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Updated on July 17, 2018
The first Jews to settle in Cochin, 2,500 years ago were the Cochin Jews.
The first Jews to settle in Cochin, 2,500 years ago were the Cochin Jews.


After the destruction of the First Temple, Solomon's Temple, the Prophets prophesized and encouraged the Babylonian exiles by reiterating the words of Moses. In chapter 11 v. 11-12 the Prophet Isaiah says: And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Deu 30:1,4

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessings and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee. If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy of gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee (v.4).

Jeremiah 29:14

And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

Ezekiel 20:41,42

I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers.

The Jews were scattered over the world and two large groups found their way to China and India in Asia. At their height, there were about 20,000 Jews in India though only 4,000 remain today, mostly in the cities of Mumbai and Pune. The Indian Jews were found to be five groups, The Cochin Jews, the Bene Israel, the Baghdadi Jews, the Bnei Benashe and the Bene Ephraim Jews.

Paradesi Syngogue
Paradesi Syngogue
Paradesi Syngogue in Cochin  Was destroyed during the Portugese Inquisition, but rebuilt during the Dutch occupation.
Paradesi Syngogue in Cochin Was destroyed during the Portugese Inquisition, but rebuilt during the Dutch occupation.


Wikipedia The Jewish population in India is hard to estimate since each Jewish community is distinct with different origins; some arrived during the time of the Kingdom of Judah, others are seen by some as descendants of Israel's Ten Lost Tribes. Of the total Jewish population in India, about half live in Manipur and Mizoram and a quarter live in the city of Mumbai. Unlike many parts of the world, Jews have historically lived in India without anti-Semantism from Hindus (though they were victims of anti-Semitism by the Portuguese[1] and their Inquisition during their colonial rule in Goa). The Jews settled in Kodungallur (Cranganore) on the Malabar Coast, where they traded peacefully, until 1524. Jews have held important positions under Indian (Hindu) princes in the past and even after independence from British Rule, have risen to very high positions in government, military and industry. In addition to Jewish expatriates and recent immigrants, there are five native Jewish communities in India:

  1. The Cochin Jews  arrived in India 2,500 years ago and settled down in Cochin, Kerala as traders.
  2. The Bene Israel arrived in the state of Maharashtra 2,100 years ago.
  3. The Baghadadi Jews arrived in the city Mumbai from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, and Arab countries about 250 years ago.
  4. The Bnei Manashe are Mizo  and Kuki tribesmen in Manipur and Mizoram who claim descent from the tribe of Manasseh.
  5. The Bene Ephraim (also called "Telugu Jews") are a small group who speak Telugu; their observance of Judaism dates to 1981.

Michael Freund (left) organization aims to gather in the lost tribes of Israel.
Michael Freund (left) organization aims to gather in the lost tribes of Israel.


The Cochin Jews were the oldest Indian Jewish communities in India. They arrived in 562 BC in Cochin, which is now Kerala. More Jews came in 70 CE after the destruction of the Second Temple. Nowadays, perhaps twenty or twenty-five Jews remain.

The Jewish Encyclopedia states, "Though they neither eat nor drink together, nor intermarry, the Black and the White Jews of Cochin have almost the same social and religious customs. They hold the same doctrines, use the same ritual (Sephardic), observe the same feasts and fasts, dress alike, and have adopted the same vernacular, Malayalam, a dialect of Tamil. ... The two classes are equally strict in religious observances,"[10] and prominently featured is a black Cochin Jew with his entire head shaved, save for his very prominent peyot. According to Chemana, the Jews of Cochin "coalesced around the religious fundamentals: devotion and strict obedience to Biblical Judaism and to the Jewish customs and traditions ... Hebrew, taught through the Torah texts by rabbis and teachers who came especially from Yemen...".

Modern times

Today most of Cochin's Jews have emigrated (principally to Israel). Large groups have settled in the Moshav of N Nevatim in the Negev (southern Israel) and Moshav of Yuval in the North, in the neighborhood of Katamon in Jerusalem, in Beer Sheva. Dimona and Yeruham. In Cochin, the Paradesi Synagogue still functions.

Bene Israel Jews
Bene Israel Jews


It is estimated that there were 6,000 Bene Israel in the 1830s, 10,000 at the turn of the century, and in 1948—their peak in India—they numbered 20,000.[1] Since that time, their population in India has decreased through emigration (mostly to Israel) to under 5,000. In 1964 the Israeli Rabbinate declared that the Bene Israel are "full Jews in every respect." A full description of life in Israel for the Bene Israel can be found in the following reference.[2].

The town of Beersheva in Southern Israel has the largest community of Bene Israel. The Bene Israel claim a lineage to the Cohanim, the Israelite priestly class, which claims descent from Aaron, the brother of Moses. In 2002, a DNA test confirmed that the Bene Israel share the same heredity as the Cohanim.[3][4].



The Virtual Jewish History Tour - India In March 2005, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, one of Israel's two chief rabbis, decided to recognize the members of India's Bnei Menashe community as descendants of the ancient Israelites due to their exceptional devotion to Judaism. In the past two decades, some 1,700 Bnei Menashe have emigrated to Israel.

Israel: Balancing Demographics in the Jewish State

by Martha Kruger - July 2005

The Falasha Mura are not the only group with Jewish roots. Beginning in the 1970s, some 3,500 Bnei Menashe decided to formally return to the Jewish people. The Bnei Menashe live in the Indian provinces of Manipur and Mizoram, which are tucked between Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma). They are members of the Shinlung tribe, which traces its roots to the lost Israelite tribe of Manasseh and to this day practice many Jewish customs.

Today, about 500 Bnei Menashe live in Israel, most in settlements in the West Bank and Gaza — leading some Israelis to see their potential numbers as political strength. Most Israelis, including government officials, worry that allowing Bnei Menashe to immigrate facilitates further immigration by the 2 million people related to the Shinlung.



The Baghdadi Jews are one of the main Jewish communities of India. The "Baghdadi" Jewish community of India is so called because its members were chiefly descended from Iraqi Jewish immigrants to India who moved to that country during the British Raj. The name of the community derives from Baghdad,, although they do not originate exclusively from Baghdad, but from other areas of Iraq as well, in addition to other Middle-Eastern countries of the Ottaman Empire.

The community developed as a result of Jews fleeing religious persecution in Muslim lands to the northwest of India during the British imperial era. The majority came from Iraq, thus giving the community its name, though smaller groups came from other countries such as Syria, Iran and Afghanistan and assimilated into the "Baghdadi" group. Unlike other Jewish communities in India whose oral tradition attest to a presence in India going back as long as 2000 years, the Baghdadi communities were established relatively recently (in the past few centuries). While the Baghdadi Jews are known primarily from their presence in India, they also established themselves in trading ports further east, notably in Yangon (Rangoon), Singapore, Penang, and Shanghai, as well as the west. Clothing in the Baghdadi community is usually Western clothing.


Indian Jew Wedding
Indian Jew Wedding


The Bene Ephraim are a small group of Telugu-speaking Jews in eastern Andhra Pradesh whose recorded observance of Judaism, like that of the Bnei Menashe, is quite recent, dating only to 1981.


Population 350

The Bene Ephraim, (Hebrew: "Sons of Ephraim") also called Telugu Jews because they speak Telugu, are a small community of Jews living primarily in Kottareddipalem, a village outside Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India, near the delta of the River Krishna.[1][2][3]

The Bene Ephraim claim to trace their observance of Judaism back to ancient times, and recount a history similar to that of the  Bnei Menashe in the northeastern Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur: adoption of Christianity upon the arrival of Baptist missionaries around the beginning of the 19th century.



The majority of Indian Jews have "made Aliyah" (migrated) to Israel; since the creation of the modern state in 1948. A total of 75,000 Indian Jews now live in Israel (over 1% of Israel's total population). There are reminders of Jewish localities in Kerala still left such as Synagogues.

In 2014 the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem sponsored another group of 250 Bnei
Menashe from India.

