Jewish Stories for a Lost Tribe of Israel

For the first time, members of a Lost Tribe of Israel in northeastern India will be able to read about great Jewish figures from the Talmud in their native tongue. The Shavei Israel organization, a Jerusalem-based group which assists “lost Jews”? seeking to return to the Jewish people, has just published a collection of stories about Jewish sages in the Mizo language, which is spoken by the Bnei Menashe in the Indian state of Mizoram.

The Bnei Menashe claim descent from the lost tribe of Manasseh, who were exiled from the Land of Israel by the Assyrians over 2,700 years ago. Some 800 Bnei Menashe have made aliyah to Israel in recent years, and another 7,000 are still in India.

The book, called Juda Thawnthu (Jewish stories) was compiled by Bnei Menashe scholar Allenby Sela, who serves as principal of the Shavei Israel Hebrew Center in Mizoram’s capital, Aizawl. It contains dozens of stories highlighting ancient Jewish personalities such as Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, with an emphasis on the importance of being charitable, loving one’s fellow Jew and having faith in G-d. “The publication of this book is part of our ongoing efforts to reach out to the Bnei Menashe and assist them with their return to the Jewish people,”said Shavei Israel’s Chairman, Michael Freund. “Stories are among the most powerful of educational tools, as they have the ability to reach different people regardless of their age or level of knowledge. We hope that the Bnei Menashe will draw strength from these stories about our people’s greatest figures, and that they will gain a deeper understanding of Jewish history and its significance,” he said.

Through its team of emissaries, Shavei Israel operates two Jewish educational centers in India for the Bnei Menashe, where they study Hebrew and Jewish tradition and learn about life in Israel. www.shavei.org

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