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November 29, 2016 12:23 pm

Members of India’s ‘Lost Tribe’ of Jews Visit Auschwitz for the First Time

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Members of the Bnei Menashe, India's "lost tribe" of Jews, on their recent visit of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Photo: Courtesy of Shavei Israel.

Members of the Bnei Menashe, India’s “lost tribe” of Jews, on their recent visit of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Photo: Courtesy of Shavei Israel.

JNS.org – Members of India’s so-called “lost tribe” of Jews visited Auschwitz for the first time last week.

Five members of Bnei Menashe — who claim to descend from Jews banished from ancient Israel to India in the eighth century — were in Poland as part of a larger group of Israeli students from Abir Yaakov Yeshiva High School in Nahariya learning about the Nazi death camp where an estimated 1.1 million Jews were murdered.

“[The trip] actually gives me a stronger feeling of love toward Israel. The Holocaust makes Israel even more important to the Jewish people,” said Yaniv Hoinge, one of the Bnei Menashe participants.

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Hoinge and his parents made aliyah in 2012, a move facilitated by Shavei Israel, a nonprofit that calls itself “the only Jewish organization today that is actively reaching out to ‘lost Jews’ in an effort to facilitate their return [to Israel].” The group was also behind the inclusion of individuals from Bnei Menashe in the educational trip to the concentration camp.

Shavei Israel’s founder and chairman, Michael Freund, said in a statement that the group “view[s] it as essential to instill [Bnei Menashe] with a better understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust and its central place in Jewish history” as “part of our efforts to help [them] to return to the Jewish people after being cut off for 27 centuries.”

The Bnei Menashe are said to be descendants of Manasseh, one of the 10 “lost tribes” of the ancient Kingdom of Israel.

In 2005, then-Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Shlomo Amar officially recognized the Bnei Menashe as a lost tribe, and about 1,700 Bnei Menashe members moved to Israel before the Israeli government stopped giving them visas. The government later reversed that policy, enabling Bnei Menashe immigration to resume.

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