December 26, 2012

The Bnei Menashe — one of the "lost tribes" — immigrate from India to Israel.

BBC reports:
"The members of this tribe have never forgotten where they came from and we are excited to be able to help them come back," [said  said Michael Freund, chairman of the Shavei Israel group which helped organise the journey for the Bnei Menashe members.]

But some critics say the Bnei Menashe's link to Judaism are "historically untenable". They accuse the community of using their status to escape poverty India.
There were 10 lost tribes in all. Were these people one of them? They maintained an oral tradition — dating back to the 8th century B.C. — telling of their migration through Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, China, and ultimately to settle in northeastern India. Should skepticism be aimed at these people, or is it better to honor them and welcome them as symbolizing the idea of the lost tribes — which itself may be only a myth?

Here's the Wikipedia article on the 10 lost tribes, including details of all the various claims and speculations. There are so many candidates — in Africa, all over Asia (the Pashtuns, the Japanese), in Europe (the Irish), and even in the Americas. The Book of Mormon goes into this topic:
In the Book of Mormon, Lehi (Hebrew לחי Léḥî / Lāḥî "jawbone") was an ancient prophet who lived around 600 BC...

Shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, Lehi escaped with his family, along with his friend Ishmael and his family, and another man named Zoram. Together, Lehi led them south down the Arabian Peninsula until they reached a fertile coastal region they named Bountiful. There, they built a ship, and sailed across the ocean to the Americas. Lehi's sons Nephi and Laman are said to have established themselves and to have founded Israelite nations: the Nephites and the Lamanites....

Many Mormons consider Native Americans to be descendants of the Lamanites. Officially, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints appears to accept this position....

20 comments:

Paul said...

DNA can solve this! I'd see if there was any DNA evidence they are of Jewish heritage.

traditionalguy said...

Is this a real estate title issue. Ten tribes had areas of their own. Judah and Benjamin are called. Jews today and they have the prize in their area. The prize is Jerusalem.

Hagar said...

Since "Jewish" refers to a religion, that will not show up in anyone's DNA.
However, the DNA will tell if you have ancestors in common with the ancient Israelites.

Oso Negro said...

Not sure if it is a great idea to immigrate to Israel at this point in time.

AllenS said...

If you have your DNA tested with Family Tree, you'd be surprised how many people they consider to be Jewish. To a point of not being believable. Better off to go with Ancestry.

AllenS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ricpic said...

Maybe Jewish women will finally stop boiling their chicken to death and learn how to bake a nice tandoori chicken for Pesach.

Paco Wové said...

Wikipedia is your friend — though a rather poorly-written friend in this case. Long story shortened, genetic testing data are sparse and inconclusive. There are no definitive markers for Jewish ancestry shared by all Jews, and the Bnei Menashe don't have the more common ones anyway. So while it's not impossible, there's not much positive evidence.

Goju said...

The real test is if they can join Augusta National Golf Club.

edutcher said...

Hah! I was thinking about the Micks before I scrolled down. So I could be Jewish and Catholic just like Ben Stiller.

However, the sentences that caught my eye were, "Many Mormons consider Native Americans to be descendants of the Lamanites. Officially, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints appears to accept this position".

The Mormons have always taken that stand. They always got on very well with them.

Even 165 years ago.

Goju said...

Why wouldn't this group be considered Jews? Israel has welcomed African and Arab Jews who were driven out of their homes. They may not have been genetically descended from ancient Israelites, but they practiced the tradlitions and rituals of Judaism.

Hagar is right...and wrong. Jew is an ethnic group. Judaism is a religion. The two terms have been confused since Roman times. There are Jews (ethnic) who converted to other religions and people of other ethnic groups who converted to Judaism. Does Israel consider both groups to be Jewish? Does a Christian Jew retain the right of return? Does someone who converts obtain that right?

Those questions are meant seriously, I have no idea of the answers to them.

Bob said...

