29 Mar Bnei Ephraim (India)
The Bnei Ephraim is a small community in rural India that claims to be the descendants of the biblical tribe of Ephraim, exiled from the land of Israel nearly 3,000 years ago. While their history is far from clear-cut, at least one member of this group has found his way to Israel, where he has lived for the last 17 years. See our profile of Yehoshua Yacobi here.
Yacobi’s father Shmuel “founded” the Bnei Ephraim community. A former Christian preacher, Shmuel visited Israel in the early 1980s and became convinced that his – and his people’s – past was Jewish, not Christian.
The Bnei Ephraim, Shmuel asserts, migrated from northern India, or perhaps via Afghanistan or the Mizoram and Manipur regions (where the Bnei Menashe settled after their own wanderings), settling ultimately in an area called Nandial.
Upon his return from Israel to India, Shmuel was joined in his journey to Judaism by his siblings and their children – some 30 families in total (today there are 120 families in the community). Shmuel’s brothers Tzadok and Aaron became community leaders in their home village of Kottareddipalem and established several synagogues. Tzadok also visited Israel as shown in the picture above.
The Bnei Ephraim have had a remarkable if brief history and demonstrate a true passion for Judaism. While their roots remain unclear, Shavei Israel is assisting the community with fulfilling its heartfelt desire to deepen their knowledge of Jewish belief and practice.
Several members of the Bnei Ephraim recently visited Israel. Read the full story. Here is a picture of the group with Shavei Israel Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum.