Friday, April 01, 2005

Chief rabbi declares Bnei Menashe from India to be descended from ancient Israelites

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar decided on Wednesday to recognize the members of India's Bnei Menashe community as descendants of the ancient Israelites.
Amar also decided to dispatch a team of rabbinical judges to India to convert the community members to Orthodox Jews. Such a conversion will enable their immigration to Israel under the Law of Return, without requiring the Interior Ministry's authorization.

The International Fellowship of Christians & Jews (IFCJ), a group that raises money among evangelical Christians for Jewish causes, has undertaken to finance the process of converting the Bnei Menashe community and bringing them to Israel.

The Bnei Menashe community consists of close to 7,000 members of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribe, which lives in northeast India near the border of Myanmar (formally Burma). For generations they kept Jewish traditions, claiming to be descended from the tribe of Menashe, one of the ten lost Israeli tribes that were exiled by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C.E. and have since disappeared.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the tribe's members converted to Christianity, but about 30 years ago, some of the community began moving back to Judaism and set themselves apart from the rest of the tribe.

A number of researchers who visited the group over the years got the impression that their traditions are authentically Israelite in origin.