ORT India supports links with Israel


01 December 2006 ORT India supports communitys links with Israel Scores of Bnei Menashe members of an 8,000-strong community from north-east India that claims descent from the lost Biblical tribe of Menashe were hosted by ORT India before making aliyah this week. The Bnei Menashe were among a total 218 members of the community from the province of Mizoram who have made aliyah over recent weeks in an operation organised by the Jewish Agency, Israels Ministry of Absorption and Shavei Israel, an organisation that reunites people with their Jewish heritage. ORT India made available its two buses to take the olim on a tour of Mumbai and then treated them to a hot, kosher meal at its centre in the town followed by prayers and song. It was a very emotional day, said ORT India Director Benjamin Isaac. ORT has had many dealings with the Bnei Menashe over the years, particularly with the ORT Manipur Computer Centre, and this was our chance to wish them a happy future in Israel. There was also a sense of history in the occasion, Mr Isaac added. After decades of communist rule thousands of Russians found their Jewish roots and came to Israel. The experience of the Bnei Menashe is even more remarkable; their reconnection to Judaism after thousands of years and return to Israel is a modern day miracle. Benjamin Isaac (centre) with the Bnei Menashe. The Bnei Menashe claim descent from Menashe, one of the 10 tribes of Israel exiled by the Assyrians some 2,700 years ago. Recent generations have adopted a strictly traditional Jewish lifestyle and in 2005 Israels Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, formally recognised them as descendants of Israel. ORT India has played a vital role in providing vocational training to students from Mizoram and Manipur for 25 years. Since 1980, young students from these remote, hilly provinces have been brought to the ORT India School and Vocational Training Centre in Mumbai to learn trades as well as enhance their Jewish knowledge. ORT India set up a computer centre in Manipur in June 2003. Following a six-month closure, the renovated centre was re-launched last month with new teachers. Mr Isaac said ORT India was seeking funding to start up a similar centre in Mizoram. Having seen relatives return to their Jewish roots and make aliyah, we can expect that more people in Mizoram will want to come back to the Bnei Menashe fold in coming years, Mr Isaac said. Having a computer centre in their midst would accustom them to Western, urbanised skills and so help them to fit in with Israeli society should they wish to live there. Indian Jews visit the Kotel as part of their Taglit-Birthright tour. ORT India also collaborates with the Taglit-Birthright programme to send young Jews who have not been to Israel on free, 10-day trips to the Jewish State. Already, ORT India has administered the selection and preparation of two groups this year and it is in the middle of organising a third group. Twenty people have been selected from nearly 60 applicants to join the group, which is due to leave for Israel on January 1. World ORT, founded in 1880, is the worlds largest Jewish education and vocational training non-government organisation with some 200,000 beneficiaries in 58 countries.