WHO IS A BENE ISRAEL?

Encouraged by doubts raised on Bene Israel's Jewishness
A Bene Israel from USA said : 
"I was asked if the Bene Israelis were Jewish and if not, were they converts.
(May take a few minutes to load on slow speed networks)

Introduction:

The Bene Israel ("Children of Israel") is a community of Jews in India, believed to have been one of the Lost Tribes and descendants of ancestors who had settled there centuries ago. they had been isolated from the formal world Jewish groups. However they maintained their relegious customs and traditions passing them down from generation to generation. In the 19th century, after being discovered by a visiting British Rabbi, they were reunited and taught about Judaism. They tended to migrate from villages in the Konkan area to the nearby cities, mainly Mumbai, Pune, and Ahmedabad. They gained positions with the British colonial authority.

In the early part of the twentieth century, many Bene Israel became active in the new film industry, as actresses and actors, producers and directors. After India gained its independence in 1947 and Israel was established in 1948, many Bene Israel emigrated to Israel.

The unique culture of the Bene ISrael is that they will blend into the surrounding culture while they maintain their uniqueness as Jews. Their last names of Jews who live in Maharashtrra were derived from the villages from where their ancestors came. For example people from Navgaon use the last namd Navgaonkar (Person from Navgaon). Similarly from BOrgaon came Borgaonkars, Chincholi came Chincholkar, from Diva came Divekars, Chordhe came Chordekar and so on. This is similar to the customs followed by the local Maharashrtrian community.

In mordern times as they have evolved and gotten closer to their Jewish roots, many have dropped their Indian lst anmaes and take on a grandfathers or ancestors name to creat their own last name . For example their new last names could be Raymond, Samson, Benjamin, etc.

Their foods, clothing and weddings have been influences by local culture which they add into their rituatls while following the core Jewsih traditions as prescribed in the Torah.

Google Maps of Bene Israel origin in Maharashtra

Foreword:

While I write this web page, it bring me to tears, as it bring back all my memories from a country and city where I grew up. I feel I abandoned it later in my life and my people and my family in pursuit for material, success, fame and prosperity. 

I think I got a lot of what I was looking for, but I never got the equal respect, nor the equal status, nor the equal opportunity that have turned out to be just fake hollow words that are written in the American books but nobody ever really practices. 

There are many times that I still fell I get treated like a outsider, a foreigner, where I am still struggling to establish a real identity after living and contributing to its economy for over 20 years. Something that only an immigrant foreigner will understand. Watch the song about “Stranger in my own land” in Hindi.

Emotions aside, here is the real deal about the Bene Israel Jews.

Location : Navgaon

Event : The boat of fleeing Jewish families which capsized on the western shores of India’s state of Maharashtra

Result : Introducing the Bene Israel Community of India.

The traditions of the community trace their descent to Jews who escaped persecution in Galilee in the 2nd century B.C.E. Even though the Bene Israel resemble the local people in appearance and customs, the Bene Israel, however, maintained the practices of Jewish kosher dietary laws, circumcision and observation of Sabbath as a day of rest. They passed down their beliefs and religious knowledge from generation to generation, but did not have a Torah or a scholar. They had lost all connections with main stream Judaism and were “discovered in later years.

The Bene Israel believe that their forefathers arrived in India before the destruction of the second temple. The accepted version is that their forefathers were sailing in a commercial ship from the Land of Israel to India. The ship wrecked near the coast of Konkan.From the ship survived 14 people survived. They swam towards land and arrived at the village called Navgav. Most of their belongings was lost at sea. The dead bodies of the others from the ship were buried in the village. The survivors somehow managed to settle in the village and started working in agriculture and oil producing which later on became their main profession. 

The major Jewish concentration in India


I am bringing this question from another Bene Israel so it can be seen by those folks who do not have time to go over all this material :

Should we really need to prove ourselves to the authorities ever so often? 
- Rizpah Corley 

-------------------------------
My response :

Dear Rizpah, NO you have no need to prove to anybody whether you are Jewish or not, neither will you judge anybody whether they are Jewish or not.

Let us all ask our God to tell us (our internal souls) if we are Jewish or not. If the answer comes to you as YES, then you are Jewish.

Then it is between you and our God what you do, act, behave, follow the customs etc. because believe me, we are not cheating anybody else by ourselves and our God if we pretend to be good Jews and produce mere documentation that gives us the mere recognition to be accepted as Jews in the land of Israel or in our synagogues.

