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‘Lost’ Indian Jews Come Home

Shut out for years, this week Bnei Menashe Jews moved to Israel. Why did the government change its policy?

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Bnei Menashe new arrivals at the absorption center on Dec. 24, 2012. (Ricki Rosen)

On Monday afternoon, Geula Tautang, 19, paced frenetically through the arrivals area at Ben Gurion airport, but her eyes never lost focus on the automatic sliding doors. Her mother would be coming through those doors at any minute—and Geula hadn’t seen her in more than six years.

The Tautang family is part of the Bnei Menashe, a tribe of nearly 9,000 from the Manipur district in northeastern India, bordering Burma and Bangladesh, who believe that they are the descendants of the Israelite tribe of Menashe, exiled from the Kingdom of Israel in the eighth century BCE. They seek to return to Judaism and to their ancient homeland in what is now the state of Israel.

Geula immigrated to Israel with her older brother in 2006 as part of a group of 218. Another 53 members of the tribe, including Geula’s mother, arrived on Monday, part of a group of 274, all of whom are expected to arrive in Israel by Jan. 4. Their aliyah was the result of a major shift in Israeli government policy—and Geula was one of dozens who had come to greet their relatives.

At last the doors slid open, and a group of men, women, and children—the men wearing crocheted yarmulkes on their heads, the women covering their heads with scarves—walked through slowly, pushing heavy baggage carts. Immediately surrounded by their waiting relatives, they became a large, nearly inseparable group embracing, talking, and crying. Geula spotted her mother and shouted wildly; they hugged tightly, pulled apart to look at each other, then hugged again.

Some 15 minutes later, after the chaos had died down slightly, the new soon-to-be Israelis stood solemn for the Hatikva national anthem, tears streaming down many faces as they sang the words they had memorized phonetically. Less unusual travelers passing through the terminal—a group of Russian-speakers just in from Moscow, an exuberant group of Birthright students who’d flown in from Newark—joined in, as a group of African Christian pilgrims looked on in wonder.

“This is a miracle of biblical and historic proportions,” declared Michael Freund to the small group of media gathered at the airport. Freud is founder and director of Shavei Israel, the Israel-based organization that has assumed organizational and financial responsibility for the immigration of the Bnei Menashe. “It is truly an ingathering of the exiles.”

But unlike group aliyot for Jews from Canada, the United States, or Russia, which are sponsored by major organizations such as Nefesh B’Nefesh or the Jewish Agency, this particular ingathering attracted little fanfare and no politicians. That’s because the journey of the Bnei Menashe, who wholeheartedly believe they are the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, has been complicated and politicized by the government of Israel.

Some do not think they are even Jewish. Unlike Ethiopian Jews, whose existence and attachments to Judaism have been recognized for generations, the Bnei Menashe are a relatively new phenomenon. So, not everyone sees this week’s aliyah as an “ingathering of the exiles.” When the government announced its decision to allow the group to immigrate, Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit, who was interior minister in 2007, told army radio that the immigration of the Bnei Menashe “endangered the Jewish identity of the state.” Imputing ulterior motives to Netanyahu’s government as Israel proceeds toward general elections, he added: “Apparently, there are those in government who think that if they come to Israel and convert to Judaism, maybe they will vote in future elections.”


According to the Bnei Menashe’s oral history, after the tribes’ exile from the Kingdom of Israel some of them wandered through China and Burma for centuries, eventually settling—some 400 years ago—in the Mizoram and Manipur regions of India. In the 19th century, British missionaries converted many tribesmen to Christianity, although they retained rituals and beliefs that are reminiscent of early biblical practices, including worshipping a single god, keeping a form of kashrut, and adhering to family purity laws.

Because of their history and rituals, Geula said, members of the Bnei Menashe never felt that they fully belonged in India. By the early 1950s, after the establishment of India and Israel as independent states, the Bnei Menashe began to identify more strongly with modern Judaism and the state of Israel. The narrative of their relationship to the 10 lost tribes became more specific, helped in part by Rabbi Eliyahu Avihayil, an Israeli lost-tribe enthusiast, who visited the Bnei Menashe in the 1970s at the urging of his mentor, Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. It was Avihayil who gave the tribe the name Bnei Menashe (sons of Menashe) and thus reinforced the narrative within the tribe and to outside observers. Avihayil attempted to interest the Israeli government in their aliyah, but without success.

