Update: “Shavei Israel” (Formerly known as Amishav)
T: 972-2-625-6230 F: 972-2-625-6233 www.shavei.org
Please note that, effective immediately, the name of the organization that I run has changed, and it will be now be known as “Shavei Israel” (Hebrew for “Those who return to Israel”). In all other respects, our work to facilitate the return of “lost Jews” continues:
* We currently have two educational centers operating in northeastern India, where over 850 Bnei Menashe students are studying Hebrew and Judaism in preparation for life in Israel. We are hoping to open a third center in the coming months.
* Three months ago, I traveled to India together with two dayanim (rabbinical court judges) appointed by Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi to study the Bnei Menashe community and assess its background, history and commitment to Judaism. In the coming weeks, we will be meeting with the Chief Rabbi to discuss the visit and the dayanim’s findings, and we are hopeful that we might be on the verge of a historic breakthrough regarding official recognition for the Bnei Menashe.
* On January 1, we will re-launch a program to train young Bnei Menashe women in Israel to work as nurses’ assistants in Israeli health-care institutions. The program will be under the auspices of Herzog Hospital, and will be run in conjunction with the Matan Institute. At the end of six months of study, the students will receive certification from the Israeli Ministry of Health, and will then be able to work in the field, thereby supporting themselves and their families while making an important contribution to Israeli society.
* We are providing scholarships to several young Bnei Menashe men studying at yeshivot in Jerusalem. Each of them has been chosen because of their demonstrated leadership potential. Our goal is to cultivate spiritual leadership from within the community, so that the Bnei Menashe will have their own rabbis and scholars to serve as role models for the youth.
In Spain and Portugal:
* Our three rabbinical emissaries in Spain (Palma de Majorca) and Portugal (Lisbon and Oporto) are each conducting classes and doing outreach work among the Bnei Anousim (i.e. “Marranos”) in their local communities. We are currently exploring the possibility of opening centers for the Bnei Anousim in Majorca and Oporto.
* In the coming months, we will hopefully be sending a Spanish-speaking teacher to Murcia, in southeastern Spain, to work with the local Bnei Anousim and educate them about Judaism.
* In September, we traveled to Lisbon together with Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, and introduced him to the Bnei Anousim communities in both Lisbon and Oporto. In the wake of the visit, the Chief Rabbi agreed to establish a committee within the Chief Rabbinate to find a halachic solution that will address the desire of the Bnei Anousim for return and conversion.
* After receiving a request for assistance from the Federation of Jewish Communities of Brazil, we recently dispatched a young rabbi and his family to the city of Recife, in northeastern Brazil, where he now serves as rabbi of the Jewish community and will also do outreach work among the large Bnei Anousim population there.
* We continue to work with the emerging Jewish community of Trujillo, in Peru’s northwest. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate plans to send a Beit Din (religious court) to Trujillo sometime early next year to perform conversions, and we will be sending a Spanish-speaking teacher there shortly to help the community prepare for their conversion and aliyah to Israel.
* In Israel, we have opened a special class in Machon Miriam, our Spanish-language conversion and return institute, for recent immigrants from the Peruvian community of Iquitos, which is located at the mouth of the Amazon river in the country’s northeast. These immigrants are all grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Morrocan Jews who intermingled with the local Peruvian population. They have made aliyah under Israel’s Law of Return, and many wish to undergo an Orthodox conversion after their arrival to remove any doubts that may exist about their personal status.