102 ‘Lost’ Indian Jews Immigrate to Israel
JNS.org – Over one hundred members of India’s population of “lost Jews” are arriving in Israel this week, with hundreds more planning to make aliyah this year.
The Bnei Menashe community — which claims to descend from the Jewish tribes banished from ancient Israel in the 8th century BCE — have organized waves of immigrants to make the move to Israel through nonprofit Shavei Israel, which describes itself as the “only Jewish organization…actively reaching out to ‘lost Jews.'”
Michael Freund, the organization’s founder and chairman, said in a statement prior to Tuesday’s arrival of 30 Indian olim, “With God’s help, we will bring a total of more than 700 Bnei Menashe immigrants to Israel — the largest-ever airlift in a single year.”
Later this week, an additional 72 immigrants are scheduled to arrive, and, according to Shavei Israel, they will be living in the northern city of Nazareth Illit, which “already has a flourishing Bnei Menashe community.”
“After 27 centuries of exile, this lost tribe of Israel 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 said.
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 has since reversed that policy.
The latest Bnei Menashe immigrants hail from the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, and will be the first members of their community to make aliyah since January 2014.