Sincerely,
Sammy Benjamin.


http://www.lassiwithlavina.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/IJ-Magen-Hassidim-Synagogue.jpg

Magen Hassidim Synagogue

The most popular events center in Mumbai town

(I got married here, my son’s barmitzva was done here)

Photo © Jono David, HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library

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Knesseth Eliyahoo Synagogue

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Shaar Hashamaim Synagogue, Thane

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Magen David Synagogue, Byculla, Mumbai

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The Ohel-David Synagogue, Pune

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Magen Abraham Synagogue - AhmedabadGujarat

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Judah Hyan Hall Synagogue

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Cochin Synagogue

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Photo © Jono David, HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library

Beth El SynagogueRevdanda

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Photo © Jono David, HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library

Magen Aboth SynagogueAlibaug

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Photo © Jono David, HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library

Beth El SynagogueCalcutta

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How do Bene Israeli’s look like?

(to view full size image, right clik on it and chose “view image”)

I am a Jew 

(Don’t get distracted by their weird last names)

A Bene Israel Married couple

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A new generation Bene Israel Religious Educators

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Ultimately only a Borgawker can challenge our people about what is right

 (Unmistakable big noses – an identifiable Jewish requirement)

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I am a Jew and so is my family …

Aptekar

(Something we always do with our head against the wall )

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And so am I ..

(Original a Kurulkar – Now a Solomon)

Oh well I better not say anything to make her mad – she really went to the wrong city, 

It was supposed to be Hollywood, not Haifa )

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And don’t forget me … even if I look like a matzo ball

(I am guessing an Aptekar)

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A Bene Israel Jewish Family

Borgawker

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Newly wed Bene Israel couple

(Up to big time mischief in NY city )

Varsulkar

(Also pronounced in slang as “(paisa) Vasool-kar

(Please fly Continental or British Airways … please please please)

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More of us …

Agarwarkar – no nonsense family 

(Ignore nose picking boy in top left rear   )

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AH ... some more of the Borgawker clan,

(Ignore wire in background – there is no safety/fire code violation – at lease per Indian laws and as certified by electrical engineer in next photo  )

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Shapurkar  

(Also can be loosely twisted to mean “shopping-kar )

(A distinguished Reliance (Reliable) Engineer – company can go down – but he will keep going strong)

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Bollywood actor : David Abraham Cheulkar

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Bollywood Dance Director – Herman ?????? (song video below)

(TRIVA FOR BENE ISRAEL FOLKS– FIRST ANSWER GETS PRIZE

Hint – His grave is in the Mumbai Worli Cemetery.)

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SOPHIA SOLOMON

(WITH PERFORMANCE VIDEOS)

http://b-inet.com/intellect/talent/sophia-solomon/

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Bene Israel addition 1+1=3 (hint: next picture)

Chordekar

(I may have very little hair, but I am still proud to say I am Jewish)

(Not sure if their ancestors were ever accused of any stealing - but I am not going to ask due to risk insulting them )

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More Borgawker

(Did I mention, where there is a party. err... good catered kosher food, you will find bene israel there,

 even though there are no available chairs to sit on )

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Birwadkar 

(Only a few, no …. only 1 Ben Israel Jew can boast to be Vice President of a multi national shipping company.

(Also please Fly Air India – the national airline of the country)

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The Bene Israel community follows all the Jewish Hallachas, including the one about doing LEKAYIM (many times), and like true Jews we argue and disagree with everything before we kind of agree on some things.A truly unmistakable Jewish trait. 

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ChordekarBorgawker,PingleNagawkerVarsulkar

(We tend to hang around in a group, 

Lest somebody questions us, 

If we are really Jewish or not  )

I can sympathize with many folks while I struggle with my own corporate politics which takes away all my peace of mind. However this question is important enough to address. Thanks John for bring it up to my attention.

You mentioned : "I was asked if the Bene Israelis were Jewish and if not, were they converts."

I am trying to gather as many learned people as I could find in my mailing list to bring out some points to establish the identity of the Bene Israel Jews fromIndia. I am not an expert in this area, yet have done my due diligence to research many facts, documents, talked to our ancestors and elders to have got the understanding that we Bene Israel Jews are no doubt authentic Jews and one of the 10 lost tribes. Hence we deserve equal recognition which has already been conferred by the state of Israel to the Bene Israel community (even if it came after a struggle).

We are one part of Ten Lost Tribes

In 1964 the Israeli Rabbinate declared that the Bene Israel are "full Jews in every respect."

The Bene Israel claim a lineage to the Kohanim, the Israelite priestly class, which claims descent from Aaron, the brother of Moses. In 2002, a DNA test confirmed that the Bene Israel share the same heredity as the Kohanim

At a personal level it is very difficult to find out what the modern rabbinical schools are teaching their students. The old proverbial statement is getting old : "I did not know there were Jews in India". I think there needs to be a subject added as part of the rabbinical curriculum that exposes them to the Jews around the world and let no such questions arise again.

