance to make aliyah. The time has come to put an end to their waiting.
 
Over the past year, I have been intensively lobbying Israel’s government on behalf of the Bnei Menashe, and I am optimistic that a breakthrough is near.
 
Both the chief rabbi and Interior Minister Eli Yishai have expressed their support for bringing the remaining members of the community to Israel. All that is needed now is for the Israeli government to take the courageous and historic decision to reunite this lost tribe with our people.
 
The Bnei Menashe will be loyal citizens and good Jews. They are kind and soft-spoken, with strong family values and a deep abiding faith in the Torah. Nearly all are religiously observant, with a profound and passionate commitment to Zionism.
 
Only four percent of Bnei Menashe immigrants are reliant on social welfare benefits, which is less than half the percentage of veteran Israelis. They are hard-working and earnest people, and the arrival of thousands of them will be a true blessing for the Jewish state.
 
Several members of the community in Israel have received rabbinical ordination and now work in outreach, while another is a certified religious scribe whose quill has produced beautiful Scrolls of Esther.
 
Dozens of others have served in elite combat units, risking their lives in defense of the country.
 
Simply put, they strengthen us both quantitatively and qualitatively, demographically and spiritually.
 
Moreover, the Bnei Menashe are part of the extended Jewish family, and we owe it to them and their ancestors, as well as to ourselves, to bring them home.
 
According to their tradition, after their forefathers were expelled from the Land of Israel, the Bnei Menashe wandered eastward toward China before settling in what is now northeastern India, where they continued to practice biblical Judaism. This included observing the Sabbath and the laws of family purity, circumcision on the eighth day after birth, levirate marriage and sacrificial rites tantalizingly close to those of ancient Israel.
 
This would not be the first time a lost tribe has been found. Take, for example, the Ethiopian Jews, whose aliyah to Israel was nothing less than a modern-day miracle. When the Chief Rabbinate ruled in 1973 that they were Jews, the decision was based in part on the belief that the Ethiopians were descendants of the lost Israelite tribe of Dan.
 
Since that historic ruling, tens of thousands of Ethiopians have come to Israel, bolstering the country and adding some much-needed demographic reinforcements to its Jewish population. There is no reason for the Bnei Menashe to be treated any differently.
 
Recently, the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs issued a historic decision calling on the Israeli government to bring home the Bnei Menashe remaining in India.
 
I testified before the committee, and was delighted when its chairman, MK Danny Danon, declared that “it is the Israeli government’s duty and responsibility to bring the rest of the Bnei Menashe home as soon as possible.”
 
No matter how one looks at it, the story of the Bnei Menashe is testimony to the power of Jewish memory, to that unquenchable pintele Yid (Jewish spark) that dwells deep in the heart of each and every Jew.
 
Israel, of course, faces many challenges, and the government is busy grappling with various diplomatic, political and security issues.
 

But the time has come to bring this 2,700 year-long saga of dispersion to an end.  The time has come to bring Manasseh’s children home. The time has come to bring the Bnei Menashe to Israel.

 

 

Michael Freund is chairman of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based organization that reaches out and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people. His Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the third week of each month.

Quick Takes: News From Israel You May Have Missed

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

Hamas and other Palestinian terror organizations in the Gaza Strip used American and international weaponry to attack Israel this week, top terror leaders told this column.

The weapons were seized in June when Hamas took control of Gaza and overran U.S.-backed security compounds of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah organization.

“The American weapons and Western weapons that reached Fatah before Hamas took over Gaza [are] being used by the Palestinian resistance, including in our aerial attack yesterday,” said Muhammad Abdel-El, spokesperson for the Hamas-allied Popular Resistance Committees.

“[Sunday] was not the first time we used these American weapons against the [Israeli] occupation. The resistance will keep using all weapons at our disposal for the liberation of Palestine,” Abdel-El said.

Abdel-El’s Committees and members of Hamas’s so-called resistance department said they used heavy machine guns they obtained from Fatah compounds in June to fire at an Israeli Defense Forces helicopter this past Sunday. The helicopter had ventured into the central Gaza Strip near the territory’s Nuseirat refugee camp.

