Shavei Israel has announced its establishment of the first house of prayer in Israel, inaugurated by Bnei Menashe last Shabbat.
Promoted by Shavei Israel, a nonprofit organization founded by Michael Freund, Eliyahu Hanavi Synagogue, the first-ever house of prayer in Israel for Bnei Menashe immigrants from India, was inaugurated last Shabbat (Nov. 19) in the northern Israeli city of Nof Hagalil. About 150 worshippers, most of them members of the community, attended.
“The opening of the first synagogue in Israel for the Bnei Menashe is a historic and exciting event. Just like any other Jewish community, the Bnei Menashe have their unique customs, traditions, and hymns, which are worthy of preservation. We are delighted that the Bnei Menashe immigrants will now have a synagogue of their own in which to keep these traditions alive,” said Michael Freund, Shavei Israel’s chairman, and founder.
“We are grateful to Mayor Ronen Plot and the city’s residents for their warm welcome of Bnei Menashe immigrants. I pray that the synagogue, named after Eliyahu Hanavi – the prophet Elijah who, according to Jewish tradition, will portend Israel’s redemption – will play an important role in the integration of the Bnei Menashe into Israeli society.”
The synagogue is dedicated to immigrants from Mizoram, a state in northeastern India. A second synagogue, to be opened for immigrants from Manipur, another northeastern Indian state is in plans. Nof Hagalil’s mayor, Ronen Plot, has worked closely with Shavei Israel and the community on both projects.
Shavei Israel’s Rabbi Shlomi Uriel will be the community’s spiritual leader for Shabbat and holidays and will provide lessons in Torah and Halacha (Jewish law). The synagogue will also house a Beit Midrash (study hall) and a community club.
The legend of Bnei Menashe, or sons of Manasseh, is more than 27 centuries old. The Bnei Menashe were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire and their ancestors wandered through Central Asia and the Far East for centuries, before settling in what is now northeastern India, along the borders of Burma and Bangladesh. They continued to practice Judaism all through their exile, however, they nourished the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.
Shavei Israel has made the dream of Aliyah, immigration to Israel, possible for over 5,200 Bnei Menashe and plans to help bring more members of the community to Israel. Currently, 5,000 Bnei Menashe are awaiting their return to the Jewish homeland.
Michael Freund was born in New York and has spent the last 25 years living in Israel. He serves the Jewish community through his organization, Shavei Israel. The father of five sons, Michael became an ordained rabbi, and he received his MBA in Finance at Columbia University. He contributes to the Jerusalem Post.
To learn more about Shavei Israel, you can visit their website at https://www.shavei.org/