India is the only country in the world where there has never been
an indigenous anti-Semitism. Jews have flourished in India perhaps
for 2,000 years, although only around 6,000 remain today.
personal story is when I had gone to Kolkata to research our tours
about Judaic Tour of India,
and I had wanted to meet and talk to some Jews in Kolkata. None were
available and the next best thing was to visit two of the historically
five Synagogues (three were closed because of the reduced population).
So this old man met us with a bunch of keys and opened the Synagogue
for us. Lovely place. Then I asked if I could see the Torahs. He took
another set of keys and we were in the sanctum-sanctorum
and I was able to handle the Torahs. I asked if we could see the other
Synagogue, and the whole exercise was repeated at the second Synagogue.
I asked this man if he was a Jew. He laughed, and replied in Hindi,
"No, I am a Muslim". Hold on, I said, but Muslims and Jews
are fighting in the Middle East. Another smile, and I hear profound
words: "Sahib, this is India!"
Among the Manipur Jews there are some who believe that all the Manipur and Mizoram residents (about 2 million people) are originally from the Menashe tribe.
Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail visited India several times. During one of his visits (in 1979) he named this community Bnei Menashe because the community’s Mizo ancestor had the name Manmasi, which could possibly be the same as Menassah son of Joseph. In 2005 Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, one of Israel’s two chief rabbis, recognized the Bnei Menashe community as descendants of one of the lost tribes of Israel.
Menashe relate their history of exile from the Northern Kingdom of
Israel in 721 B.C. across the silk route finally ending up in India
and Myanmar. Their oral history, passed down 2,700 years, describes
their escape from slavery in Assyria to Media/Persia. From there they
moved on to Afghanistan, and traveled toward Hindu-Kush on to Tibet,
then to Kaifeng, reaching the Chinese city around 240 B.C.E. The Bnei
Menashe believe that while in China their ancestors were enslaved
yet again. These events caused the Israelites to flee and live in
caves, with different groups going in various directions: Some down
the Mekong River into Vietnam, the Philippines, Siam, Thailand and
Malaysia, while some of the Israelites moved to Burma and, in this
case, some west to east India (Manipur). These people have Chinese
appearance and believe that Christian missionaries in the 19th century
forced them to abolish their Jewish identity and adopt Christianity.
Known as the "Children of Menmasseh", the majority of them
are believed to be Messianic Jews (believers in Jesus Christ -- Yeshua).
Today, some people refer to these people as "Shinlung" the
"cave dwellers." These “Manipur Jews” have established a
number of synagogues and have gained thousands of converts.
Is this a major historical and demographic period? See the BBC article.