Friday, August 22, 2008

Conversion II - Bnei Menashe from India

Anonymous 8/21/08's description of the area where the Bnai Menashe originate does not anywhere match the reality.

The Bene Menashe are Christians living in Manipur and Mizoram between Burma and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking third after India and China in the extent of poverty. Most of the country is made up of flood plain, and while the alluvial soil provides good arable land, large areas are at risk because of frequent floods and cyclones, which take lives and destroy crops, livestock and property.

The implementation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in 1958 resulted in the designation of Manipur as a "disturbed area" .

There has been constant war in the area since 1958. My relatives(Iraqi Jews) who fled Burma in the 1970s, abandoning their homes, vast lands (coffee plantations), businesses and other assets due to the violence and unstable government.

Ordinary Manipuris are tired of the rebels' influence and disruption of life and economy. They also issue dictates and rulings on moral and social behavior, enforced with the threat of violence. Extortion is also rampant in Manipur. Most professions are forced to pay the rebels regular sums of money that are locally called 'tax'.

Christians (which the Bnai Menashe are) are the victims of ongoing violence from local tribal people and the Hindu majority who have beheaded pastors and burned churches. There has been constant violence against Christians perpetrated by Hindus who do not wish to have their children taken from them and converted to Christianity.

Myanmar, also called Burma is one of Asia's poorest countries. Ravaged by a junta bent on keeping power, political and social unrest have been as much a part of the culture as the people. The area has been predominately unstable since the invasion of Great Britain in the 1800s.

Christian persecution in Burma is growing because it is an ethnic issue. The government of Burma has declared a culture war against Christianity by offering 6,000 kyats to any man who will marry a Christian woman because the children will be of the father's religion. The majority of the people (89%) are Buddhist and Christians are 4%.

The Bnai Menashe claim descent from one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. Linguistically, they are Tibeto-Burmans and belong to the Mizo, Kuki and Chin peoples. The group was named Bnei Menashe by Eliyahu Avichail because he believes that the legendary Kuki-Mizo ancestor Manmasiis is one and the same with Menasseh, son of Joseph.

Prior to their conversion to Christianity in the 19th Century, the Chin-Kuki-Mizo were headhunters and animists. They have no written history but their legends refer to a beloved homeland they were driven away from called Sinlung/Chhinlung.

Anthropologists and historians believe that it was located in China's Yunnan province and that the Tibeto-Burman migration from there began about 6000 years ago.

Although Michael Freund claims that the Bnei Menashe claim to have a chant they call Miriam's Prayer, the words of the chant are identical to that of the Sikpui Song .

Freund claims that according to the Bnei Menashe "a century ago, when British missionaries first arrived in India's North-East, they were astonished to find that the local tribesmen worshiped one god, were familiar with many of the stories of the Bible, and were practicing a form of biblical Judaism".

By all empirical historical accounts, the entire tribe were animists at the time of the arrival of the missionaries.


  1. "The Bene Menashe are Christians living in Manipur"

    It is entirely inappropriate to identify people who do not believe in Oso HaIsh as Christians regardless of what their parents believed or even what they once believed.

    It is one thing to reject the legend, or that their even is a legend, but unless they believe in Yeshu it is ossur to call them notzrim. And if they do, please provide the evidence.

  2. This post reflects utter ignorance and even disgusting bias ("Christians living in Manipur"). A quote like that is innuy hager at its worst.

    The Bnei Menashe who make aliya from Manipur and Mizoram are largely people who were financially secure with stable lives (until aliyah). Many of them and especially the younger people have university degrees. But their businesses and their education mean nothing when they come to Israel, cultural gaps making it nearly impossible to use them. Instead, they mostly become agricultural and factory workers. But they don't complain, and are happy to have been able to come as a community to the Land of Israel. Yes, happy. Because they believe.

    I am more familiar with Mizoram than with Manipur, but haven't noticed any significant differences between the olim from the two places. If anyone thinks (based on a post like this) that Mizoram is a poverty-ridden, war-torn country, simply take a look at the Wikipedia article, or do a Google search for local websites. Seems to me that if you grow up there, it is a far easier and safer place to live your life than Israel!

    Regardless of any of this, there is no halakhic issue involved. Everyone agrees that regardless of the legends, they require full conversion to become Jews. And that is exactly what they do. And they are frum. And they lives of deep commitment to Torah and mitzvot.

    Why more could anyone want or ask of them? Why exactly is Rabbi Eidensohn making an issue out of this? And why is the charedi community (which RDE represents) not doing the proper Torah thing here?

    Shabbat Shalom

  3. "Why exactly is Rabbi Eidensohn making an issue out of this? "

    From "About Me"

    "I am currently working on volume II of Daas Torah which focuses on the nature of Jewish identity e.g., who was the first Jew, Bnei Noach, conversion and loss of Jewish identity through sin."

    Why is every halachic discussion a "Haredi conspiracy plot?"

    It gets tired.

  4. For new findings on the Bnei Menashe, kindly browse


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