Bnei Menashe learn while they wait
The Bnei Menashe, or sons of Manasseh, 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 in what is now northeastern India, along the borders of 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 on a basic level. They continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
Their number is currently estimated at about 10,500 people. To date, we have assisted about 5,200 Bnei Menashe to immigrate to Israel, and about 5,000 are still waiting in India for the opportunity.
The waiting period is hardly a passive time; rather the entire community is constantly immersed in learning and practicing the faith of their heritage that they have embraced. Including opportunities, whenever possible, for teachers and leaders to come to their communities from Israel to do special workshops, lectures and other programs.
One of the most recent workshops, by Yitzchak Kolney, was learning to tie the ritual fringes, or tassels, on the four-cornered garment known as tzitzit, a ceremonial garment usually worn by men and boys, as a reminder of the commandments.
Our Bnei Menashe Coordinator, Tzvi Khaute, is also in India currently, teaching Torah classes and providing words of encouragement and strength to the community which waits patiently – and daily – for their turn to make aliyah.