I usually answer this question by saying (no insults meant)  : Just because they castedCharlstonHeston (a white man) in the movie "Ten commandments", does not mean that Moses was really white. Think about people that lived in the middle east and roamed in the  desert (hot sun, warm weather). Sure they could not be white, they were tan like me and they also looked more simpler and down to earth. This was depicted correctly in another animated movie "The price of Egypt"

CharltonHestonTheTenCommandmentsC101021021.jpghttp://www.calumet.purdue.edu/library/Media%20Holdings/Prince%20of%20Egypt.jpg

If we spread the awareness today, our next generations will have a better chance to be accepted without any such questioning.

 I want to think this is not intentional, it is just the lack of knowledge that needs to be imparted to fix this problem.

Thank You.

Dear learned folks, Please give your input to educate in this matter.

Send your comments to : sammybenjamin@gmail.com

Regards,
   Sammy

KEEP READING

So who REALLY are the Bene Israel?

Although I am skeptical about the Elijah’s chariot on the rock story, many of the facts are true in this documentaryQuest For The Lost Tribesby SimchaJacobovici

However I am big believer of the prophet Elijah and the ceremony so special and unique only to the Bene Israel called “Malida” where we chant the praises of “EliyahuHannavi”. This we will do whenever we feel something good has happened in our life, or maybe we are undertaking a new accomplishment, or maybe we want to thank God for all that we have or as little as for getting together as a community and to pray for peace and good will with all our life’s challenges.

VIDEO 1


 

VIDEO 2

NEXT YEAR IN MUMBAI

VIDEO 3

One person’s story – trapped between Islam – Christianity and Judaism.

VIDEO 4

BENE ISRAEL PRAYER TUNES - AUDIO





MY QUESTION IS TO THE JEWS OF THE WORLD IS :

WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR YOU TO ACCEPT US AS TRUE JEWS ?
WITH NO DISCRIMINATION.

WE ARE NOT JUST AN OBJECT OF INTEREST.

WE NEVER QUESTIONED YOUR JEWISH VALIDITY,

DID WE? 

SO WHY DO YOU ??????

Send your comments to : sammybenjamin@gmail.com


VIDEO 8
Stranger in my own land

VIDEO 9
Jaan Pehechan Ho
Filmed on Herman and dance directed by him


LATE ADDITION
Immigraton and its IMPACTS ON INDIAN JEWS

  • Seventy thousand Jews of Indian origin live in a country of seven million
  • Began migrating to Israel in the 1950s, after being wooed by representatives of the Jewish Agency, an organisation in charge of immigration
  • Migrated from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Calcutta and Kerala where they had lived

  • in pluralistic neighbourhoods and not encountered anti-Semitism
  • Settled by the Israeli state in undeveloped towns or farming communities
  • Most are unable to break the barriers of class, colour and status; but second and third generation are better off than first
  • Their cultural and community programmes reflect a proud connection with India

Photo courtesy: Bension Benjamin

MainaChawla Singh (fourth from left) with three generations of a Bene Israeli family at a Republic day reception in Herzliyya

Diaspora: Jews

Exodus Revisited

A diplomat’s wife traces the footsteps of Indian Jews in Israel 

The dwindling Jewish community in India attracts the curiosity of tourists and hungry foreign journalists but the thousands of Indian Jews who came to the Promised Land seem all but absent from the narrative of Israel. Working on the fringes and surviving in obscure towns, they seem unable to break the barriers of class, colour and status. They remain largely invisible in Israel’s big cities, big jobs and big politics and are not card-carrying members of the Israeli elite.

Why are 70,000 Indian Jews missing in action, as it were, in a small country of seven million? That’s a loaded question in need of an answer. And for the first time an Indian academic has tried to understand the reasons for this invisibility. MainaChawla Singh, a reader of English from DelhiUniversity, has recorded many heart-rending stories of Indian Jews who left the hustle and bustle of Bombay’s suburbs and the noise of Calcutta to come “home”, only to find themselves settled by Israeli officials in harsh arid strips of undeveloped landscape. Being Indian, Being Israeli was a book waiting to be written, and Singh has plunged into the uncharted territory with gusto.

Her circumstances were special, no doubt, giving her the sort of access that may not have come easily to others. She is the wife of Arun Singh, who was India’s ambassador to Israel from 2005 to ’08—a happy marriage of facts that allowed her to meet the community from a good perch. She straddled the two worlds successfully, mixing and matching her academic training with the finesse of a diplomatic spouse. When Indian Jews came in large numbers for the flag-hoisting on August 15 or the Republic Day reception to the ambassador’s residence, Singh was jotting down names and numbers of family patriarchs on napkins while ensuring the samosas were hot.