Over the years, representatives of the community wrote annually to the governments of Israel begging to be brought to the Jewish state but, according to Freund, never received an answer. By the early 1990s, several dozen Bnei Menashe had come to Israel as tourists and then converted to Judaism while on the trip and changed their status so they could legally apply as Jews for immigrant status under the law of return. The state admitted them, but the establishment essentially ignored them.

That’s where Michael Freund came in. A passionate religious Zionist from New York City, Freund, now 44, immigrated to Israel in 1995 and was employed as deputy communications director for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term. In 1997 he discovered one of the letters sent by the Bnei Menashe by chance on a desk in the prime minister’s office. “The letter, hand-written and in a faded orange envelope, looked like it had been through a washing machine. At first, I thought the whole thing was nuts,” he told me. But he was intrigued enough to visit the tribe in India. “Something pulled me there. And when I met them and saw the similarities between their customs and beliefs and the biblical Israelites, I was convinced that these are indeed descendants of the lost tribes,” he said.

Freund began to devote his life to the Bnei Menashe, leaving government after Netanyahu was voted out of office to lobby and raise funds for them to come to Israel. Unable to convince the government to bring the Bnei Menashe to Israel en masse, in 2000 Freund reached an agreement with the interior ministry to allow some 100 members of the Bnei Menashe into Israel each year as tourists; once in Israel, they would undergo an organized process of conversion and naturalization. By 2003, through this under-the-radar aliyah, over 1,000 members of Bnei Menashe were living in Israel, supported by Shavei Israel, which is funded in part by Christian evangelical philanthropies.

But that year, Interior Minister Avraham Poraz, from the anti-religious Shinui party, broke the agreement. According to media reports at the time, Poraz opposed the project because the conversions were conducted by the Orthodox establishment, whose authority Poraz sought to undermine. Even more significant, critics like Poraz and Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz contended that because the millennial beliefs of the Bnei Menashe aligned with the messianic beliefs and political ambitions of the settlers and evangelicals, they were being brought to live in settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Freund denied this when I raised it earlier this week. “There was no right-wing conspiracy. Because the Bnei Menashe came in as tourists, they were not entitled to any government funding. At the beginning, only the settlements were willing to take them in, sponsor and support them. Later groups went to cities such as Carmiel and Maalot [within Israel proper]. Some issues are so important that they should be above politics.” As for the conversions being Orthodox, he noted that Orthodox are the only recognized conversions in Israel. Plus, it suits the Bnei Menashe’s beliefs: Most retain their Orthodox practice long after the procedure is complete.

Undeterred by the interior ministry’s about-face, Freund turned to the then Sephardi Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, who, in the spring of 2005, provided a ruling that declared the Bnei Menashe should indeed be considered descendants of the Children of Israel. However, in order to be considered Jews today, Amar argued, they would still have to undergo full conversion (including circumcision for the males). Fueled by Amar’s ruling, Freund and his supporters established Jewish education and conversion services in Mizoram and Manipur, under the auspices of the prime minister’s office. Once recognized as Jews, the Bnei Menashe would be entitled to immigrate to Israel under the law of return and to receive benefits from the ministry of absorption.

By fall of 2006, Freund’s group was ready to bring 218 converted Bnei Menashe Jews to Israel. But at the last minute, the government of India protested against what it viewed as Jewish missionary activity. The group came, but further organized immigration came to a halt.


This remained the case until this fall, when the Israeli government finally agreed to allow immigration to start up again. So, what changed?

Freund insisted that the government caved because he “was finally able to convince them that this is truly a wondrous mitzvah, an imperative for Israel and the Jewish people.” The prime minister’s office declined a request for comment. However, a source close to the office told me that the reasons might be a bit more prosaic. “Some of the donors to Shavei Israel are also donors to Netanyahu. And the Christian groups, who have lots of clout with Netanyahu, also pressured him very strongly.”

Unlike Jewish immigrants from Russia and the United States who automatically become Israeli citizens under the law of return, the Bnei Menashe arrived on tourist visas. According to the agreement Shavei Israel has struck with the government, they will receive temporary resident status, which means they are not entitled to benefits under the law of return. Shavei Israel is maintaining a private absorption center for them about 30 miles north of Tel Aviv, where they learn Hebrew and study for their conversion. Once converted, they will be eligible to apply for immigrant status, which Shavei Israel will facilitate.

In a tersely worded statement, Ilana Stein, deputy spokesperson for the foreign ministry, said, “Like all of Israel, we are delighted that the Bnei Menashe have come to Israel. Bilateral relations between Israel and India are strong and healthy, and we are sure that they will not be negatively affected.”

Others are not as sanguine. “We are constantly thinking in terms of Jewish numbers. We search for lost Jews. It’s so particularistic,” said a public-health nurse who participated in a training that Shavei Israel organized, speaking on condition of anonymity because she is a civil servant. “Wouldn’t it be better if we took care of the Jews we already have?”

Freund disagrees. “I believe that groups like the Bnei Menashe constitute a large, untapped demographic and spiritual reservoir for Israel and the Jewish people. We are a small people, getting smaller, without too many friends in the world.”


By late Monday night, the authorities had processed the paperwork and visas, and weary newcomers were ensconced in dorms in the absorption center, located near Hadera, in central Israel. Within a few months, they are expected to convert to Judaism and be recognized officially as Jews. Shavei Israel has arranged for them to be relocated to the towns of Migdal Ha’emek and Acco, where the adults will receive vocational training and children will be integrated into the public schools, although they will be free, as individuals and families, to choose where they will live.

Dragging her mother’s suitcase up the stairs to her new dorm room, Geula observed: “I’ve learned to become a Jew and an Israeli. Now it’s my mother’s turn.”


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genelevit says:

I think that Rapa Nui people from the Easter Island is another lost Jewish tribe.

Such crap. The vast majority of Jews of antiquity by the 2nd century were converts and proselytes as anyone familiar with classic history knows.

The Bney Menashe are just another Christian Sabbatarian group like so many others in 19th and 20th century Central and Eastern Europe.

“The Bnei Menashe (Hebrew: בני מנשה, “Children of Menasseh”) are a group of more than 9,000 people from India’s North-Eastern border states of Manipur and Mizoram who claim descent from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The claim appeared after a Pentecostalist dreamt in 1951 that his people’s pre-Christian religion was Judaism and that their original homeland was Israel. Linguistically, Bnei Menashe are Tibeto-Burmans and belong to the Mizo, Kuki and Chin peoples.[4] They are called Chin in Burma. Prior to their conversion to Christianity in the 19th Century, the Chin, Kuki, and Mizo were headhunters and animists.”

    As a former Israeli diplomat who served in India, I concur with Mr Affleck.
    . When I was working at the Consulate of Israel in Bombay in the late 1960s we received a letter from an unkown group claiming to be Jews and asking to immigrate to Israel. Together with the Jewish Agency representative in India, the late Mr Gabriel Bick, I asked all the known Indian Jewish communities (the Bnei Israel, the Cochin and the Iraqi Jews) if they knew anything about these people from the Burmese border regions and they all said NO.
    Further enquiries established that in the 19th century British Protestant missionaries had been active there in converting the pagan tribes to Christianity. That is how they came to know of the Bible.
    Then when our Israeli office in the 20th century made efforts to tell the people of India about modern Israel in many local languages (I was in charge of publications across India on behalf of Israel) they learned that Israel accepted Jewish immigrants and understood that they might have a chance at trying to go there- to better their poor economic situation.
    Reports were sent by myself and Mr Bick to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem and we were both instructed to ignore this group.
    Matters changed years later when some American Jews intervened in domestic Israeli affairs and put unwelcome pressure on Israel to import these non-Jews.
    Today- in retrospect- Israel could hardly say no after allowing Christian Falashmuras with crosses engraved in their foreheads to come from Ethioipia, or after letting in hundreds of thousands of Russian Orthodox who were either intermarried with Russian Jews or who claimed a Jewish great-grandmother in order to to come to Israel , where many of them now declare themselves to be either Christian or atheist. (The Israeli census indeed regards them as non-Jews).
    As an anthropological curiosity they are good copy for newspaper articles, but the comment about not antagonizing the Indian government refers to the fact that under Indian law it is forbidden to convert people from one religion to another and Jewish efforts to “kosher” these immigrants caused a crisis in Israeli-Indian relations.
    In sum-I think it was a huge mistake.
    David Zohar
    Former Vice Consul of Israel in Bombay, India (1969-1972)

      fred capio says:

      Thank you…

      yose dymz says:

      I got a question for David Moshe Zohar. After receiving the claim from the unknown group, why don’t you guys send someone to the region to validate their claim? Even today most of the people living in mainland India didn’t still have a single clue to where in the world is Manipur and Mizoram(these are the name of the two state where we,the Bnei Menashe, mostly live today). So asking the known Indian Jews(all living in mainland India) about the existence of the Bnei Menashe back in the 1960s, do you think it will help you in anyway?

