The Ingathering of the Exiles: Helping the Bnei Menashe
In 1948, a group of Indian families and their leaders were excited to hear about the establishment of a Jewish state and set out to return to their people. They were the Bnei Menashe of Manipur in India, who had held onto their Jewish identity for 2700 years as descendants of the lost tribe of Menashe. With help from the Shavei Israel organization, these families started to make Aliyah to Israel in 2013, leaving their village with very few possessions. They were recognized as Jewish by Israel`s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar but required to formally convert on arrival in Israel, because of uncertainties regarding intermarriage.
The Bnei Menashe Program at Yeshivat Hesder Ma`alot
Rabbi Nir Herman was asked by the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehoshua Weitzman, to head the special program at the Yeshiva for the Bnei Menashe community when the second group of 36 families arrived in 2012. Based on the difficulties faced by the first group in Ma`alot, they worked on a program that would help the children and the adults to learn Hebrew and integrate into Israeli society.
We found mentors to help the children with their homework and organized shiurim for the men and women about Jewish topics. We created a Beit Midrash program for the teenage boys and men, and provided supplementary Ivrit classes to increase their literacy and assist their integration. Today we also have boys from the Bnei Menashe communities around Israel enrolled in the Yeshiva`s Hesder program of learning and army service.
The Yeshiva launched an appeal among its graduates and supporters to raise funds for the new olim to pay for housing and furniture, and to provide a monthly stipend to support for those who wanted to enroll in vocational training courses.
"The philosophy of the Yeshiva is to involve itself in the life of the surrounding community and support local families in whatever ways we can. By identifying the new Olim from India as particularly deserving of help, we made it a priority for the Yeshiva and its graduates to help them. We have welcomed the Bnei Menashe with love and respect for their traditions. We have created a special partnership with this community that will assist them and their children to become fully integrated, self-supporting and successful members of Israeli society."
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