Singh didn’t accompany her husband to Tel Aviv at first since she was on double duty as a mother and teacher back in India. She visited Israel on vacations and made a few friends at the TelAvivUniversity, who encouraged her curiosity. “As I began performing my social duties as the ambassador’s spouse at our gorgeous residence by the Mediterranean, I met more and more people from the Indian Jewish community,” Singh recalled, in a conversation with Outlook.

“I was quite overwhelmed by the affection and respect towards us when we travelled to attend their community programmes even though they had relinquished their Indian citizenship when they chose to come to Israel,” she said.

Singh soon realised those social conversations with the stalwarts of the first generation were “full of fascinating detail” and offered a win-dow to a new world. She began researching and found that virtually everything written was about Indian Jews—the exotic community in Cochin or Pune or Calcutta—and nothing about the “amazing migration stories” of those who came here. Had they become a lost tribe in Israel?

Indian Jews began “aliya” or migration to Israel in the 1950s, wooed by active representatives of the Jewish Agency who appeared in synagogues and talked about the homeland. They left settled lives and a rare country where Jews were not ghettoised. But when they landed on special flights, they were sent, as part of the experiment that Israel was then, to remote “development towns”, to make a life with little support. They were clubbed with migrants from North Africa and West Asia or the Mizrahis who invariably faced harder times than Ashkenazis or Jews of European descent, who were the Israeli elite.

Poor schools and meagre opportunities sealed their fate as they remained stuck in those moshavs or farming communities. Discrimination and derogatory remarks about “dark” skin or being from a “backward” country were common. The comparatively gentle demeanour of these migrants, in a country known for brusqueness, was seen as “submissiveness” and they were dismissed as not capable of leadership. The Bene Israelis from Maharashtra, the largest group of Indian Jews, endured “serious rejection by many rabbinates” who questioned their purity for years. They were deemed “too Indian” because they had embraced certain Indian cultural traditions. Even after 40 years, the memories and scars are fresh, as Singh’s book reveals.

Singh began systematic work in 2006, interviewing and collecting personal narratives, travelling to the infertile Negev region in the south where the early migrant Jews from India literally built townships from scratch. They laid water and sewage pipes, built access roads and planted the first trees.

For her research, Singh travelled to the small towns of Ramla and Lod where large numbers of Bene Israelis were settled. “One family led me to another, from town to moshav to kibbutz. I followed leads, called people and set up times to visit them in far-off little sleepy towns like KiryatBialik beyond Haifa and Dimona and Kiryat Gat in the Negev desert,” she recalled.

Her enthusiasm was infectious and the community embraced her totally, sharing rare photographs and rarer moments. Taking “speed notes” and eschewing the use of a tape recorder lest it inhibit her older respondents, Singh did some hundred interviews and attended about fifty community functions, including loud Bollywood extravaganzas organised by second and third generation Indian Israelis. Many of the Bene Israelis still spoke Marathi and Hindi too. The book captures that flavour.

An efficient driver and Israel’s good roads and small size made travel easy. Meanwhile, the diplomatic world swirled on around the ambassador’s wife. Israeli officials were impressed that Singh knew her Israel and could rattle off names of small towns. “They were delighted that I was engaged in research on Israel,” says Singh. Her work also helped alter their perceptions: “Many were not aware there were as many as 70,000 Indian Jews in Israel. They believed Indian Jews were ‘a quiet community’ so invisibility was perceived as something related to community behaviour.”

Continuing with her dual role, Singh now lives in Washington where her husband is posted. She has already presented her pioneering research at various US universities to an enthusiastic response. Bottomline: You can always get more out of cocktail parties than you imagined, but only if you take notes. 

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?262317


 



Email Communication and your Comments/Feedback :

John Perry wrote :

Subject: FW: Bene IsraelWikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Dear Rabbi,

This is further to the conversation we had today, wherein you had doubts about the 'Jewishness' of the Bene Israelis.

Sending herewith an article from Wikipedia.

However, forget the portion of insulting a person who has served in the Israeli Defense Forces, fought two wars, undertaken missions to Iran (1979 to transport Iranian Jews to Eretz Israel) and operated in the Middle East, what troubles me more that a person of your stature and dignity is ignorant about the history of the world Jewish community.

My community, numbering about 5,000 in India, mainly Mumbai, where we have ten synagogues and assist Chabad House in Mumbai as also the one in Pune, will be shocked when they hear from me about the doubts raised by you.

