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July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Shavei Israel’

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.

Spain Passes Citizenship Restoration Law for Jews Expelled in 1492

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

It has only taken a half a millenium, but on Thursday Spain passed a law granting citizenship to any descendant of Jews expelled from the country in 1492.

The law – which took three years to create – was hailed as a “historic rehabilitation” by Justice Minister Rafael Catala and Foreign Minister Manuel Garcia Margallo.

It was in 1492, as Colombus was preparing to set sail to explore the New World that Jews were given an ultimatum: convert to Christianity, or leave.

Those who stayed and pretended to convert became known over the centuries as “Marranos” – the “hidden” ones – or “Anusim” – the “forced” ones. Their descendants are scattered throughout the world, including many who later ended up intermarrying with Muslims, some who live in Judea and Samaria. Their families still keep fragments of Jewish traditions in their homes, although most no longer remember why.

The Jews who chose to preserve their identity and left, fled to North Africa and the Middle East, many of whom arrived in what is now known as Turkey.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain said in an official statement on Thursday that passage of the law in Madrid had launched a “new stage in the history of the relationship between Spain and the Jewish world; a new period of encounter, dialogue and harmony.

Contrary to what one might think, the descendants of those expelled not harbored feelings of hatred or resentment but rather the contrary, they cultivated a deep love for the land they were from and intense loyalty to tradition and language received of their elders,” the statement continued.

The law goes into effect in October, when the Jewish community can begin the process of checking the lineage of anyone who wishes to activate their once-proud centuries-old Spanish citizenship.

That process involves proving one’s ancestry, showing a basic knowledge of Spain and its culture, and embarking upon a minimum of one pilot trip to the country. In addition, one must pay an application fee of 100 Euros for the privilege. So much for “restoration.”

Under Israel’s Law of Return, any person is entitled to citizenship in the Jewish State if he or she can prove that one grandparent — either maternal or paternal — is Jewish. The pace of the “ingathering of the (Jewish) exiles” described in the Torah has been growing over the past decade. Jews who were driven from the Land of Israel by the Romans and the Babylonians have begun to return through the efforts of groups such as Michael Freund’s Shavei Israel, Nefesh B’Nefesh and others.

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.

Young, Hidden Polish Jews Discover Heritage in Israel

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Shavei Israel, an Israeli organization dedicated to discovering hidden Jewish communities and lost Jews, recently brought 16 Polish Jews to Israel to rediscover their Jewish identity. Michael Freund, chairman of Shavei Israel, explained, “In Poland, in most people’s eyes, to be Polish means Catholic. In Poland, the sense of identity is very much linked to religion, so when a person discovers he is Jewish or has Jewish ancestry, it comes as a shock to people. They become outsiders. It can be traumatic.”

During the Holocaust, 90 percent of Polish Jewry was murdered, decimating the 3 to 3.5 million Jews that lived in Poland on the eve of the Nazi invasion, leaving only 350,000 alive by war’s end. While most surviving Jews left Poland after a brief return to search for relatives, some remained. Due to communist rule and memories of the Holocaust, many hid their Jewish identity. Today, there are many communities with “hidden Jews,” who are disconnected from their Jewish roots and ancestry.

“There are people who suspect they might have Jewish roots and want to know yet don’t change their live styles. Others could return to Judaism or pursue a secular journey to learn about Jewish culture. We are talking about a human phenomenon, so different people react different,” Freund explained. “Some of them become religious Jews and do a conversion, while others are struggling with their new identity and are trying to figure out what to make of it and how it should impact their life. One thing that unites them is that they all want to learn more about their heritage and want to see the land of their ancestors.”

Some hidden Jews grew up as Catholic, the children of Jews who converted while hiding in Catholic orphanages. Others were raised without religion playing any role in their lives. According to Freund, “One young man [in this group of 16] who began to get interested in his family genealogy and then at the same time took a DNA test discovered that he has Jewish background. That combined with documents he found convinced him he has Jewish ancestry. He was even able to locate distant cousins in the US that are Jewish. This prompted him to study more about Judaism. He converted and became religiously observant.”

Most of the 16 Jews in this group, however, are at an earlier stage in their journey. “In many other cases, they have a grandparent who revealed it to them or are people who don’t know for sure, since their family will not discuss it with them,” said Freund.  Their suspicion grew out of their lack or church attendance or extended family. “They have relatives who refuse [to speak about it] and that fuels their speculation even more.”

