India’s Jews renew push for official minority status
India’s approximately 5,000-member Jewish community is renewing its request for official government recognition as a minority group, submitting an application to the country’s minority affairs ministry.
Official recognition would make it easier for Jews to register marriages, establish educational institutions and “practice and promote our culture,” Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar, the Delhi Jewish community’s head, told IANS, which reported on the application Tuesday. The news service did not say when the community’s previous application was made or why it was unsuccessful.
India has six official minority communities: Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Jains.
“Jews have been part of the Indian society for 2,300 years now. But post independence, we have not been recognized as a minority,” Malekar said.
In recent years, dozens of Jews from northeast India claiming to be the descendants of a lost biblical Jewish tribe emigrated to Israel after years of controversy over their connection to Judaism.
The Bnei Menashe say they are descended from Jews banished from ancient Israel to India in the eighth century BC. An Israeli chief rabbi recognized them as a lost tribe in 2005, and about 1,700 moved to Israel over the next two years before the government stopped giving them visas.
In 2012, Israel reversed that policy, agreeing to let the remaining 7,200 Bnei Menashe immigrate. As of 2015, some 3,000 members of the Bnei Menashe community had moved to Israel