When you find time, plsgoogle on the history of Bene Israelis, we have about 60,000 in Israel who serve the Jewish nation in various capacities, have a few rabbis and I will certainly ask them to get in touch with you either through emails or phone.

Hope this will add to your knowledge about "AamIsrael".

John (Yohanan) Perry

Subject: Bene IsraelWikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Date: Tue, 4 May 2010 19:23:13 -0400

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bene_Israel


Rizpah Corley  wrote

Subject: RE: Doubt on Bene Israel's Jewishness raised by rabbis in the USA
To: sammybenjamin@gmail.com
Date: Wednesday, May 5, 2010, 10:08 AM

Dear Sammy,
Yes,  Our Indian skin color is definitely nearer to the middle east skin color- the original Israeli color. That inter faith marriages probably did not exist in India, on any worthwhile scale, those long centuries ago, is another important point.
 

By the same argument, this white skin of the European Jews, is it anywhere near the mid-East color? Should we then conclude that they are not pure Jews but only a mixed breed?
 

It is bad enough that some rabbis in Israel come up with this stupidity off and on....probably to keep themselves in the limelight...without any proper knowledge anyway. But I can't understand how the American Rabbis have just accepted this statement blind-folded.
 

Should we really need to prove ourselves to the authorities ever so often?

Rizpah Corley

My response :

DearRizpah

NO you have no need to prove to anybody whether you are Jewish or not, neither will you judge anybody whether they are Jewish or not. 

Let us all ask our God to tell us (our internal souls) if we are Jewish or not. If the answer comes to you as YES, then you are Jewish. 

Then it is between you and our God what you do, act, behave, follow the customs etc. because believe me, we are not cheating anybody else by ourselves and our God if we pretend to be good Jews and produce mere documentation that gives us the mere recognition to be accepted as Jews in the land of Israel or in our synagogues.

Sincerely,

Sammy Benjamin.

From: DanielBamnolkar

Subject: Re: Doubt on Bene Israel's Jewishness raised by rabbis in the USA
To: sammybenjamin@gmail.com
Date: Wednesday, May 5, 2010, 12:40 AM
 
This comes up every now and then. Some smart person gets up from his sleep and raises this problem.

 
 

This is because...

1.) We were isolated for long time.

2.) Our skin color

3.) Some one wants fame!

4.) Our Indian family names.

Reason we are this way

1.) Our forefather "Abraham" came from today's Iraq area. His color was whitish and not white.

2.) Cast system in India prevented almost 99.99% intercast marriages; or even brief encounters those days.

3.) Our ansestors adopted "oil-presser's" business, that's why we were considered "Lower Cast" those days in India. Practically un-touchable. This prevented our younger generation from marrying out side the cast.

4.) Scientific DNA tests on Bene-Israel community was carried out by Dr. Perfet (I hope name is correct) from UK in 2002 or 2004. It is said "Purest of the pure Jews" in the news item run by Times of India. We are 'Cohaanimsdecendend of Moshe's brother Aaharon.

5) Family names are given to us by Britishers to recognize one person to other. These are all names of villages our ancestor settled in. "Kar" behind every family name meaning "From".

American society is different than this for many senturies. They need to prove their puarity!

Daniel Reuben Bamnolkar

---------------------------------

Saul Aptekar send this out :

Sammy,
 

 

kindly read and check this site:
http://www.indianjudaica.com/wp/?page_id=6
 

 

Thanks and Regards,

Saul S. Aptekar

-----------------------------------------------

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Michael S. Bar-Ron
To: Saul Aptekar
Sent: Wed, May 5, 2010 11:44:14 AM
Subject: CORRECTED VERSION: Re. Doubt on Bene Israel'sJewishness raised by rabbis in the USA

In the Name of HaShem, God Eternal
 

 

Shalom Saul, 
 

 

Good to hear from you, yedidi -- how are you?  You may forward this letter to others so long as they are warned to read the entire letter carefully, so there will not be any misunderstandings. 
 

 

Please spread the link to my web page:  http://www.torathmoshe.com/projects/the-bene-yisrael-of-india/

Being that those who are most likely to question the Jewishness of the Bene Yisrael are Orthodox rabbis, these sources are precious.   Such rabbis who question your Jewishness should be asked:
 

 

Are HaRavHaGaon `OvadiahYosefshlit"a (pillar of the HarediSefaradi world) and HaRavHaGaonShmuelRozovsky of blessed memory (former pillar of the Ashkenazi Lithuanian yeshivish world), former Rosh Yeshivah of YeshivatPonevezh and main teacher of the current Torah leader RavZalmanNechemiah Goldberg shlit"a, too reform or biased that we should not trust their expert opinion as to who have full halakhic status as Jews?!
 

