Daily Israel Report

Translation of Torah for India´s Bnei Menashe Nearly Complete

For the first time, members of a Lost Tribe of Israel in northeastern India will soon be able to study the entire Torah in their native tongue.

By Baruch Gordon
First Publish: 1/25/2006, 12:24 PM / Last Update: 1/24/2006, 7:12 PM

Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based group which assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people, last week published a translation of Sefer Shemot (the Book of Exodus) into Mizo, one of the main languages spoken by the Bnei Menashe living in Mizoram, India.

"Until now, the Bnei Menashe have had to rely on incomplete or flawed translations of the Torah," said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund. "Now, at last, they will have a complete translation that was carried out directly from the original Hebrew by a team of Jewish scholars living in Israel. This is an important step towards reconnecting them with their heritage and with the basic texts of the Jewish people."
Title page of translation of Exodus to Mizo language

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, with another 7,000 still waiting in India to do so.

In September 2005, Shavei Israel arranged for a Beit Din (rabbinical court) from Israel's Chief Rabbinate to travel to India, which resulted in 200 Bnei Menashe formally rejoining the Jewish people.

With the publication of Sefer Shemot, Shavei Israel has now released Mizo versions of four out of the five Books of Moses, leaving Sefer VaYikra (the Book of Leviticus) as the only one remaining to be translated.

The translation project is headed by Bnei Menashe scholar Allenby Sela, who has written over a dozen books on Jewish topics in the Mizo language. It has received backing from the Foundation for Remote Jewish Communities, a New-York based organization headed by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer. Sela seeks to translate more books. For more information, contact: office@shavei.org.

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. All of the organization's work is in accordance with Jewish law and is under the guidance and supervision of Israel's Chief Rabbinate.