(JTA) — India’s small Bnei Menashe community is reeling after a member was killed and a synagogue was burned during violent clashes in the country’s northeast.
Some members of the community, practicing Jews who are seeking to move to Israel, have sought shelter at paramilitary camps, according to Isaac Thangjom, a Jew from the area who now lives in Israel. He said the situation is “very grim,” conditions are “squalid” and food and aid are scarce.
“It’s anarchy,” Thangjom told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week. “They’re specifically targeting Kuki [tribe members] and calling us foreigners, telling us to ‘go back to Burma.’”
Bnei Menashe sources in Manipur, where the violence took place, were unreachable as the government suspended internet service in the region. Jewish community members in Mizoram, the nearby region which is also home to several small communities of Bnei Menashe Jews, said it had not been affected.
A planned visit to India by Israel’s foreign minister, Eli Cohen, was cut short on Tuesday because of a military operation in Israel. Cohen had not been planning to visit Manipur, the region where the violence took place, and Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration did not return requests for comment or questions about whether he would address the violence during his visit. His planned agenda included inaugurating a “Jewish Trail” in Mumbai that highlights sites of Jewish significance including synagogues there. An estimated 4,000 Jews currently live in Mumbai.
Manipur is home to an estimated 5,000 Bnei Menashe Jews, all members of a group that an Israeli chief rabbi in 2005 recognized as a “lost tribe” with historic Jewish ties. While researchers have refuted that claim, instead documenting that the group has undergone a recent mass conversion, community members all practice Judaism and many are trying to move to Israel, sometimes putting their lives on hold for years in preparation. About 5,000 Bnei Menashe have successfully immigrated to Israel, where they undergo formal Jewish conversions upon arrival.
The recent violence in Manipur began after a student group organized a protest against talks to grant “scheduled tribe” status to the Meitei community, which represents more than half of Manipur’s population of 3 million. The status would grant the Meitei special privileges in education and employment reserved for minority tribal groups, who say the Meitei community already has outsized political representation and privilege.
The region has been plagued by tribal conflicts for decades, but the recent violence is being seen as a side effect of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist administration. The Meitei are mostly Hindus, while most members of the Kuki and other tribal groups are Christian. Members of the Manipuri Jewish community were targeted because of their dual identity as Kuki-Mizo tribe members, Thangjom says.
The Manipur government said Tuesday that violence has died down in recent days and the state is “returning to normalcy.” Hundreds of cars, homes and churches in the region were vandalized or torched, according to media reports. India’s army has evacuated some 20,000 people and issued “shoot-at-sight” orders as they attempt to gain control over the situation. According to the Manipur government, at least 60 deaths have been recorded so far.
The Indian army was been deployed to Manipur as the people who live there — including the Bnei Menashe — are trying to remain safe during a volatile situation.
In recent years, tensions have arisen within Bnei Menashe communities in Manipur and nearby Mizoram surrounding the process to move to Israel, which since the early 2000s has been managed by Shavei Israel, an Israeli nonprofit dedicated to easing immigration for descendants of Jews in isolated communities. A newer group, Degel Menashe, has launched to advance the emigration, which it alleges Shavei Israel has not advanced effectively; Shavei has denied those allegations. Thangjom is an organizer with Degel Menashe.
Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, said in a statement that some members of the Bnei Menashe community had been wounded in this week’s violence, in addition to the one who died. A Torah scroll had been burned when a synagogue was destroyed, he added.
“The area in northeastern India where the Bnei Menashe community lives is experiencing grave ethnic conflicts and its members are in real danger,” Freund said in the statement. He added, “It is time for Israel to act and bring them home to the Jewish state before more Bnei Menashe Jews are killed.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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