 

While the kohen gene haplotype is important evidence, the argument based on skin color is an ignorant one.  According to genetic research I've read, Ashkenazi Jewish genes are generally tied to the Levant region (even closely related to Palestinians, many of whom are descendants of ancient Jewish families that never left the Land), while the genes of "tan" Sefaradim are generally more tied to the Bavel region (not to say we Sefaradim are any less Jewish than anyone else).  Many Ashkenazi Jews such as my mother (as a girl) turn brown in Israel's summertime.  When she was a girl, people called my mother (whose ancestry on both sides go back to Poland) "Yemenite"!  A century ago, Aramaic (an ancient, biblical language of Jews since the Babylonian exile) was spoken by Ukrainian Jews as it was among the Jews of the Caucasus.  White skin is common among Bukharan Jews, and red hair is common among Persian Jews. In short, skin and hair color mean next to nothing in this regard.  We are Jews not because of our skin color, but because of our families, our souls (if we are converts), and -- most importantly -- the way we live our lives. 
 

 

Ultimately, even the genetic evidence will hold not water before Orthodox rabbis unless and until you bring in the opinion of those considered to be the Haredi giants of the generation, as I have done.  Now that I have presented the actual opinion of such distinguished Haredi rabbis in their own handwriting (which is more important for many than the full acceptance of the Bene Yisrael without conversion by the Israeli Rabbinate) for all the world to see, the case should really be closed. 
 

 

Bear in mind, please, that I write the following as a long-time champion of the Jewishness of the Bene Yisrael and as one married into the community.  I write out of love and the deepest respect for the honorable Indian community, which should be regarded as Jewish beyond any doubt.  Moreover, I do so fully aware of the basic faith in God and Torah in the heart of nearly every Bene Yisraeli I've met in Israel and abroad -- however confused many are in regards to Jewish law:
 

 

One key problem is that anyone who has studied Bene Yisraeli history knows that, unlike larger ethnic communities, the Indian Jewish community was ignorant in most areas of Torah for many centuries.  This has created an impression that continues in part, quite frankly, because of the way most Bene Yisrael continue to live even in Israel -- how much more so in the lands of the ExileNo number of letters from rabbis can fully change that impression of the Bene Yisrael if the majority of the community chooses to live their lives as assimilated Jews.  We must all be reminded that being "officially Jewish" is not merely a status or rank from which to reap benefits; it is a yoke and a challenge, and must be lived accordingly.  Should the BeneYisrael, as a community, choose to live as learned, fully-observant Jews for a few generations, no questions will be asked.   Let's ever remember the golden words of RavAdinSteinzaltzA more important question than if your grandparents were Jewish, is if your grandchildren will be Jewish.
 

 

It is not politically correct to say, but according to authentic Talmudic halakhah, even a full convert from Zimbabwe is openly Torah-observant  is to be regarded the communal privileges of a full Israelite.  Similarly, even a full kohen "miyyuhhas" (with a written pedigree of his father's ancestry back to the HolyTemple era) who breaks Shabboth publicly, is not.  Lest an ignoramus blame "rabbinical Judaism" for "changing" the biblical view in that regard, I refer him to the first chapter of Hosea, where HaShem refers to the assimilated Northern Kingdom of Israel, "lo `ammi" -- "not My people." 
 

 

However, even the prophet Hosea, in the very next chapter, prophecizes that those who were called "lo `ammi" will be one day be called "bene El Hhai" -- children of the Living God. (Hosea 2:1) That will occur when the assimilated repent in full teshuvah, choosing to live according to our eternal Covenant with the Almighty.  That is not only true for assimilated Jews among the Bene Yisrael, but the assimilated members of every honorable ethnic community of our nation.  May the day come soon when our nation stands united "as one man with one heart" to serve HaShem with one consent, that we should merit to the full Redemption with a rebuilt HolyTemple in Jerusalem.
 

 

Your friend,

Rabbi Michael Shelomo Bar-Ron, Beth MidrashOhel Moshe

Sammy Benjamin wrote :

I have to spend some time to read this carefully and understand what is being said, some of it looks good, but there are some comments that are hard to understand and needs deeper understanding. This will need more time on my part. So I will re-visit it again soon and reply to it. 

If anybody else can do so in a diplomatic manner, then it will be appreciated.

I have a feeling I am going to have to respond to this email after I spend the time to understand and research what Rabbi Bar-Ron is stating.

- Sammy.

