Ten Bnei Menashe couples, all of whom immigrated to Israel from Mizoram, India, in February, married at Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Kfar Hasidim on Sunday, April 2, under Jewish law as part of their formal conversion to Judaism.
The 10 couples were among 102 new immigrants who arrived in Israel last month with the Jerusalem-based nonprofit Shavei Israel. They all hail from the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, which borders Burma and Bangladesh and is home to the second-largest concentration of Bnei Menashe in India after that of the state of Manipur. The new immigrants all plan to settle in Nazareth Illit, Israel, which already has a flourishing Bnei Menashe community, after they leave Kfar Hasidim.
“After realizing their dream of making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) and returning to the Jewish people, the 10 Bnei Menashe couples now have an additional reason to celebrate,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. “They have now been remarried in a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony which symbolizes the new lives they are building here in the Jewish state. We wish them a hearty mazal tov (congratulations) and much joy, health and success here in Israel.”
The Bnei Menashe are descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian empire. So far, some 3,000 Bnei Menashe have made aliyah thanks to Shavei Israel, including more than 1,100 in the past four years. Some 7,000 Bnei Menashe remain in India waiting for the chance to return home to Zion.
The couples who married yesterday included Khizkiyah and Tamar Chawngthu, 61 and 59; Tuvia and Odeliah Chawngthu, 58 and 50; Itzchak and Or Khen Fanai, 28 and 26; Lyon and Liorah Fanai, 50 and 49; Rafael and Bat Sheva Hauzel, 28 and 26; Yaacov and Rachel Hmar, 73 and 68; Nehemiah and Esther Hnamte, 58 and 57; Gideon and Rachel Hrasel, 59 and 57; Aharon and Adiva Khiangte, 44 and 40; and Rafael and Ruth Roite, 25 and 23.
Some of the brides had their hair and makeup done and wore wedding gowns while others wore traditional Bnei Menashe skirts with white tops.
Shavei Israel is a reaches out to and assists “lost Jews” seeking to return to the Jewish people. It works with various groups around the world, such as the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim (“Marranos”) of Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, and the “Hidden Jews” of Poland from the time of the Holocaust. The organization also engages in the absorption of new olim (immigrants) in Israel, including providing assistance with housing, employment, and professional training.