The U.S. in recent years reportedly transferred large quantities of weaponry to build up Fatah forces in the Gaza Strip and West Bank against rival Hamas. The State Department recently announced a multimillion dollar program to train Fatah militants in the West Bank.

Abdel-El vowed to obtain more of the American weaponry shipped to Abbas: “America and Israel can keep financing and supplying Fatah’s militias, but at the end of the day all available resistance movements, including large numbers in Fatah, will do everything so these weapons will reach the good hands of those who fight for Islam, Allah and the liberation of Palestine, and not those who are only carrying out an American and Zionist policy such as the Fayyad-Abbas government.”

Return of the Bnei Menashe

A group of 174 people from among thousands in India who believe they are one of the 10 “lost tribes” landed in Israel this week, fulfilling for many a life-long dream of returning to what they consider their homeland.

Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based organization led by American Michael Freund, hopes to bring to the Jewish state the remaining 7,000 Indian citizens who believe they are the Bnei Menashe, the descendants of Manasseh, one of biblical patriarch Joseph’s two sons and a grandson of Jacob.

The tribe lives in the two Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, to which they claim to have been exiled from Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian empire.

According to Bnei Menashe oral tradition, the tribe was exiled from Israel and pushed eastward, eventually settling in the border regions of China and India, where most remain today. Most kept customs similar to Jewish tradition, including observing Shabbat, keeping the laws of kosher, practicing circumcision on the eighth day of a baby boy’s life and observing laws of family purity.

In the 1950′s, several thousand Bnei Menashe say they set out on foot for Israel but were quickly halted by Indian authorities. Undeterred, many began practicing Orthodox Judaism and pledged to make it to Israel. They now attend community centers established by Shavei Israel to teach the Bnei Menashe Jewish tradition and modern Hebrew.

Freund said he hopes the arrival this week of more Bnei Menashe would “jump-start the process of bringing back the rest of the 7,000 Bnei Menashe who are in India yearning to return home.”

United In Terror

Hamas and members of the so-called military wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah organization took responsibility for an attack against the Israeli army this week, stating that a recently formed new terror group will be used to conduct joint operations against the Jewish state.

Last week, this column broke the story that Hamas and Fatah had formed a new organization called the Fire Belt to jointly attack Israel. On Sunday, the new Fire Belt terror group took responsibility for a grenade attack against Israeli forces operating in the vicinity of the Balata refugee camp in the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

According to Abu Nasser, a leader of Fatah’s Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Nablus and a self-declared top commander of the Fire Belt group, among the terrorists that attacked the jeep Sunday was a member of the Brigades who is on Israel’s official list of amnesty.

In July Israeli Prime Minister Olmert granted amnesty to 178 Fatah fighters, purportedly as a gesture to Abbas and to bolster the Palestinian leader against Hamas. The amnesty was offered on condition that the Fatah gunmen refrain from attacks against Israel.

The information about a Hamas-Fatah group follows the recent announcement of large sums of U.S. aid to Fatah, with military training programs for West Bank Fatah militias – again purportedly to back Abbas’s group against Hamas and to isolate Hamas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

‘Attacks Will Continue’

A top leader of the so-called military wing of Abbas’s Fatah party vowed that his terror group would continue firing rockets from the Gaza Strip at nearby Jewish communities regardless of peace negotiations reportedly taking place between Abbas and Olmert.

“No matter what happens in negotiations, the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades will keep shooting these rockets at the Zionists,” Abu Lel Muntasser, chief of the Brigades in the southern Gaza Strip, told WorldNetDaily.

Muntasser claimed the Brigades has a new rocket in Gaza that can travel further than those previously fired from the territory, and took credit for a Kassam rocket attack this week that scored a direct hit on a house in the Israeli city of Sderot, injuring two.

Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief  for WorldNetDaily.com. He appears throughout the week on leading U.S. radio programs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/quick-takes-news-from-israel-you-may-have-missed-95/2007/09/05/

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