      FYI our forefathers were never pagan. It is true that christian missionaries converted most of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribes to christianity. But they were never pagan.

      If you guys had send someone to study the claim that you guys received, you guys would have found some truth in their claims. Sorry to hear that their claims was lost in History.

      Our cultures, customs and traditions are what we have left of our identities and they bear so much similarities with Judaism that we can’t just ignored them.

    genelevit says:

    “Such crap. The vast majority of Jews of antiquity by the 2nd century were converts and proselytes as anyone familiar with classic history knows.”

    “History buff”, study the history BEFORE posting such crap. You may start from the Josephus Flavius works, for example

      The Book of Esther describes massive conversion to Judaism in ancient
      Mesopotamia. There were more Jews in antiquity in Mesopotamia than in
      the Roman Empire.

      In fact there were more Greek-speaking Jews (almost entirely of
      convert origin) in the Roman Empire than Hebrew-Aramaic speaking Jews in
      Judea (many descended from forced converts of the Hasmonean period),
      and in addition there was throughout Palestine a large population of
      Greek-speaking Jews descended from Greek colonist proselytes.

      It should be obvious to anyone with half a brain as it was to Roman
      historians like Dio Cassius that the vast majority of Jews in the world
      of antiquity had no ancestral connection to Palestine.

      Thus even if modern Jews were descended from the Jews of antiquity
      (they aren’t) they would still not have any connection to Palestine
      beyond mythology.

      Zionism like Zionist racial science is completely and utterly based on lies.

      How does one know a Zionist is lying? Check whether he or she is breathing.

    Natan79 says:

    You are stupid. The majority of Jews are genetically related.

      Of course the majority of Jews are genetically related because the vast majority of modern Jews are ethnic Ashkenazim — that is the descendants of converted Slavs with a littler bit of Turkic and Byzantine ancestry.

      In Palestine ethnic Ashkenazim are racist, murderous, genocidal invaders and thieves that all decent human beings should scorn and despise.

      From the Forward:

      Oh and lets keep in mind that Ashkenazi and proto-Ashkenazi populations have been exporting (mostly male) members to other Jewish communities in Spain, N. African, and Mesopotamia and the Levant while Turkic, Greek, and Slavic non-Jewish populations have also emigrated throughout the Mediterranean region for approximately 2 millennia.

      While Yiddish, Ibero-Berber, and Arab Jews may have some genetic similarity, it results because Jewish communities have constituted a metapopulation whose regional breeding groups interact and share members — not because Jews have a common ancestral population in Palestine.

      There is in fact no such common ancestral population. The Zionist population in Palestine is simply a criminal genocidal entity that that should be removed immediately for the good of Palestinians and for the good of the entire human race.

    Natan79 says:

    Science has invalidated what you say. Most Jews in the world are genetically related. Your quootations from old books before genetics are just like arguing about the position of planets from an astrology book when there are excellent astronomy and physics books around.

    Moreover, you also are an anti-Semite, I read your other posts. No surprise here: illiterate imbecile Jonathan Affleck is also a Jew-hater. Jonathan, are you the British creep from London who posts on all sorts of forums against Jews?

The answer is in the DNA.

The Bnei Menashe and the Ethiopian Jews do not have DNA similar to that of all other Jews, which have ultimately Semitic roots. So while some historians (and novelists

pkbrandon says:

The answer is in the DNA.

The Indian and Ethiopian Jews do not have the DNA markers characteristic of all other Jews, both Ashkenazi and Sephartic. So unlike other Jews, they do not have Semitic ancestry.

