|"Family reunification" authorised for Bnei Menashe group|
Fifteen families from India’s Bene Menashe community have been granted permission to immigrate to Israel under a “family reunification” policy by the government.
The Bnei Menashe, from northeast India, practice Judaism and claim to be descended from the tribe of Menashe, one of the 10 lost tribes of the kingdom of Israel, but policies in place restricting immigration of non-Jewish groups has barred their entry into the country.
Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has ruled the Bnei Menashe are in fact of Jewish ancestry. He indicated though that they must first undergo full conversion to Judaism in Israel.
Over the past several years approxiamately 1,500 Bnei Menashe have immigrated to Israeli under the Right of Return. Many of these Jews underwent conversions in India prior to making alliyah.
Shavei Yisrael, an organisation which assists groups seeking to return to their Jewish roots, has been lobbying the Israeli government to allow the remaining Bnei Menashe in India to immigrate to Israel as well. They seek to make conversion upon arrival a precondition of their right to citizenship.
It is estimated that 7000 Bnei Menashe remain in India. A chartered flight is being arranged for the current group, by Shavei Yisrael, for as early as January. The group includes about 150-200 people.
(Issue Dec 08/Jan 09)