Exodus From India to Israel

Little girl from India holding Israeli flag, makes aliyah to Israel. Photo: Shavei Israel

Little girl from India makes aliyah to Israel. Photo: Shavei Israel

Over 200 new immigrants came from the northeastern Indian state of Manipur to Israel.

The state, which is on the border with Burma, is home to the largest concentration of Bnei Menashe (Sons of Manassah) in India.

The new immigrants plan on settling in the Galilee, where many Bnei Menashe immigrants have made homes. They initially will reside in Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Kfar Hasidim, where they will formally convert to Judaism.

Upon arrival, the new immigrants will immediately begin preparing for Passover. [Read more…]

Ancient Chinese Jewish Community of Kaifeng Celebrates Hanukkah

Shavei-2A few dozen Chinese Jews in Kaifeng, China, gathered tonight with an emissary of the Shavei Israel organization to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah and light the traditional menorah candles. “The Chinese Jews take their inspiration from the Maccabees,” said Shavei Israel Chairman and Founder Michael Freund. “Even in far-off Kaifeng, the light of Jewish survival continues to burn brightly. Kaifeng’s Jewish descendants are a living link between China and the Jewish people.”

Shavei-1Freund added that even “after centuries of assimilation, a growing number of Kaifeng’s Jews have begun seeking to return to their roots and embrace their Jewish identity. They are trying to figure out why it’s important to be Jewish and we want to help them have a stronger Jewish identity.”

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.

Kaifeng SynagogueIn 1163, Kaifeng’s Jews built a large and beautiful synagogue, which was subsequently renovated and rebuilt on numerous occasions. 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 Jewish customs. Currently, there are estimated to be approximately 1,000 Jewish descendants in Kaifeng. In recent years, Shavei Israel has helped a number of young Chinese Jews from Kaifeng 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 more than a dozen countries and provides assistance to a variety of communities such as the 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, descendants of Jews living in Poland, and others.

Bnei Menashe Celebrate Yom Haatzmaut in India

— by Jake Sharfman

Over 1200 members from the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut and the resumption of their Aliyah to Israel yesterday with a festive celebration in the town of Churachandpur in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur.

The gathering, which was sponsored and organized by the Shavei Israel organization, was the largest in the Bnei Menashe community’s history. Just last October, the Israeli government lifted a five-year ban on the Aliyah of Bnei Menashe in a unanimous decision. Since then, over 270 Bnei Menashe have been brought on Aliyah by Shavei Israel.

More after the jump.
“This Yom Ha’atzmaut is particularly poignant for the Bnei Menashe,” Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund said.

With the resumption of the Aliyah from India, the community’s dream of returning to the land of their ancestors is finally coming to fruition. In the coming months, with G-d’s help, we aim to bring another 900 Bnei Menashe back home to Zion.

“There has never been such a joyous event like this before in our community. We are celebrating in spirit with our Bnei Menashe brothers and sisters who have already made Aliyah to Israel in hopes that we will be joining them very soon,” said Yochanon Phaltual, a Bnei Menashe member who organized the event.

To celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut with the realistic hope of making Aliyah soon fills my heart with joy. I was especially moved when we all stood up and sang Hatikvah. That was a very special moment for me and I really hope that we can all sing it together next year in Jerusalem.

The 2,000th ‘Lost Tribe’ Bnei Menashe Immigrant Arrives in Tel Aviv


Mirna Singsit, 18, from the state of Manipur in northeast India, is the 2,000th Bnei Menashe Olah to make aliyah to Israel. She arrived in Israel last week along with 53 other Bnei Menashe community members from Manipur on a group flight facilitated by the Shavei Israel organization. Immediately after landing at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Singsit received a special certificate from Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund, officially recognizing her as the 2,000th Bnei Menashe member to reach the Jewish homeland.

More after the jump.
Mirna Singsit is making aliyah with both of her parents and three brothers. She left behind her grandparent, four uncles and two aunts in Manipur to fulfill her lifelong dream of living in Israel. Singsit was a student at Churachandpur University in Manipur studying for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, which she hopes to continue in Israel and eventually become a school teacher.

“I’m so very happy right now I can hardly express it in words. Not only has this been my dream since I was born, but it has been my peoples’ dream for thousands of years and now it has finally come true,” said Singsit upon her emotional arrival in Israel. “I still don’t know where my parents are planning to move after our time in the absorption center, but I personally dream about living in Jerusalem, the Holiest place on Earth, and hope to move there sometime in the very near future.”

“This is an incredibly emotional day for all of us,” said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund as he welcomed Singsit and her family to Israel. “The arrival of the 2000th Bnei Menashe immigrant is a milestone for the community and for the Jewish state. After 27 centuries of exile, the lost tribe of Bnei Menashe is truly coming home. But we will not rest until all the remaining Bnei Menashe still in India are able to make aliyah as well,” Freund added.


Singsit and Freund

Last October, the Israeli cabinet passed an historic and unanimous decision which formally restarted the Bnei Menashe aliyah after a five year hiatus, and granted Shavei Israel permission to bring an initial group of 275 Bnei Menashe to Israel. The immigrants came on five flights over the past month, all of which were facilitated by Shavei Israel and sponsored by Jewish and Christian philanthropists, foremost among them the ICEJ.

