Lost tribe finds its roots at ORT India


Twelve Jewish youngsters from the lost tribe of Menashe in Manipur have just begun studying at ORT India in Bombay. The Manipuri Jewish community sees itself as descendants of the Menashe Tribe, one of the10 lost tribes of Israel. They believe that after their forefathers were exiled and enslaved by the Assyrians they escaped from slavery and arrived in China, and eventually settled in the northeast part of India. In 1951, a movement for the Manipuri to return to Judaism emerged. Some members of the community contacted Israeli rabbis to begin learning about Judaism, after which many emigrated to Israel and converted to Judaism through strict laws. The Jews who do remain in Manipur, however, have a very poor quality of life.Many of their homes are bamboo and mud shacks without electricity or running water. The community centre functions as a synagogue and occupies rented space. There are not enough siddurim for everyone to use and the community lacks a full-sized Torah, using instead miniature versions printed on paper. During a visit to Bombay in November 2000, secretary of the B’nai Menashe Council, Mr Lemeul Haokip, met with the director of ORT India Dr Edward Haemms, at which time Haokip stressed the importance of sending some Jewish youth from Manipur to begin courses at ORT.