While some historians and novelists may speculate about conversion (I’ve read Arthur Koestler and his sources), the science doesn’t back them up. Jews are a genetic group.

    fred capio says:

    you are absolutely right, and that is why “conversion” is utter nonsense.

      so Ruth’s conversion was utter nonsense

      pkbrandon says:

      I’m not quite sure what your point is.
      The fact that all Jews (with the stated exceptions) have Jewish ancestors does not mean that all of their ancestors were Jewish.
      The Ashkenazic communities were founded by ‘silk road’ merchants who settled down and married local women, who as was the custom, converted to their husbands’ religion.

        genelevit says:

        Why are you generalizing exceptions and presenting speculations as a true fact? Who said that “The Ashkenazic communities were founded by ‘silk road’ merchants who married local women”? Where did you get this nonsense? No doubt – there were intermarriages in the past but they played very little role. Almost zero. And the prove to that are the Middle Eastern features of the VAST majority of Ashkenazic Jews (they were more so in the PAST). If you would live in Poland or Germany before WWII you could recognize Jew on the street almost as easy as you can recognize black person in USA (let say, in more than 90% of the cases) . That is how much they were different from the local population.

          pkbrandon says:

          Phenotypes play a relatively minor role in total DNA based differences.
          About 80% of male Ashenazi Jews show DNA markers linking to Middle Eastern ancestry, while only about 50% of female Ashkenazi Jews show the same links.
          This is science, not speculation.

          genelevit says:

          First of all genetics is not an “exact science”: the conclusion greatly depends on researcher’s interpretation. Second, many elements (besides DNA) should be taken into account when you try to determine people’s ancestry: their physical features, historical evidences, cultural differences, etc. What evidence do you have to support your assertion that ancestors of Ashkenazim were Jewish males and non-Jewish (European) females? In fact there are evidences of opposite nature: Ezra’s prohibition, for example, or Talmudic rule that mother determines who is Jew and so on. The reason for DNA test could be that genetic code in females transmits differently than it does in males. It is also possible that not Jewish men took non-Jewish wives but the opposite: that non-Jewish men took Jewish wives and therefore their DNA is similar. There are many possibilities. What you have said is just one of possibilities.

          Natan79 says:

          genelevit, genetics certainly is an exact science. You have no idea what you are talking about. I have a PhD in genetics and I am do research in genetics. You sound like one of those crazy people I see in the subway.

          genelevit says:

          I’m not a biologist. But if, as you claim, genetics is an “exact science” answer me few simple questions. The first one, for example: what is the maximum length of the gene that chemical reaction in the cell still could duplicate without losing more than 1% of information (in that gene)? Please give me the EXACT calculations. More questions will follow.

          Natan79 says:

          Your question is stupid. It shows that you’re ignoramus who doesn’t even know the meaning of the terms he’s using. You sound like you found your question on some creationist website. I have nothing but contempt for you. When a grown man or woman doesn’t know something or makes a mistake, he admits it. You’re no man, just a boy.

          genelevit says:

          I will repeat my question in terms that you may be able to understand (since you have PhD). Is the length of the gene limited or not? If it is limited – what limits it, by what length and why by that particular length and not another? What is the probability of correct replication at the maximum length?
          You are not answering me because you don’t know the answer.

          pkbrandon says:

          First, define what a ‘gene’ is.

          Nathan, why? Why are you taking your debate to such low personal levels? I do not know how this discussion became one of genetics, but after claiming to be a reader of the Talmud and maybe a relgious man, why would you attack genelevit on a personal level and with so much anger. More important than knowing genetics and reading the Talmud is to practice what the Torah teaches us. Please show others a little more respect in the future, thanks. Shkoyach!

          pkbrandon says:

          No SCIENCE is exact — it is always provisional. Only religion makes claims of certainty. Therefore, scientists differ, but there is such a thing as consensus. It’s like climate change deniers; you can always find a couple of scientists who deny the evidence for climate change, but when the other 99.9% of scientists find it convincing, there is a consensus.

          Genetics IS a science, and thus based on evidence.

          Torah, on the other hand, is based on belief, not evidence.

          Therefore your statement does not provide evidence of anything beyond your belief in it, and that you know little about genetics.

          My statement is based on a book by the geneticist Jon Entine, supporting other statements that I’ve read in the past.
          The historical (as opposed to religious) literature also supports it.

          Pam Green says:

          You can’t rely on consensus, given the corruption of academia.

          pkbrandon says:

          The ‘corruption of academia’ is an urban myth (required statement: I am a retired academic).
          Academics are people; some of them are motivated more by fame and gain than by knowledge of their disciplines. However, the incidence of this is much lower than in fields such as politics.
          Academics (science in particular) is self correcting; have you heard of replication? Sooner or later claims are tested, and the invented ones are revealed.
          That’s the point about consensus: if enough academics get interested in a subject, sooner or later someone will get curious about some apparent anomaly and test it. If replication fails, the consensus (despite a few invested outliers) will be that the pheonomenon does not exist.
          The hunt of the Higgs Boson is a good example.