Upon arrival, the Bnei Menashe are taken to Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Givat Haviva where they will reside during their initial months in the country. Subsequently, they will move to the cities of Acre and Migdal Haemek in the north of Israel. The new arrivals join the 1,725 Bnei Menashe who are already living in the Jewish state, and have become an integral part of Israeli society. Before this most recent aliyah, the last Bnei Menashe flights to arrive in Israel were in 2007 carrying 230 Olim, and in 2006 carrying 219.

The Bnei Menashe (Hebrew for “sons of Manasseh”) claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. They live in India’s northeastern border states of Manipur and Mizoram. 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. Throughout their exile, the Bnei Menashe nonetheless continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. And they continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.

The Bnei Menashe who currently live in Israel reside in the cities of Jerusalem, Ma’alot, Karmiel, Nitzan and Kiryat Arba. Around 7,000 still remain in India, waiting for the day when they too will be able to return to Israel and the Jewish people. Shavei Israel is the only organization that is working on behalf of the Bnei Menashe.

Shavei Israel is a non-profit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, with the aim of strengthening ties with 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, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, the “Hidden Jews” of Poland from the Holocaust era and others.

First Ever Bnai Menashe Officer in IDF Makes History


Second Lieutenant Shalem Gin: “I hope more officers from the community will follow”

— Jake Sharfman

History was made yesterday when Shalem Gin became the first IDF officer from the Bnei Menashe community, who are descended from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Gin received the rank of Second Lieutenant in front of friends and family at a ceremony held at the Bahad 1 military base in the Negev.

More after the jump.

Gin, 20, was born in Mizoram, a state in northeastern India. He and his family made Aliyah to Israel in 1995. Gin joined the IDF in 2009 and enlisted in the Combat Engineering Corps, where he finished near the top of his class in his commanders course.

After completing the course with honors, Gin was then sent to officer training, which he officially completed yesterday. He will now return to his unit as a platoon commander.

“This is a dream come true. It brings great joy and pride to me and my family,” Gin said. “As the first Bnei Menashe officer in the IDF, I hope that more from the community will follow.”

“Shalem is a very talented young man with extraordinary ambition,” said Michael Freund, Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel, the organization responsible for the Aliyah of the Bnei Menashe. “When I met Shalem a few years ago, he told me that even as a child in India he always dreamt of becoming an Israeli combat soldier. Nonetheless, I’m sure that Shalem himself did not imagine that he would become the first Bnei Menashe officer in the IDF, but today he has achieved that goal and we are all very proud of him.”

“Shalem Gin made history today,” Freund added, “He is a pioneer in his community who has paved the way for others to follow in his footsteps.”

Freund also called on the Israeli government to allow the remaining 7,232 Bnei Menashe in India to make Aliyah as soon as possible. “Shalem Gin’s success story underlines the contribution that the Bnei Menashe wish to make to the State of Israel. It is time to bring about an end to the community’s waiting, and to enable them to come home to Israel as soon as possible,” he said.

About the Bnei Menashe (Hebrew for “sons of Manasseh”): They claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago, and they currently live in India’s northeastern border states of Manipur and Mizoram. Throughout their exile, the Bnei Menashe nonetheless continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. And they continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel. In recent years, Shavei Israel has brought some 1,700 Bnei Menashe back home to Zion. Another 7,232 still remain in India, waiting for the day when they too will be able to return to Israel and the Jewish people.

About Shavei Israel: a non-profit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, with the aim of reaching out to descendants of Jews around the world and strengthening their connection with the Jewish people and the State of Israel. 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, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, the “Hidden Jews” of Poland from the Holocaust era and others. For more information visit: www.shavei.org.

Photos courtesy of Micahl Fattal.

India’s Bnei Menashe Celebrate Hanukkah


The 7,200 members of the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India ushered in the first night of Hanukkah tonight with joy and ceremony, as they continue to nourish the hope of making aliyah in the near future.

“For most of their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe did not observe Hanukkah nor were they aware of its existence until the modern era. This, due to a very simple reason: their ancestors were exiled from the land of Israel some 560 years before the historical events which Hanukkah commemorates,” Shavei Israel Chairman and Founder Michael Freund said, adding, “But as part of their return to the Jewish people, they have embraced the holiday and made it their own, celebrating it together with Jews everywhere. The Bnei Menashe still in India are anxiously awaiting a decision by Israel’s government to allow them to come home to the Jewish state, and we pray that their dream will soon be fulfilled.”

Photo courtesy of Yochanan Phaltual.
Bnei Menashe

The Bnei Menashe (Hebrew for “sons of Manasseh”) claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. They live in India’s northeastern border states of Manipur and Mizoram. Throughout their exile, the Bnei Menashe nonetheless continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. And they continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel. In recent years, “Shavei Israel” has brought some 1,700 Bnei Menashe back home to Zion. Another 7,200 still remain in India, waiting for the day when they too will be able to return to Israel and the Jewish people.

Shavei 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 ties between 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 Bnai Anousim in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, the “Hidden Jews” of Poland from the Holocaust era and others.