Lost Tribe of Bnei Menashe in Northeast India Prepares Passover Matzah
JNS.org – The Bnei Menashe community in the remote northeastern Indian state of Manipur began preparing for Passover earlier this week, including by baking matzah at the Shavei Israel Hebrew Center in Churachandpur.
The Bnei Menashe, or sons of Manasseh, claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. Their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the borders of Burma and Bangladesh.
Throughout their sojourn in exile, they 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.
“Passover symbolizes the Jewish people’s deliverance, and it is a festival that resonates deeply for the Bnei Menashe,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. “In the far-flung regions of northeastern India, thousands of Bnei Menashe will sit down on Passover eve to conduct the traditional seder, which embodies the hope they have been nurturing for generations: to make aliyah and return to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.”
Israel has helped more than 4,000 Bnei Menashe make aliyah in the past two decades.
Freund said “we hope that after 27 centuries of exile, the remaining 6,500 Bnei Menashe still in India will be able to celebrate Passover next year in their Jewish homeland.”