JERUSALEM -- Four women and one girl from the Bnei Menashe community of northeastern India recently made Aliyah to Israel. About 500 members of the Bnei Menashe community were expected to make Aliyah in 2021

Their Aliyah is the result of a government decision that was promoted by the Minister of Aliyah and Integration, MK Pnina Tameno-Shete, with the support of the Minister of the Interior, MK Aryeh Machluf Deri, and the Foreign Minister, MK Gabi Ashkenazi in cooperation with the Shavei Israel organization. 

The arrival of sisters Rut (28), Dina (21), and Avigail Lhanghal (13) from Manipur, along with Malka Zote (37), and Tiferet Renthlei (33) from Mizoram, follows that of the 252 Bnei Menashe who already made Aliyah to Israel two weeks ago. After undergoing bureaucratic processing at Ben-Gurion Airport, the immigrants will be sent to temporary quarantine according to Ministry of Health restrictions. Subsequently, they will join the other recent Bnei Menashe immigrants who are being housed at Shavei Israel’s absorption center in Nordia, near Netanya, before settling in the city of Nof HaGalil.

“We are happy to start 2021 with the Aliyah of five more Bnei Menashe to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel, where they will join their family members who already live here,” said Shavei Israel Chairman and Founder, Michael Freund. “We are confident that 2021 will prove to be a significant year for the continued Aliyah of the Bnei Menashe, as we are planning to bring more than 500 new immigrants from the community to Israel, which is double the number we were able to bring in 2020.”

The Bnei Menashe, or sons of Manasseh, claim descent from one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, who were sent into exile by the Assyrian Empire more than 27 centuries ago. 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. Throughout their sojourn in exile, the Bnei Menashe continued to practice Judaism just as their ancestors did, including observing the Sabbath, keeping kosher, celebrating the festivals and following the laws of family purity. They continued to nourish the dream of one day returning to the land of their ancestors, the Land of Israel.

Thus far, Shavei Israel has made the dream of Aliyah, immigration to Israel, possible for over 4,000 Bnei Menashe and plans to help bring more members of the community to Israel. Currently, there are 6,500 Bnei Menashe awaiting their return to the Jewish homeland. 



Recently Nishma Research released a survey of the Jewish community, on the topic of attitudes toward the COVID-19 vaccine.  In 27 hours Nishma Research already received 1,366 responses. 

Nishma Research released a link to those wishing to participate in the survey.  For those who wish to give their input, the link is and the survey will be available until next Wednesday 1/13.

This survey will tell us which groups plan to get the vaccine and which will not, and the reasons for their decisions within Judaism (Orthodox vs. Non-Orthodox), within Orthodoxy (Modern Orthodox vs. Chasidic vs. Yeshivish), as well as various sub-groups (by gender, age, income, education, etc.); also, across the spectrum of Modern/Centrist Orthodoxy.  Nishma Research is gathering verbatim responses allowing people to explain in their own words why they will or will not get the vaccine.

The survey explores other related topics; for example, the news and information sources relied upon by those who plan to get the vaccine vs. those who do not plan to get the vaccine.  The full report will be released on Monday, January 18.





                  Speaker of the House of Representatives,

                                        Nancy Pelosi

Media profiles of the incoming Speaker of the House, San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi, have referred to her father, the late U.S. Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr., as a “Roosevelt Democrat.” What is not widely known is that D’Alesandro broke ranks with President Roosevelt on the issues of rescuing Jews from Hitler and creating a Jewish state.

D’Alesandro was one of the congressional supporters of the Bergson Group, a maverick Jewish political action committee that challenged the Roosevelt administration’s policies on the Jewish refugee issue during the Holocaust, and later lobbied against British control of Palestine.

The Bergson activists used unconventional tactics to draw attention to the plight of Europe’s Jews, including theatrical pageants, a march by 400 rabbis to the White House, and placing more than 200 full-page advertisements in newspapers around the country. Some of those ads featured lists of celebrities, prominent intellectuals and members of Congress who supported the group, including D’Alesandro.

His involvement with the Bergson Group was remarkable, since he was a Democrat, supporting a group that was publicly challenging a Democratic president. And D’Alesandro was not one of the conservative “Dixiecrat” Democrats who sometimes tangled with FDR over various issues; he was a staunch supporter of President Roosevelt and the New Deal.

The Bergson Group’s whole strategy for moving U.S. policy to one of actively rescuing refugees from Hitler, was based on the premise that there were Democrats like D’Alesandro who might be willing to break ranks with the White House to advance the cause of rescue. Rallying Congress was a way to put pressure on the president.

This approach put Bergson at odds with mainstream Jewish leaders like Rabbi Stephen Wise, head of the American Jewish Congress, who believed that his personal relationships with the president and like-minded Democrats would result in sympathetic U.S. policies on Jewish issues. Wise and other Jewish leaders feared the Bergson Group was usurping the established Jewish organizations’ position in Washington, and they sometimes pressed political leaders to stay away from the Bergsonites.

“We started looking for senators from states where there were no Jews,’ the group’s leader Peter Bergson later explained.’

