(JNi.media) Hundreds of the Bnei Menashe community from across northeastern India gathered Sunday in the town of Churachandpur in the Indian state of Manipur to light the first Hanukkah candle.
“The story of the Maccabees’ heroic determination to preserve their Jewish identity under the most trying of circumstances resonates very strongly with the Bnei Menashe, for they too have made enormous efforts down through the centuries to cling to their faith and the faith of their ancestors,” said Shavei Israel Chairman and Founder Michael Freund. “Even in far-off Manipur, the flame of Jewish survival continues to burn brightly.”
The Bnei Menashe believe they are descendants of the tribe of Manashe, one of the Ten Lost Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian empire. So far, some 3,000 Bnei Menashe individuals have made aliyah through Shavei Israel, while another 7,000 are still in India waiting for the chance to return home to Zion.
Of course, if this tribe was exiled from Israel in 722 BCE, they do not have a historic connection to the miracle o Hanukkah of 160 BCE.
The non-profit organization Shavei Israel is currently active in more than a dozen countries and provides assistance to the communities of Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim (referred to by the derogatory term “Marranos” by historians) in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, and descendants of Jews living in Poland.