Freund believes that roots are powerful. “When we walk the streets of Jerusalem, the trees are uneven and the roots have spread out and lifted the rocks up. If that is true of a tree, how much more so of a human being! Sometimes they burst upwards to show they are still there. More people through out Poland are discovering and embracing their Jewish roots. They are trying to go home.”

Visit United with Israel.

64-Year-Old Polish Jew Celebrates Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Mariusz Robert Aoflko, a 64-year old Jewish attorney from Krakow who grew up thinking he was a Polish Catholic, celebrated his Bar Mitzvah on Wednesday, May 30, at the Kotel, with friends and other “hidden Jews” from Poland.

Mariusz spent his entire life as a Catholic. However, 13 years ago, right before his mother passed away, she told him something that turned his whole world upside down: he is a Jew, and a Kohen.

This week, Mariusz (who now goes by the name of Moshe) is visiting Israel for the first time and this morning celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel, 13 years after the secret, which he calls “his rebirth,” was revealed.

It turns out that both of Mariusz’s parents were born to Jewish families who perished in Auschwitz. After the war, the fear of being Jewish in Poland led his parents to hide their religion and to live as Polish Catholics.

After learning his true identity, Mariusz was in complete shock, but slowly, over the years, he decided he wanted to live a Jewish life. He contacted Shavei Israel’s emissary in Krakow, Rabbi Boaz Pash, and became involved with the Jewish community in Krakow.

Last month, he met Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, at the entrance of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, and told him his story. “I was deeply moved,” Freund said, adding, “I told him that since 13 years have passed since he found out he was a Jew, it is an appropriate time for him to have a Bar Mitzvah.” Freund then offered to arrange the event at the Kotel, all paid for by the organization.

“By embarking on this journey into my heritage, step by step, it all starts to become clear to me,” said Mariusz. “I am not doing this to prove anything to anyone. All I ask is to embrace the truth about my family and regain the lost identity that was hidden from me for decades.”

Today, there are approximately 4,000 Jews living in Poland, but experts suggest there may be tens of thousands of other Jews who to this day are either hiding their identities or simply unaware of their family heritage. In recent years, a growing number of such people, popularly known as the “Hidden Jews of Poland,” have begun to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people.

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 in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, and the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China.

Shavei Israel currently has two full-time emissaries in Poland, located in Krakow and Katowice.

25 Poles Who Discovered They Are Jewish to Study In Israel

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

25 young Polish Jews, many of whom have only recently discovered their Jewish roots, arrived in Israel on Monday for a special seminar organized by Shavei Israel, an organization that aims to strengthen the connection between descendants of Jews and the State of Israel & the Jewish people. The participants, between the ages of 18-35, most of whom were raised Catholic, came from cities like Krakow, Katowice, Warsaw, Przemysl and Gdansk. For many it marks their first time visiting Israel.

“There is a growing thirst among young Poles with Jewish roots to learn more about their Jewish religious and cultural heritage,” said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund. “This awakening would have been unthinkable just 25 or 30 years ago, but since the downfall of Communism, an increasing number of Poles have sought to reclaim and affirm their Jewish identity. We owe it to them to assist them in any way that we can.”

Freund added that, “with the start of the new Jewish year just a few weeks away, it is fitting that these young Poles have come to Israel to rekindle their bond with the Jewish people.”

The program, run by Polish-speaking rabbis and educators, is designed to assist the young Poles in discovering more about their Jewish roots and learning more about ancient and modern-day Israel. Among the topics that will be covered are the laws of Shabbat; the upcoming holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot; and “Keeping kosher in a non-kosher world.” Participants will also study the weekly Torah portion.

The visitors will meet with the Polish Ambassador to Israel, and an spend a day studying at a local yeshiva.

About 4,000 Jews live in Poland today, but some suggest there may be tens of thousands of other Jews in Poland who to this day are either hiding their identities or are simply unaware of their family heritage. In recent years, a growing number of such people, popularly known as the “Hidden Jews of Poland”, have begun to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people.

Shavei Israel currently has two full-time emissaries in Poland located in Krakow and Katowice.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/25-poles-who-discovered-they-are-jewish-to-study-in-israel/2012/08/22/

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