I understand Elizabeth Warren is 1/32 Bnei Menashe.

Hagar said...

Pedantry alert: You emigrate from India to Israel.
You immigrate to Israel from India.

And a Jew is someone who says he is a Jew and is accepted as such by a council of rabbis in Jerusalem (I think).

ricpic said...

Does Israel consider both groups [ethnic Jews who converted to other religions and non-ethnic Jews who converted to Judaism] to be Jewish?

Frankly, I don't know what the position of the State of Israel is on this question or even if there is a codified position. But it is very clear in Orthodox Judaism (which, quite frankly, is the only branch of Judaism that merits the term) that only one born of a Jewish mother is or can be a Jew.

Essentially all of Jewish separatism springs from that hard rule. Which of course enrages our friends in the universalist leftist camp.

Goju said...

Don't recall where I heard it, but a Rabbi was asked why Jews trance family through the mother. He replied "You are always sure who the mother is."

Hagar said...

Wasn't always that way.
In the Old Testament they descend in the male line.

Hagar said...

Ariel Sharon in his autobiography, "Warrior," tells of a black tribe in Ethiopia that considered itself Jewish, and were accepted as such by the chief rabbi in Jerusalem. Since they were subject to persecution in Ethiopia, Sharon arranged for passage to Israel for them.
However, folks in Israel did not welcome them, so this apparently did not work out all that well.

R. Chatt said...

It's simply not true that the Ethiopian Jews have not been accepted. There are difficulties which may not be obvious however in their assimilation and adjustment because "many who went to Israel from medieval poverty to a First World economy. Still, for the Ethiopians it is a huge improvement in the standard of living. Mengistu Kebede, who’d returned to Addis Ababa on vacation recently to visit family, gave us some perspective. It was a difficult adjustment to life in Israel, he says, but well worth it.

MENGISTU KEBEDE: It’s significantly better. Everybody wears shoes, they get enough pay for work, their clothes there are nice. Everything is much better.

DE SAM LAZARO: As part of earlier groups who were airlifted amid Ethiopia’s famine and civil war in the 1980s and ’90s, Kebede received a relatively warm welcome under Israel’s law of return. Today, however, the issue of economic motivation has clouded the politics of migration." http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/march-30-2012/ethiopian-jews/10643/

I can't help but note the irony as Israel struggles to accommodate these far flung communities with ancient roots and traditions in Judaism, that Israel's enemies continually claim "Zionism is racism," whatever that means.

Akiva said...

The State of Israel, relative to the law of return, has specific rules for showing Jewishness. They intentionally patterned the law to be the same as the Nazi law for persecuting Jews - meaning if the Nazi's would have persecuted them, Israel accepts them.

According to Jewish religious law, a Jewish mother makes one a Jew.

Now in this and other cases, you have some far off communities with some distant relationship with Judaism. Are they "Jewish" or not - according to the Law of Return of the State of Israel and Jewish religious law (yes, in theory and practice in some cases, one can immigrate to Israel and be a citizen of Israel but not listed or accepted as a Jew - this was the case for 10-30% of the Russian immigration to Israel).

There have been some communities found that clearly WERE part of the Jewish people that left or were exiled - for example Kaifeng Jews of China basically intermarried out of existence around 1860. The family histories of historical Jewishness exist, as do some family customs - but all religious practice is gone.

Any Kaifeng person showing up in Israel is welcomed but not accepted as Jewish or for the Law of Return.

The person listed in the article specializes in researching communal historical Jewish history. He works together with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to make religious determinations of such communities, and their data is used to evaluate the community against Israel's Law of Return.

Rich Rostrom said...

the 10 lost tribes... There are so many candidates ... even in the Americas.

There's a fellow who hangs out in the small park/plaza across from the Chicago Public Library. He orates about how the true descendants of Israel are blacks and Indians. (I'm not sure about the whole story - he has acolytes holding up signs with some of it - and other signs about how white men are devils. So I don't hang out listening.)