Bene Israel

Bene Israel

Hebrew“Sons of Israel”

      the largest and oldest of several groups of Jews of India. Believed by tradition to have shipwrecked on the Konkan coast of western India more than 2,100 years ago, they were absorbed into Indian society, maintaining many Jewish observances while operating within the caste system. Of some 67,000 Bene Israel at the turn of the 21st century, less than 5,000 remain in India, the great majority having immigrated to Israel.

      Their presence in India is and may remain a mystery, and Bene Israel tradition itself varies. Some claim descent from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who disappeared from history after the northern Kingdom of Israel was overrun by the Assyrians in 721 BC. Others believe that their ancestors fled by sea the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes (Antiochus IV Epiphanes), a theory that explains the absence of a Hanukkah tradition in Bene Israel practice. Whatever the case, the survivors—by tradition seven men and seven women—settled in Konkan villages, adopted Hindu names (with surnames usually ending in -kar), and took up the profession of oil production. They were known in Marathi (Marāṭhī language) as shaniwar teli (“Saturday oil pressers”), because they abstained from work on the Jewish Sabbath. They also practiced circumcision, recited the Shema on ceremonial occasions, celebrated several major festivals, and observed Jewish dietary laws.

      When the existence of a Jewish community in India first attracted public attention—from David Rahabi, who according to Bene Israel tradition may have arrived as early as AD 1000, but who may have been David Ezekiel Rahabi (1694–1772), of Cochin (Kochi) on the Malabar Coast, south of Konkan—the group still followed these practices. Rahabi was instrumental in revivifying Judaism among the Bene Israel. The Cochin Jews acted as cantors, ritual slaughterers, and teachers for the Bene Israel. Many Bene Israel migrated toward Bombay (now Mumbai) during this period. The first of numerous Bene Israel synagogues, all following the Sefardic (Spanish) liturgy, was built in Bombay in 1796.

      In the early 19th century, Christian missionaries introduced Marathi-language versions of the Hebrew Bible (their Old Testament) to the inhabitants of the Konkan coast and set up English-language schools. This revelation, together with the model of normative Judaism provided by contact in the last half of the 19th century with Arabic-speaking Jews of Baghdad (late 18th-century migrants to India), finally broke their isolation from the rest of the Jewish world. When, in 1948, the state of Israel was established, many Bene Israel began to emigrate.

      Like other far-flung Jewish groups, the Bene Israel over the centuries had become physically indistinguishable from the peoples they lived among, and their practices—much influenced by Hindu beliefs and practice—somewhat at odds with those of mainstream Jews. As a result, their immigration to Israel was marked by conflict for a few decades; some rabbis objected to their marriage with other Jews on the grounds that the Bene Israel could not have properly observed rabbinic laws governing marriage and divorce. In 1964, however, the chief rabbinate declared the Bene Israel “full Jews in every respect” but reserved to itself the right to decide the legitimacy of individual marriages.

Additional Reading
Shirley Berry Isenberg, India's Bene Israel: A Comprehensive Inquiry and Sourcebook (1988); Nathan Katz, Who Are the Jews of India? (2000); Joan G. Roland, Jews in British India: Identity in a Colonial Era (1989); Schifra Strizower, The Bene Israel of Bombay: A Study of a Jewish Community (1971).

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно сделать НИР?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • BENE ISRAEL — BENE ISRAEL, Jewish community in India. In India The original tradition, as related to Christian missionaries early in the 19th century, is that the Bene Israel are the descendants of the survivors (seven men and seven women) of a shipwreck off… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Bene Israël — Populations  Inde Autre Religion(s) Judaïsme Groupe(s) relié(s) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bene-Israel — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Los Bene Israel (en idioma hebreo: Hijos de Israel) son uno de los grupos judíos que habitan en la India. De orígenes inciertos, los Bene Israel claman ser descendientes de los judíos que evitaron la persecución del… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Bene Israel — Histoire des Juifs en Inde On distingue trois communautés juives en Inde totalisant 6 000 membres (1997), chacune dans une aire géographique très déterminée : la communauté de Cochin dans le sud du sous continent, les Bene Israël dans les… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bene Israel — Infobox Ethnic group group=Bene Israel poptime=1830s: 6,000 (est.) 1900: 10,000 (est.) 1948: 20,000 (est.) 2005: 65,000 (est.) popplace=Israel 60,000 (est.) Mumbai area 4000 (est.) Kolkata < 200 (est.) Delhi < 200 (est.) Ahmadabad < 200 (est.)… …   Wikipedia

  • Bene Israel — Beni Israel Anzahl der Angehörigen: 65.000 (geschätzt) Signifikante Angehörige in: Israel 60.000 (geschätzt) Mumbai und Umgebung 4000 (geschätzt) Kolkata < 200 (geschätzt) Delhi < 200 (geschätzt) Ahmadabad < 200 (geschätzt) Andere… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Bene-Israel — (Hebrew: Sons of Israel ) one of three groups of Jews in India. The origins of the Bene Israel are uncertain, but because of their observance of certain traditions and lack of observance of others, they are believed to have escaped persecution in …   Universalium

  • Bene-Israel — (hebreo: Hijos de Israel). Uno de los tres grupos de judíos de India. Los orígenes de los Bene Israel son inciertos, pero debido a que observan ciertas tradiciones y otras no, se cree que escaparon de la persecución en Galilea antes del s. II BC …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Bene Israel (Inde) — Bene Israël Bene Israël Populations significatives par régions  Inde …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bene Israël (Inde) — Bene Israël Bene Israël Populations significatives par régions  Inde …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”