More than fifty Bnai Menashe families displaced after India quake

Quake killed at least 9 people and injured more than 90, none of whom were from Bnei Menashe.

January 5, 2016 19:28
2 minute read.
bnei menashe Manipur

Damage to one of the synagogues in Manipur. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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More than fifty families belonging to the Bnei Menashe community in the Indian state of Manipur have been displaced by the 6.7 magnitude earthquake that hit their country Monday, according to a representative of an Israel organization active in the region.

The powerful earthquake struck northeast India and Bangladesh on Monday morning, killing at least 11 people and injuring nearly 200, with efforts to reach remote areas where people may be trapped hampered by severed power lines and telecommunication links.

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Speaking with The Jerusalem Post by phone from Manipur Tuesday afternoon, Tzvi Khaute, who represents Shavei Israel, said that while no members of the community were injured or killed, at least one of their houses had collapsed and “fifty to sixty families had to leave their homes” due to the disaster.

The predawn quake killed six people in India and five in neighboring Bangladesh, officials said, while shock waves were felt in Nepal and as far away as the Myanmar city of Yangon, about 1,175 km. to the south.

The Indian Bnei Menashe group, which numbers several thousand, claim that they are descendants of the lost tribe of Manasseh, which was exiled from the land of Israel by the Assyrian empire more than 2,700 years ago. While the Chief Rabbinate does not consider the Bnei Menashe to be Jewish according to Halacha, the members of the community have taken on Jewish observances and have made efforts to come to Israel, where around three thousand of their number have already converted and settled.

The Manipur district is said to be home to around three quarters of the group’s members.

Aside from those displaced by the earthquake, around seven hundred Bnei Menashe in India are currently in limbo, having left their homes a year ago to gather in preparation for what is expected to be a large group aliya.

Shavei Israel has launched an emergency fund to take care of those who have been displaced, said Michael Freund, the group’s founder, adding that among the seven hundred currently waiting to come to Israel are those who “were directly impacted by the earthquake.”

“I am calling on the Israeli government to approve the aliya of the Bnei Menashe so that we can bring these people home to Israel,” he said, adding that he was in direct touch with community leaders throughout the region.

“Our goal is to bring all the remaining members of the Bnei Menashe community here to Israel as quickly as possible,” Freund has previously told the Post.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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