Israel Stops Conversion of Lost Jewish Tribe; Suspension Prompted by Government Concern of Strained Relations
Byline: Shaikh Azizur Rahman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
CALCUTTA - A complaint from India, apparently following pressure from Hindu and Christian groups, has forced Israel to suspend conversion of thousands from a lost tribe of Jews.
Israel's chief rabbi of the Sephardic Jews, Shlomo Amar, recognized northeast India's 9,000 Bnei Menashes as one of the 10 lost tribes of biblical Israel, and sent a Beit Din, a rabbinical court, to India in September to begin the conversion process of the impoverished tribe, giving them hope of a new life in Israel.
About 220 Bnei Menashes were converted in the states of Mizoram and Manipur in September, and the remaining members of the tribe were awaiting their turn when Israel's Foreign Ministry earlier this month ordered the chief rabbinate to stop the conversions because it was straining relations with India.
Foreign Ministry official Amos Nadai, however, told a parliament committee that India "has no objection against the tribe members immigrating to Israel."
India has a growing defense relationship with Israel and has bought weapons worth more than $2 billion.
Although the Bnei Menashes in India are recognized as Jews, and they have been following Jewish customs for many years, they need to undergo conversion because they have not been following Orthodox Judaism as practiced in Israel.
According to Shavei Israel, a Jerusalem-based organization that has been trying to locate descendants of lost Jewish tribes around the world and bring them to Israel, there are up to 2 million Bnei Menashes living in the hilly regions of Burma and northeast India.
After an Assyrian invasion around 722 B. …