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Jerusalem, (Dec. 14, 2020) – Tonight, 250 members of the Bnei Menashe Jewish community of northeastern India will make Aliyah via a special flight chartered by both Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration and the Jerusalem-based nonprofit Shavei Israel.
The Bnei Menashe, or sons of Manasseh, from Mizoram and Manipur claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel who 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 along the borders of what are now Burma and Bangladesh. Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe 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. They continue to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
The effort was coordinated by Shavei Israel, a nonprofit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States with the aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the descendants of Jews around the world. The organization is currently active in more than a dozen countries and provides assistance to a variety of communities such as the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim (referred to by the derogatory term “Marranos” by historians) in Spain, Portugal, and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, descendants of Jews living in Poland, and others.