 

 
From: Dhananjay Dixit
Subject: Hi from Pune
To: sammy benjamin
Date: Saturday, August 28, 2010
 
Hello
 
My name is Dhananjay Dixit, based in Pune. While reading about Chitpavan Brahmins got the reference to Bene Israeli people in Wikipedia. I am not a Jew, so if my message to you offends you and you community in any way, please ignore my mail.
 
Wikipedia writes about Bene Israeli people speaking Judeo Marathi language, which is interesting, so my question to you is, do you speak it? How is it different than regular Marathi?
 
Well this is just the beginning for my questions, I do have other questions.
 
Thanks, Regards
Dhananjay Dixit
 
Sent from my iPad
Wi-Fi, 3G, 64Gb  (WOW you got a cool phone )
 
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From: "Sammy Benjamin"
To: "Dhananjay Dixit
 
Hello Dhananjay,
Questions are always welcome as long as they are not racial or attacking  in nature and yours is not.
 
First we are happy and obliged by the protection and religious freedom that we enjoyed in India under the Hindus specifically for the Bene Israel community in Maharashtra who lived in peace and harmony with their neighbor Maharashtrians. I have never in my 45 years heard of any racial attack on Jews by any Hindu faction.
 
WHY ? Becasue Jews never annexed any land in India as their own  or never laid claim on any of it while we lived there in peace and some of us continue to do so. Hence we were tolerated and welcome to continue our traditions and religious beliefs which we staunchly believe in. I give extra credit to the tolerance of other religions by Hindus that had a big role to play in this.
 
To answer your main question, Marathi of Jews is not very different from the Marathi that is spoken in Mumbai by Maharashtrians. Me and you can get along with a conversation with the exception of a few words here and there which I might pronounce differently and some unique words that Jews formed that came from the Torah, from the hebrew language or were slang words which are not found in the Marathi language.
 
So I would not call it a separate language as there is not much to differentiate it as is written in Wikipedia. I will send it to one of my trusted Indian Jew friend who will also double check my statements and I will let you know is he tell me any differently.
 
I hope I have answered this question. You are welcome to ask others.
 
Thank you for your interest about the Bene Israel Jews.
 
Regards,
       Sammy
 
_______________
 
From: John Perry
Subject: RE: John - Fw: Re: Hi from Pune
To: "sammy benjamin"
Date: Saturday, August 28, 2010
 
Dear Sammy,
I completely agree with your views. It was the greatness of Hindu religion and our attitude, which accepted the Maharashtrian way as our own,
picked up Marathi as our own mother tongue and adopted certain Hindu customs in marriages still maintaining our religion. In fact, around
the fifties, we were also known as Maharashtrian Jews.
 
As for Marathi, our ancestors made sure that the children learnt the language well. In my family, though we were in English medium schools,
our parents made sure that we read Marathi newspapers every day, like Navshakti and Maratha, spoke Marathi at home etc.
In fact, some of the Bene Israelis excelled so much in the language that they were top class actors of Marathi dramas like Ellis Ramrajkar and
Aaron Joseph, whose programs were constantly held at Shivaji Mandir, the home of Marathi theater, and their names constantly mentioned
in Marathi newspapers.
 
Of course, we had certain words that were not commonly used and some of our people could not pronounce the two 'naa's, the big and small
'naa' well. FYI even after leaving India 41 years back, when I go to India every year, I can speak Marathi as well as a Brahmin
from Pune.
 
Regards,
John
 
(Sammy, please feel free to forward this email to your contacts.)
 

 
Documentary
Two Weddings In The Time Of The Brave
Director: IQBAL MALHOTRA
 
 
Comments :
 
This is a unique video of two cultures that share the same roots. However their cultures have diverged into its own customs which are portrayed in this documentary.
 
The Bene Israel wedding while mostly accurate misses showing the breaking of the glass which is a important wedding custom. My mother could recognize many folks from the Jewish community. I could recognize Baruch (mama) and Sima (mami) who are related to me from my mother’s side.
 
A Great sneak Preview into wedding ceremonies of Indian Jews and Muslims.
 
