According to some scholars, the Bnei Menashe community in northeast India is likely an offshoot of the Chinese Jewish community that began settling in Kaifeng, the capital of imperial China, some 2000 years ago. These were Jewish or Israelite exiles from Persia who had worked their way eastward as merchants along the ancient Silk Road, all the way to its eastern terminal in Kaifeng. There are parchments and engraved pillars that document their presence in the area back to some 20 centuries ago.
At its height, in the Middle Ages, Kaifeng’s Jewish community numbered as many as 5,000 people, with rabbis, synagogues and various communal institutions. But the Kaifeng Jewish community eventually dwindled in numbers to less than 1,000 in recent generations.
There are still some 500 Chinese Jews left in the area, and many are now interested in making aliyah to rejoin the mainstream Jewish people back in the Land of Israel. The first Kaifeng Jewish family to make aliyah in recent times was actually sponsored on their journey home by the Christian Embassy around ten years ago.
More Kaifeng Jews are now taking Hebrew language courses and religious studies in preparation for moving to Israel, with assistance from Shavei Israel, our partner in the Bnei Menashe aliyah. The ICEJ is helping to cover the flights for these Kaifeng Jewish families as well. For example, the ICEJ-Taiwan branch recently donated $25,000 for this unique aliyah operation.
If you would like to sponsor the return of a family of Kaifeng Jews to Israel, please make your donation today!