          Pam Green says:

          I know that’s how it is supposed to work, but consensus can be manipulated. You’re presuming that academics and scientists are independent, and we know that’s not the case. Research is controlled by those who finance it. Institutions rely on private donors, non-profits and corporations, all of which may have their own profit-driven or ideological agendas. Too often, they finance ‘scientists’ who will deliver the (pre-determined) results that serve their cause. And, notoriously, scholars who complain or expose bias are turned down for grants and awards, and even tenure. It’s no accident that so many academics now work without the protection of tenure.

          In short, what you’re describing is the ideal, not the reality.

          pkbrandon says:

          What you say is true — it does happen (I’ve read the same articles). The question is how frequently. My impression (as a former academic researcher) is that while any corruption is too much, the basic process is still sound. In other words, out of the hundreds of thousands of articles published each year (it may be more), maybe a tenth of one percent are faked. These get a disproportionate amount of publicity, and the anti science portion of the citizenry uses these to condemn science as a whole.

          As you point out, there is also publication bias. The most serious problem may be the ‘file drawer’ problem — only positive results get published, making it harder to interpret outcomes. This is particularly true in the drug industry; much smaller I suspect in genetics, which is the case at hand.
          At any rate, you’re much more apt to be right than wrong if you follow the scientific consensus.

          Pam Green says:

          I’m not basing my opinion on articles; I’ve done my own research. It’s my impression that some fields are more subject to bias and fraud than others. You may be right about the hard sciences; my work has mainly been in the fields of classical and ancient near eastern studies. Corruption (of certain topics) in these fields is institutionalized and has not been “self-correcting” for many generations.

          Pam Green says:

          As I said below, I’m not basing my opinion on articles. However, I would be interested in knowing which articles you’re referring to, if you can remember their authors or titles offhand.

          In exchange, I can recommend a book by historian-classicist Alfred Zimmern (not to be confused with either Heinrich Zimmer), entitled Solon and Croesus and other essays, published in 1929. It’s about the sellout of academia to corporate and private donors, which was still fresh, to judge from his scandalized tone.

          genelevit says:

          The science is based on belief as well.

          Natan79 says:

          As an example we scientists believe in the law of gravitational attraction. Feel free to show that science is belief if you honor me by visiting my apartment and step out of my living room window. I live on the 8th floor.

          Science has shown tangible things about the world. The words we type are transmitted based on technology that would have been impossible without quantum mechanics, organic chemistry and cryptography. Most readers here are alive because they received vaccines and antibiotics. Is that belief? Yes, I strongly believe in gravitation and in the fact that DNA is made of A,G,C,T. I also believe that night follows day. Prove me wrong.

          Natan79 says:


          There is some truth to what you say, but it must be noted that the Jews of Germany were forced to wear “Stars of David” on their clothing to seperate them from the general German population. It is much the same in the United States, where it would and is difficult to spot most Jews from a set of photographs, (I know, I have tried). Unless of course they are wearing kippot or sporting a beard and a black fedora.

    Aren’t the Ethiopian Jews supposedly the people of Sheba who converted to Judaism when their queen went to Israel to meet with King Solomon? If so, that would explain the genetic difference.

    The stupid beliefs of Jewish racists deserve nothing but scorn from decent human beings.

    Zionist invaders in Palestine as well as international Zionists are enemies of the entire human race.

Why do we care if they are “genetic” Jews or not? They want to embrace Judaism and join the tribe…why not let them?

    Thank you, that’s how it should be! All this talk about DNA and “true origins” and all that only serves to divide the tribe. If people want to convert, to take on the mantle of Judaism, should they not be welcomed?

      genelevit says:

      About the importance of DNA in deciding who is Jew and who is not – read Torah, the part which describes the covenant between Jews and G-d.

    genelevit says:

    You have adopted Christian ideology and values and you mistakenly use them to describe Judaism. According to the Christian religion each person is free to choose religion for himself. However in Judaism it is completely opposite: not person chooses deities but G-d chooses people. Think like a Jew.

      Reconstructionism teaches that we as Jews choose to be in a covenant with G-d. But that argument is beside the point if you don’t accept the validity of liberal Judaism, which I bet you don’t.

        genelevit says:

        Please, don’t call the strange religion of “reconstructionism” – “Judaism”. Judaism is based on Torah. Where Torah says that Jews are free to choose the covenant? Even if you accept that at the mount Sinai Jews had such choice, even then all future generations are bounded by that agreement. It states right there. Read it. If you disagree with Torah then your religion is not Judaism.

          pkbrandon says:

          And where does the Torah say that you can discuss it on the internet?

