An earthquake which measured at 6.7 magnitude on the Richter scale struck northeast India on Monday morning, killing at least nine people, injuring over 90, and causing extensive damage to the Bnei Menashe community in the Indian state of Manipur, where a group of Indian Jews believed to be the descendants of the lost tribe of Manasseh reside.
Luckily, the epicenter of the quake was in an isolated area about 18 miles west of Manipur’s capital, limiting casualties. While there were no deaths or injuries among the Bnei Menashe, the quake caused significant structural damage in the community, breaking open roads, collapsing houses and buildings, and crushing vehicles.
Tzvi Khaute, a member of the Bnei Menashe and Shavei Israel’s emissary to Manipur, reported, “The earthquake struck early in the morning and buildings shook violently. Thank God no one among the Bnei Menashe was injured or killed. There is, however, extensive damage from the quake.”
Shavei Israel, a non-profit organization whose aim is to return lost Jews to the state of Israel, has launched an emergency relief fund to help members of the Bnei Menashe affected by the disaster.
Michael Freund, the chairman and founder of Shavei Israel, said that the organization was in touch with the leaders of the Bnei Menashe community throughout eastern India following the earthquake. He added that it was a miracle no one was harmed, but that the organization was concerned about the havoc wreaked upon homes and property.
The Bnei Menashe claim descent from the Tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel sent into exile by the Assyrian empire over 2,700 years ago. After wandering through Central Asia and the Far East for several centuries, they settled in what is now northeastern India.
Throughout their long exile, the community has maintained Jewish practices and rituals, including observing the Sabbath day, keeping kosher, and celebrating Jewish holidays.
While some 3,000 members of the Bnei Menashe community have made aliyah to Israel, about 7,000 still remain in India. 700 of those, many of whom were affected by the earthquake, are currently awaiting final permission to move to Israel.
In light of the disaster, Freud called on the Israeli government to “bring [the Bnei Menashe] home to Zion as soon as possible.”