Hundreds of members of the non-Jewish BetYisrael (House of Israel) community in India revere Israel, observe the Jewish Shabbat (Sabbath) and Biblical festivals, study the weekly Torah portion, are familiar with the Hebrew alphabet and decorate their homes with Hebrew letters and Jewish symbols.
Lingamurthy Gaddi is the Founder and President of BetYisrael. He told Breaking Israel News that the members of his community believe they are descended from the Tribe of Ephraim. “We have around 100 people within our community in Hyderabad (the 4th most populated city in India). We have hundreds of people who live in other states in India who believe like us.
“Our ancestors were a shepherd family and belonged to the Tribe of Ephraim from the House of Yosef (Joseph). We can find the Tribes of Levi, Ephraim and Manasseh in India, but in recent years, there are thousands of people awakening and identifying their souls, in the terms of Torah, by connecting to Israel.”
Gaddi said BetYisrael includes leaders and members from all over India as well as from, “Kuwait, [other] Middle East countries and Africa. We have a dedicated team of leaders and members who are passionate for the Torah and love for Yisrael.”
According to Gaddi, the group is influenced by Hassidut, a Jewish movement that began in Europe in the 18th century and teaches Jews to worship God with love and joy. Hassidut is also known for, among other things, esoteric Torah teachings which have become inextricably interwoven with mainstream Judaism.
In stark contrast to explicit Torah teaching and the belief of Jews worldwide, the group Gaddi shepherds in India also believe that Jesus, whom they refer to as Yeshua, was the messiah who is calling upon “the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel, who require a renewal or restoration of their covenant.”
They also believe that they are the community Zefaniah speaks about. Gaddi explained, “[We are] crying, praying and preparing to bring the offerings to the Holy Place of Yerushalayim, as prophesied in Zephaniah.”
From beyond the rivers of Cush, My suppliants Shall bring offerings to Me Zephaniah 3:10
This verse can be better understood by knowing that the Biblical Cush is Ethiopia and that India lies across the Indian Ocean from Ethiopia.
“We follow and observe the Torah commandments and festivals,” explained Gaddi. “My testimony is about true Torah foundation teachings. We are very serious in our heart to connect to the Jewish nation. Our intent of heart is to glorify the Most Holy Ancient One of Yisrael.”
Gaddi taught himself the Hebrew alphabet using online resources. He reported that, through his efforts, “We know Alef-Bet. I am teaching alphabet training to our community and our children. But we need teachers to teach reading and speaking Hebrew.”
About his personal Torah study, Gaddi said, “I am more passionate about learning deep levels of Torah. My zeal is to always meditate on the Torah on a deeper level by understanding the 22 Hebrew letters.”
He would like his community to learn more Hebrew in order to be able to read the Bible in its original language. The community also dreams of having a kosher Torah scroll so they can read from it.
In preparation for a Torah scroll, the community laid the foundation stone for a synagogue in Hyderabad on the first day of Hanukkah. Among other guests, they invited Britt Lode.
Norwegian resident Lode is the editor of The Light From Zion, a book about the weekly Torah portion, written by Orthodox rabbis especially for pro-Israel Christians. Lode told Breaking Israel News, “My purpose, and the reason why I was invited, was to come and speak about my last book The Light from Zion and the work I am doing in connecting Christians with the Jewish people and the Torah around the world.
“They know a few people from the Jewish community,” Lode explained, “but they are not well-connected with the Jewish people. This was also a reason why they wanted me to come – to help them connect with the Jews, since they know I have been working in this field for 20 years and can help them moving forward.”
Asked about her observations during her recent visit, Lode said, “I learned that the community has a very strong faith in the God of Israel and much knowledge about the Bible and the Torah. Most of the people had not been to Israel yet, but still they had the menorah and the Star of David on the front door in their houses. They had the Hebrew alphabet on their walls in their living rooms.
“They celebrate the Shabbat and all the Jewish holidays. They know about major Jewish rabbis and their teachings, including the Baal Shem Tov, Rashi, Rambam, Hillel, Maimonides and so on. They treasure commentaries [of the Jewish sages] and teach them to others.”
During her visit, Lode reported that she, “encouraged them to keep up the good work they are doing in learning and teaching Torah. I encouraged them to travel to Israel, to learn more Torah from the Jews and to connect to more Jews. I offered them my help in doing this. I encouraged them to continue the important work they are doing in India, to bring the light from the Torah to the people of India.”
Lode concluded with this reflection, “I was truly truly blessed during my mission to India. I really want to emphasize the prophetic dimension of what’s going on in India with the Children of Ephraim. It can’t be said strongly enough.
“As I see it, the God of Israel is doing something powerful in our days, He is calling Ephraim to wake up! It’s like He is saying right now, in front of our eyes:
Truly, Efraim is a dear son to Me, A child that is dandled! Whenever I have turned against him, My thoughts would dwell on him still. That is why My heart yearns for him; I will receive him back in love —declares Hashem. Jeremiah 31:19
Gaddi shared his community’s long-term vision, “We have been working to have good relations with the House of Yehudah (the Jewish people). Our vision is to establish the Ephraim Synagogue and Torah University in India. We are looking to build a big Torah library which connects to [the Torah books of all the Jewish sages]. We would be very grateful if anyone had books to contribute for Beit Yaaqov Torah University.
“And we are also looking for Jewish rabbis and Jewish Torah teachers who can come to India and teach Torah to all the Lost Sheep of Israel. [It is] our hearts’ desire to love and walk with House of Yehudah,” he concluded.