One hundred two members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community, all of whom immigrated to Israel from the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram in February, will officially join Israeli society on Monday, 19 Iyar, after having completed their formal conversion to Judaism and an intensive Hebrew course at Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Kfar Chassidim. The new immigrants, who have received Israeli citizenship, will all settle in Nazareth Illit, which already has a flourishing Bnei Menashe community.
The new immigrants arrived in Israel in February thanks to the Jerusalem-based nonprofit Shavei Israel. They all hail from Mizoram, India, which borders Burma and Bangladesh and is home to the second-largest concentration of Bnei Menashe in India after that of the state of Manipur.
“This is an exciting day for all of us,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. “After spending the past three months at the Shavei Israel Absorption Center, the Bnei Menashe immigrants will now settle in Upper Nazareth in the Galil, where they will begin to build their new lives here in the Jewish state. We will do everything we can to ensure that their integration into Israeli society goes as smoothly as possible. More than 2,700 years after their ancestors were exiled from the Land, the Bnei Menashe are returning home. Our task now is to ensure that they truly feel at home as well.”
The Bnei Menashe claim that they are descendants of the tribe of Menashe, 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 have made Aliyah thanks to Shavei Israel, including more than 1,100 in the past four years. Some 7,000 Bnei Menashe remain in India waiting for the chance to return home to Zion.
Shavei Israel reaches out to and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people. It works with various groups around the world, such as the Bnei, the Bnei Anousim (“Marranos”) of Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, and the “Hidden Jews” of Poland from the time of the Holocaust. The organization also engages in the absorption of new olim in Israel, including providing assistance with housing, employment, and professional training.