PHOTOS: Bnei Menashe lighting candles for the first night of Hanukkah in Churachandpur, India. Photos courtesy of Shavei Israel


Thousands of members of the Bnei Menashe community from across northeastern India gathered Sunday, Dec. 3, in Churachandpur, in the southwestern corner of the Indian state of Manipur, to light candles for the first night of Hanukkah.

The Bnei Menashe are descendants of the tribe of Manasseh, one of the Ten Lost Tribes exiled from the Land of Israel more than 2,700 years ago by the Assyrian Empire. So far, some 4,000 Bnei Menashe have made aliyah thanks to Shavei Israel over the past 15 years, including more than 450 this year. Another 7,000 Bnei Menashe remain in India waiting for the chance to return home to Zion.

“The story of the Maccabees’ heroic determination to preserve their Jewish identity resonates strongly with the Bnei Menashe, who – against all odds and with tremendous effort – have managed to cling to their faith and that of their ancestors through the centuries,” said Shavei Israel Founder and Chair Michael Freund. “We pray that this will be the last Hanukkah they celebrate in India. Next year in Israel!”

Shavei Israel is a nonprofit organization founded by Michael Freund, who immigrated to Israel from the United States with the aim of strengthening the ties between the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world. The organization is active in more than a dozen countries and provides assistance to a variety of communities such as the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnei Anousim in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, descendants of Jews living in Poland, and others. For more information visit:

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