- SAMMY BENJAMIN
 
http://www.b-inet.com/sammy/2weddings/
 
---------------------------------------------
 
From: Tibor Spitz
Subject: Re: B-INET: 2 WEDDINGS.
To: sammybenjamin@gmail.com
Date: Saturday, August 28, 2010, 7:17 PM
 
Thanks for sharing with us. It was very touching and lovely.
Love,
Noemi and tibor
 
---------------------------------------------
 
From: Ken Robbins @ Comcast
Subject: Re: B-INET: 2 WEDDINGS.
To: "Samuel Benjamin" <sammybenjamin2@gmail.com>
Date: Sunday, August 29, 2010, 6:52 AM
 
Dear Mr Benjamin
 
I really appreciated this e-mail. Ezra Moses sent it as well. Where are you based? How did you know of your interest in Indian Jews? I am working on a multi-volume study of Indian Jews and Jews in India and interested in information and objects ffor my studies and collection.
With appreciation
Ken
 
-------------------------------------------------
From : Sammy Benjamin
To: "Ken Robbins"
Date: Sunday, August 29, 2010, 9:29 AM
 
Hello Ken,
Born into a Indian Jewish family, I grew up in Bombay, India and migrated to USA in 1992. I  still maintain my ties to my family  and small but prevalent Jewish community in Mumbai and surrounding vicinity.
 
You will be interested in my pictorial web page "Who Is A Bene Israel". It is not very in-depth but skims you across the spectrum that the Bene Israel have to offer in the larger Jewish fabric spread worldwide.
 
Bene Israel had their own challenges to establish their identity and be recognized as true Jews as the European Jews have claimed a dominance over forming rules about who they will consider as truly Jewish. The bitterness lies in the fact that they question my Jewishness but I never question theirs. This is still a source of discrimination against the  the Bene Israel specially those living abroad  like in Israel and USA. If anybody denies that this is not true then they only need to speak with me as I am myself a victim of this passive treatment and also know others in Israel who deal with this even today, not as much as my uncles and aunts did when they immigrated to Israel in the 70's. I continue to make efforts to end this discrimination but meet with silence as I cannot reach anybody who will be open enough to deal with this sensitive matter.
 
For many years in the 90's I was an object of intrigue to American Jews when I walked into synagogues and the most common question was "We did not know there were Jews in India" and "How did Jews come about to live in India?". While my experiences were only positive, other sources tell me they were challenged to answer questions like "When did Indians convert to Judaism and by whom?"
 
I have answered some of these questions in my web page and it is an effort to spread awareness of the Bene Israel identity and their transformation into a unique set of Jews who follow the same religion but with a degree of Indian'ness, but yet adhering to the original rules and scriptures.
 
While America categorized Jews into roughly 3 groups, i.e. Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed, Bene Israel did not fit exactly in any one particular pre-existing mold. I have learned we are some what like Orthodox at least in desire to be Jewish and do prayers in traditional Hebrew using the traditional books and customs. Hence we fall into a new category called "Traditional Jews". In degree of adherence to Jewish laws we fall in between Orthodox and Conservative, but tend to be closer to Orthodox.
 
Hope this gives you a good background and you are welcome to as any questions so we can continue this conversion.
 
WHO IS A BENE ISRAEL ?
http://www.b-inet.com/sammy/who-is-a-bene-israel/
 

Regards,

       Sammy
 
---------------------------------------------------
 
 
Dear Sammy,
I enjoed the mail very much...thanx.
 
--------------------------------------------------

 

I encourage you to visit my “Who is aJew” discourse and reply to my 3 basic questions in determining who is a Jew. 

Also send your honest opinions even if you don’t know much about this matter, but would like to share what you know from your own points of view and what you mind tells you is right or wrong.

My own :Who is a Jew” discourse 

It is INDISPUTABLE that we are children of AvrahamIsshak and Yakov. It is written ALL over in our holy scriptures.

Then why am I told that a Jew can only be Jewish if his mother is Jewish. Father does not matter in this determnation ???

Why are we afraid that we will FIND THE TRUTH?

CREDITS & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

(In return for using there internet image J)

http://www.shalombombay.com/JewsOfIndiaNYC.htm

India – A Nurturing Sanctuary for Judaism

Magen Hassidim photo

A Jewish package tour in India

KnessethEliyahoo Synagogue

TheOhel-David Synagogue, Pune

Hot economy keeping Jews in India

Married couple

A new Bene Israel Rabbi

NEXT YEAR IN MUMBAI

Directed by Mathias Mangin, Jonas Parienté

Reference :

http://adaniel.tripod.com/beneisrael.htm

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=350492


 
My statements are true to my knowledge and very heartfelt. They are clean and frank like a little child who speaks his mind and does not bar anything.  This trait is what gets me in trouble all the time. I feel sometimes that God is the one who wills that I do this as I would never have the courage to so on my own accord.”

SHALOM

_____________________________________________________________________________________

http://b-inet.com/sammy/samlogo/samlogo1-lighthouse.gifhttp://b-inet.com/pictures/samlogo2.JPGhttp://b-inet.com/sammy/samlogo/b-inet-large.jpg
 

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