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Indian-Jewish ‘lost tribe’ bakes matzah

Members of Bnei Menashe community connect to the past, and to each other, in preparations for Passover

Indian Bnei Menashe Jews baking matzah in Churachandpur, India, March 30, 2017. (Courtesy of Shavei Israel)
Indian Bnei Menashe Jews baking matzah in Churachandpur, India, March 30, 2017. (Courtesy of Shavei Israel)

JTA — Members of the Jewish community in India, who claim to descend from one of Israel’s lost tribes, have started preparing for Passover.

The Bnei Menashe community came together on Thursday to bake matzah in Churachandpur, a district in the northeastern part of India. The baking took place at a center run by Shavei Israel, a nonprofit that seeks to connect “lost” and “hidden” Jews to the Jewish state.

“The experience of seeing the entire community kneading, rolling, and then baking the dough — all as the timer calls out the minutes — is amazing,” said Ohaliav Haokip, 31, of Churachandpur, according to a statement. “Everyone present can feel the pressure of baking the matzah in time — it’s reminiscent of Biblical times, and our forefathers’ hurrying to flee Egypt.”

In February, Shavei Israel helped 102 Bnei Menashe members immigrate to Israel. The group’s director, Michael Freund, a conservative writer and former aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that his group had facilitated the moves of more than 1,200 Indian Jews to Israel in the last four years.

Indian Bnei Menashe Jews baking matzah in Churachandpur, India, March 30, 2017. (Courtesy of Shavei Israel)
Indian Bnei Menashe Jews baking matzah in Churachandpur, India, March 30, 2017. (Courtesy of Shavei Israel)

“We hope that after 27 centuries of exile, the remaining 7,000 Bnei Menashe still in India will be able to celebrate Passover next year in Jerusalem,” Freund said in a statement.

Indian Bnei Menashe Jews baking matzah in Churachandpur, India, March 30, 2017. (Courtesy of Shavei Israel)
Indian Bnei Menashe Jews baking matzah in Churachandpur, India, March 30, 2017. (Courtesy of Shavei Israel)
Indian Bnei Menashe Jews baking matzah in Churachandpur, India, March 30, 2017. (Courtesy of Shavei Israel)
Indian Bnei Menashe Jews baking matzah in Churachandpur, India, March 30, 2017. (Courtesy of Shavei Israel)

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