States with few or no Jews had no local Jewish organizations pressuring those senators to avoid Bergson. “And we found them on the merit of the cause. [Sen. Guy] Gillette we found this way. [Sen. Elbert] Thomas we got. The three main senators we had were Thomas of Utah, Gillette of Iowa, and [Edwin] Johnson from Colorado.” All three were Democrats and supporters of Roosevelt — except when it came to the plight of the Jewish refugees.

The Bergson Group’s campaign for U.S. action to save Jews from Hitler culminated in the introduction of a congressional resolution in late 1943, urging creation of a government agency to rescue refugees. Sen. Tom Connally of Texas, a loyal FDR supporter and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, blocked the committee’s consideration of the resolution. Committee member Elbert Thomas (D-Utah) urged Bergson to wait patiently until the ailing Connally was out sick — and when that day came, Thomas, as the committee’s acting chairman, ushered the resolution through with the support of every Democratic and Republican member.

The Senate committee’s bipartisan action helped influence President Roosevelt to belatedly establish the War Refugee Board. Despite its small staff and meager funding, the board ultimately played a key role in the rescue of more than 200,000 Jews from the Holocaust. Its many accomplishments included sponsoring the heroic life-saving activities of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg in Nazi-occupied Budapest. Every member of Congress who supported the Bergson Group had his own particular reasons for doing so. Elbert Thomas, for example, was a Mormon, and his kinship with the Jewish people was forged by both his community’s experiences as a mistreated minority and his religious convictions about the Jews and the Holy Land. Rep. Andrew Somers (D-N.Y.) was of Irish descent, and his resentment of British rule in Ireland strengthened his support for Bergson’s campaigns against the British shutdown of Palestine to Jewish refugees. 

Rep. Will Rogers, Jr. (D-Calif.), son of the famous entertainer, was part Native American, and he attributed his interest in the plight of the Jews to his general concern for minorities.  D’Alesandro, for his part, was a Catholic and the son of Italian immigrants. It may be that those factors fueled his sympathy for religious minorities and refugees. Or perhaps it was nothing more complicated than his belief in what Bergson called “the merit of the cause” — the simple humanitarian instincts of every sensitive person who hears of innocent people being persecuted and wants to help, regardless of partisan political considerations.

Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

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"It starts with shechita (ritual slaughter), continues with mila (ritual circumcision), and then they start to close down Orthodox Jewish schools,” so asserted Chief Rabbi of Moscow Pinchas Goldschmidt in addressing a meeting of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah (Council of Torah Sages), senior rabbinic governing board of Agudath Israel of America.

Rabbi Goldschmidt was appealing to the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah for their, and Agudath Israel’s, assistance in galvanizing support to fend off growing challenges to Jewish religious life in Europe. As current President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Rabbi Goldschmidt has been extremely active on all matters pertaining to the rights and well-being of the 1.5 million Jews -- 90% of whom affiliate with Orthodoxy -- living on the European continent.

Rabbi Goldschmidt’s presentation to the senior rabbinic leaders focused on the dangers, in both short and long terms, of the recent decision of the European Union’s Court of Justice to allow member countries to ban the practice of ritual slaughter under Jewish and Muslim dietary laws.

The case originated in Belgium, where nearly two years ago laws were passed in the Flanders and Wallonia regions that require stunning prior to slaughter, effectively prohibiting shechita. These laws placed a substantial burden on religious liberty and on Jewish life in Belgium, as well as on those dependent on Belgian shechita living in other affected European countries. It was hoped then that the judicial system would recognize this serious infringement on the rights of the Jewish community and strike down the offending statutes.

Unfortunately, the EU decision not only gave the “green light" for other European countries to place bans on Jewish and Muslim slaughter, “it also represents a major and unprecedented setback in religious freedom generally,” Rabbi Goldschmidt observed. “The ruling includes an assertion that Jewish dietary law could, and should, be modified to allow stunning. This is an astonishing and unlawful intrusion into the religious domain by a secular court – thus creating a ‘slippery slope’ of religious practices at risk.”

While the EU decision will likely spell great harm for the Jewish community, it will also have serious ramifications for the 40 million Muslims living in EU countries. “With the possibility of bans on ritual slaughter and circumcision, the intent of ‘old Europe’ is clearly to make the EU countries inhospitable to both Jews and Muslims,” Rabbi Goldschmidt noted. With litigation remedies exhausted, these religious minorities will have to mobilize political power in each country to fend off opposition, a formidable undertaking.

Over the past two years, Agudath Israel’s Washington Office has been conveying its concern in regard to the Belgian ban and other issues to White House and State Department officials, and congressional leaders, and has received a receptive ear. "We will continue those efforts, said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudah’s Vice President for Government Affairs and Washington Director and Counsel, “and in light of Rabbi Goldschmidt’s appeal, other avenues are being considered and pursued.”

Rabbi Goldschmidt made his appeal to the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah because he wanted the senior rabbinic leadership to recognize the urgency of the challenge facing European Jewry and to emphasize that the broader trend underlying these developments can affect Jews wherever they may be. The members of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah were deeply engaged in the discussion and agreed that this should be a high priority of the American Agudah movement.



       27 Tevet-4 Shevat, 5781                                        Jan. 11-17, 2021 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--644th Web Ed.


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