Freund with a Bnei Menashe youth in India 311.
(photo credit: MICHAEL FREUND)
Following last week’s cabinet decision to allow the immigration of nearly 900
members of the Indian Bnei Menashe community to Israel, Michael Freund, the
founder and chairman of the Shavei Israel organization that lobbied for their
aliya, told The Jerusalem Post that he wishes to see the entire community come
to Israel soon.
“Our goal is to bring all the remaining members of the
Bnei Menashe community here to Israel as quickly as possible,” Freund said
during a telephone interview on Thursday.
The Bnei Menashe, Shavei Israel
believes, are “descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes
of Israel who were exiled by the Assyrian empire more than 2,700 years
While the Chief Rabbinate does not consider the Bnei Menashe to be
Jewish according to Halacha, the members of the community consider themselves to
be of Jewish ancestry and “committed Zionists and observant Jews” whose goal “is
to return to the land of their ancestors,” Freund remarked.
Freund, the lost Jews are unable to convert in India and have come to Israel in
small groups at irregular intervals to convert here. A large scale aliya has not
been undertaken due to their halachic status as gentiles, Freund
“The rabbinate requites them to undergo a process of
conversion,” he said.
“Back in 2007 we brought a group on aliya with the
permission of the Interior Ministry,” Freund said. “It was the Olmert government
at the time and the interior minister then decided to freeze the aliya, to shut
it down, and I then spent the next five years lobbying the government. Two years
ago the [authorities] passed a resolution in principle calling for resumption of
the aliya of the Bnei Menashe and then last year the government cabinet passed a
decision in October to restart the aliya and it gave us permission to bring 270
Bnei Menashe to Israel. We brought that group in December and
All told, some 2,000 members of the Bnei Menashe have arrived
in the county since the 1980s, and “there are still about 7,000 in India waiting
to come and now we will be bringing 900 of those 7,000 here so they’ll still be
another over 6,000,” Freund explained.
According to Freund, last week’s
cabinet decision allows 200 Bnei Menashe to be brought by the end of the year,
400 in 2014 and another 300 in 2015. All of the immigrants will be housed in a
private absorption center run by Shavei Israel and will then be settled around
“Our goal is to bring all the remaining members of the Bnei
Menashe community here to Israel as quickly as possible.
We are working
hand in hand with the government and whatever decision they make on the pace of
the aliya are the terms that we will work under,” he said.
from my vantage point, I would like to see the Bnei Menashe make aliya as
quickly as possible,” Freund said. “They have been waiting for a very long