          Natan79 says:

          Classic case of authoritarian personality. Typical of the Orthodox I met while in Israel.

      Natan79 says:

      How do we know who god has chosen? Rashi, the greatest commentator in the Talmud, was a convert in France. Have you ever heard of the Talmud, genelevit?

        While RASHI unquestionably was a descendant of the Diaspora convert population, which had no ancestral connection to Palestine, he himself was not a convert — at least in any genealogy that I have read.

        RASHI’s heritage lies in the Greek-speaking Diaspora Jewish population as his ancestral connection to the Italian Kalonimides suggests but does not prove.

        While some of RASHI’s ancestors may have had a smattering of Hebrew, RASHI’s commentaries preserve the Greek-speaking Jewish hermeneutic tradition found in Greek, Latin, and old French translations of the Hebrew Bible.

        Because modern Jews are almost totally ignorant of the history of Judaism in the first millennium and really have practically no comprehension of their religion, which completely contradicts the perverted Zionist ideology that has completely consumed Jewish culture, few modern Jews are aware of the obvious Greek connection that is the basis of RASHI’s commentaries.

        Before the 11th century, there is not much evidence of Hebrew/Aramaic learning in Europe, and all European Jewish communities must be assumed to originate among non-Semitic European convert populations.

        genelevit says:

        Rashi was a commentator of Talmud, not IN Talmud. Where did you get that he was a convert? The legend states that he was the descendant of king David. In any case both of his parents were Jews.

          Natan79 says:

          First, thank you for the lexical correction. The Talmud I use has Rashi on the side, which is what I meant – since I know he lived later than the Talmud era people. But of course your formulation is more precise.

          Second, I am mistaken regarding Rashi having been a convert. I stand corrected and I thank you for that.

          Third, legends are pure garbage, so your argument about Rashi being descended form King David is nonsense. Anyone can make them up, especially some fellow that has authority.

    ScottAdler says:

    The question is not that they are Jews following their conversion. That is not subject to question.

    The question is their insistence upon a historically untenable Israelite descent. It may be an oral tradition among them, but as history, it is unsupportable.

    We should honor their sincerity and welcome them into the tribe, but we should also remember our rational nature as well, and take their stories with a grain of salt.

    Ghanashyam Usham says:

    But they are deluded in thinking they are truly descendants of Israel’s lost tribe.

pkbrandon says:

But the topic of this discussion was genetics research, so the institutional culture of the sciences is more relevant than that of the humanities.

pkbrandon says:

Please make your allegations more specific.
Belief in what?
Anything beyond the underlying assumption of science that the universe is orderly enough to make generalizable predictions about events and form orderly relationships among observations of events?

pkbrandon says:

That was nearly a century ago.
Anything relevant to the situation today?

pkbrandon says:

No specific source; basically my reading in various media such as (but not limited to — with the internet you can sample widely) the NYT and Scientific American, plus my personal experience as an experimental psychologist with some background in psychopharmacogy.

They want to be Jewish, convert properly, and want to live a Jewish life. They need to be considered Jewish. Who cares what race they are. It does not matter if they have blonde hair with blue or green eyes with fair skin, or black hair with brown eyes and dark skin. Looking at the history of the Jewish people, Israel should welcome them with open arms – her children returning home!

As far as I am concerned they are beautiful people!

herbcaen says:

Lets trade the Bnai Menashe for the Meretz Party and the Israel Supreme Court. It is a win win for both sides

Michael Gross says:

Dear Eetta,
Please check your information!
Shavei is an offshoot of Amishav. Rabbi Avichail of Amishav learned of the Bnei Menashe, contacted them, visited them, and researched their origin, all in the early 1980’s. I traveled with Rabbi Avichail in 1982 to Calcutta to meet Bnei menashe who were coming to meet us from Mizoram. Michael Freund has done wonderful work, but not all the feathers belong in his well-publicized cap. Amishav was founded in 1975, and Amishav’s work brought the first 800 Bnei Menashe to Israel. And we continue to work for the Dispersed of Israel.
Michael Gross

iterdexter says:

There is a fine book about the Bnei Menashe, called “Across the Sabbath River.” I am happy that they have finally returned to their ancient homeland.


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