India's Bnei Menashe community celebrates Sukkot, awaits aliyah

In partnership with the Absorption Ministry and the Interior Ministry, around 722 Bnei Menashe will be making aliyah following the High Holy Days.

Bnei Menashe sukkah in Kangpokpi, Manipur, India.  (photo credit: SHAVEI ISRAEL)
Bnei Menashe sukkah in Kangpokpi, Manipur, India.
(photo credit: SHAVEI ISRAEL)
The Bnei Menashe Jewish community in northeastern India celebrated Sukkot this week, and within their prayers they requested to make aliyah to Israel - as has been the dream of the community for years.
The Bnei Menashe ethnic group is said to number at around 10,000 total, and are believed by many to be descended from one of the Ten Lost Tribes, specifically that of Menashe. They were recognized as members of a lost tribe in 2005 by then-Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Atar, though he did specify they would need to formally convert.
Bnei Menashe’s Asher Touthang Sukkah in Kanggui, Manipur, India. (Shavei Israel)Bnei Menashe’s Asher Touthang Sukkah in Kanggui, Manipur, India. (Shavei Israel)
To date, more than 4,000 members of the community have made aliyah to Israel - some 6,500 still live in India. Within their "exile," the community observes and practices Jewish tradition (i.e. observe the sabbath, keep kosher and celebrate the holidays on the Jewish calendar).
"Even in the farthest reaches of northeastern India, the Bnei Menashe have continued to uphold the ancient tradition of building Sukkot in honor of the festival,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chairman Michael Freund. “We fervently hope that next year, they will be able to do so in Israel."
In partnership with the Absorption Ministry and the Interior Ministry, around 722 Bnei Menashe will be making aliyah following the High Holy Days.
Bnei Menashe’s Adiva Singsit (right) and her cousin Yosef Singsit - Monglenphai, Manipur, India. (Shavei Israel)Bnei Menashe’s Adiva Singsit (right) and her cousin Yosef Singsit - Monglenphai, Manipur, India. (Shavei Israel)
The planned immigration will be done in cooperation with the Interior Ministry and Shavei Israel, an NGO that has helped the over 4,000 Bnei Menashe Jews make aliyah over the past 20 years.
The first group is currently expected to arrive after the conclusion of the High Holy Days, which ends around the middle of October.
From left to right - Bnei Menashe’s Sara Chhangte, her daughter Ruth Chhangte and grandmother Leah Chhangte. Aizawl, Mizoram, India. They are in the list of 722 olim who are expected to make Aliyah to Israel within the next weeks. (Shavei Israel)From left to right - Bnei Menashe’s Sara Chhangte, her daughter Ruth Chhangte and grandmother Leah Chhangte. Aizawl, Mizoram, India. They are in the list of 722 olim who are expected to make Aliyah to Israel within the next weeks. (Shavei Israel)

Aaron Reich contributed to this report.