Skip to comments.Rabbinate Recognizes Bnei Menashe as “Descendants of Israel"
Posted on 03/31/2005 9:05:10 AM PST by SJackson
| Rabbinate Recognizes Bnei Menashe as Descendants of Israel"
16:47 Mar 31, '05 / 20 Adar 5765
|In a historic decision, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has decided to formally recognize the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India as descendants of Israel.|
| The Chief Rabbinate has also agreed to send a beit din (rabbinical court) on its behalf to the region to formally convert them to Judaism.
The Bnei Menashe claim descent from the tribe of Menashe, one of the ten tribes exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrian empire over 2,700 years ago. They reside primarily in the two Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur, along the border with Burma and Bangladesh. In recent years, over 800 members of the community have made Aliyah [immigration to Israel], thanks largely to the efforts of Shavei Israel (www.shavei.org), a Jerusalem-based group that reaches out and assists lost Jews seeking to return to the Jewish people.
Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund, who took part in yesterdays meeting with the Chief Rabbi, praised the decision. This is a momentous day," he said, "and we are very grateful to the Chief Rabbinate for the openness and sensitivity that they have demonstrated in addressing the issue of the Bnei Menashe. This is the breakthrough that we have all been waiting for, and thank G-d, the remaining 6,000 members of the community still in India will at last be able to come home to Zion.
In June 2003, then-Interior Minister Avraham Poraz of the Shinui Party decided to halt the Bnei Menashe aliyah, reportedly because he objected to the fact that they were all religiously-observant and many chose to live in Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
After Poraz decision was announced, Freund turned to the Chief Rabbinate, and began lobbying to receive official rabbinical recognition of the Bnei Menashe as a means of circumventing the Interior Ministers decision. Yesterdays meeting with the Chief Rabbi marked the culmination of those efforts.
Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum, a dayan (rabbinical court judge) and spokesman for Rabbi Amar, said that the decision had come after careful consideration and study of the issue. The Chief Rabbi sent a delegation of two dayanim (judges) to India last year," Rabbi Birnbaum said, "to conduct a thorough investigation of the community and its origins. After a thorough review of their findings, it was decided that the Bnei Menashe are in fact descendants of Israel and should be drawn closer to the Jewish people.
Rabbi Birnbaum added that once various conditions laid down by the Chief Rabbi are fulfilled, such as the construction of mikvaot (ritual baths) in India, and the dispatch of additional teachers, the Chief Rabbinate would send a beit din of its own to the area to convert members of the community to Judaism, thereby allowing them to make Aliyah to Israel.
The first of the Bnei Menashe to arrive in Israel did so in 1979. More members of the community continued arriving slowly during the coming years, and large groups came in 1993 and 1994. Several hundred of them now reside in Israel, mainly in Kiryat Arba, Gush Katif, Beit El and Ofrah.
On another hand, if they are mishugina enough to want this, let'm be, who cares...
Just ask them if they long to retire in Miami.
Oh, the horror! Religious Jews moving to Israel! This must keep Poraz & co. awake all night.
I don't know about genetic research. Any conversions aren't "mass conversions". The decision, and I don't think it has any legal implications, justifies the Chief Rabbinate's decision to provide support for the conversion process.
Studies of Cohens and Levites
Rashmee Z. Ahmed. "India's children of Israel find their roots." The Times of India (July 20, 2002).
"More than 2,000 years after they first claimed to have set foot in India, the mystery of the world's most obscure Jewish community - the Marathi-speaking Bene Israel - may finally have been solved with genetic carbon-dating revealing they carry the unusual Moses gene that would make them, literally, the original children of Israel. Four years of DNA tests on the 4,000-strong Bene Israel, now mainly based in Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Ahmedabad, indicates they are probable descendants of a small group of hereditary Israelite priests or Cohanim, according to new results exclusively made available to the Sunday Times of India.... [Tudor] Parfitt, who initiated and led the research, says this is the first concrete proof that 'exiles from Palestine made it as far as India and managed to maintain Judaism in the sea of Hinduism and Islam'... Aharon Daniel expressed doubt about the new findings. 'Many scientists have claimed to have found Israeli or Cohenim genes in tribes in black Africa and other communities around the world and many here were sceptical about this,' he told STOI.... By studying certain genetic markers on the DNA chain, found only in male descendants of Aaron, Moses' elder brother, who founded the line of Jewish priests, the Bene Israel could well claim to be the purest of the pure."
Who knows. Madonna's Rabbi could be minting out Jews.
Jews always were an almagum of people, many of whom coverted in biblical days. While Abraham was the first convert, many other peoples joined his ranks over time. You can expect that the Jews as a group would contain a broad ethnic mix not just resulting from commingling the Common Era diaspora, but also from the converts during the BCE period.
Cohan who became Kohn who became Kerry.
I guess it goes both ways!
A fascinating turn of events. It deserves it own thread.
The Israeli High Court is a secular court, not a Beit Din. They have no more authority in recognizing conversions or legislating any other aspect of Judaism than SCOTUS has in determining matters of Christian ecclesiastical law.
150 years ago, a German reform rabbi was insulted that his congregation wasn't recognized by the Orthodox authorities of that time. So he petitioned to the Emperor of Austria that his temple should be given equal religious authority with the Orthodox, which the Emperor granted, and demanded the Orthodox leaders to read the Emperor's decree in every synagogue.
The Orthodox rabbi announced to his congregation the following Sabbath: "As you may know, Rabbi Liberal's temple was determined to be in violation of the following matters of halachah (which he listed). However, His Majesty the Emperor of Austria has declared that in his opinion, Rabbi Liberal is not in violation of any Jewish religious laws. Therefore let us respect the Emperor's authority in determining religious law!" [which is to say: the Emperor had no authority]
I would presume at some point there would have to be some accepted minimum level of standards to prevent "sale" of conversions, particularly in the third world.
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