WATCH: Jews from India Return ‘Home’ After 2700 Years of Exile

82 Bnei Menashe immigrants from India arrived home in Israel this evening!!..... #OperationMenashe2017

CBN TV - Lost Tribes of Jews from China, India Make 'Aliyah'

CBN TV - Lost Tribes of Jews from China, India Make 'Aliyah'

►► Tribes of Jews from China, India Make 'Aliyah'. As CBN News reports, some Jews are now returning ...


ith DNA Tests, Mystery of the “Lost Tribe” of Indian Jews Finally Solved

By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz April 15, 2016 , 8:00 am 230 15 9 89Email 465Share

“And it was written according to all that Mordechai commanded concerning the Yehudim, even to the satraps, and the governors and princes of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia.”Esther 8:9 (The Israel Bible™)


About 100 “Bnei Menashe” (Sons of Menashe) landed at the Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, on June 25, 2015. The newcomers from the India-Tibet border area, are meant to settle in the Golan Heights, traditionally the homeland of the Meneshe Tribe. (Photo by Flash90

When the Bnei Israel first came to Israel from India in 1952, little was known about their history, and their connection to the Jewish people was rejected by the Chief Rabbi of Israel. However, a new genetic study has justified their claims, opening up new possibilities that one of the Lost Tribes of Israel has been found.

The history of the Bnei Israel is shrouded in mystery. There are among the diverse population of India, several distinct groups of Jews. The Cochin Jews have a history that is separate from the Bne Israel, as do the Bnei Menashe, who arrived at a different region in India via China.

Theories about the origins of the Bnei Israel vary greatly. One theory holds they left northern Israel 2,000 years ago, another that they came from Southern Arabia or Persia, 500 years earlier, and yet another that they arrived from Yemen in the 8th century BCE. There is no independent support or substantiating evidence for any of these claims.

What is known is that at least as far back as the 18th century, Bnei Israel members lived in villages along the Konkan coast and were called Shanivar Teli, Marathi for ‘Saturday oil pressers’, since they worked as oil pressers but did not work on Saturdays. It is possible that the community had been there for much longer; Maimonides, a preeminent medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher, briefly mentioned a Jewish community living in India in a letter he wrote in the 13th century.

After Israel became a state in 1948, 2,300 of India’s 20,000 Jews arrived in Israel. Soon after, most of the remaining community immigrated to Israel. There are approximately 50,000 Beni Israel in Israel today, though 5,000 still remain in India, mainly in Mumbai.


In 1962, Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Yitzchak Nissim, ruled that the lineage of Indian applicants for marriage licenses would be closely inspected. In case of doubtful or unclear Jewish ancestry, the applicant was required to undergo a formal conversion. The press in India accused Israel of racism, and the Indian community in Israel staged protests against the religious policy, leading to a 1964 rabbinical ruling that the Beni Israel are “full Jews in every respect”.

Now, fifty years later, groundbreaking technology is able to back up the prescient ruling. A new genetic study of the Indian Jews proves that the community shares “considerable genetic ancestry” with today’s Jews, leading researchers to conclude that they are, indeed, of Jewish origin. The study was conducted by Dr. Yedael Waldman of Cornell University with an international team of scholars.

The study, published March 24th in PLOS ONE, concluded that the Bnei Israel did share much of their DNA with other Indians. But they also found genetic components that are not present in other Indian groups – components which connect them to the Jewish people.

“The study showed that the genetics of Bnei Israel resemble the local Indian populations, while at the same time constituting a clearly separated and unique population in India,” the study stated. “They are unique among Indian and Pakistani populations we analyzed in sharing considerable genetic ancestry with other Jewish populations.”

The researchers concluded that the original ancestors, Middle Eastern Jews, arrived in India about 19 to 33 generations ago (600 to 1,000 years). They also discovered that there were more men in the group of the original Jews. Many of them married local women.

As the founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, Michael Freund assists communities like the Bnei Israel who claim a historic connection with Israel. Breaking Israel News asked him how genetic testing affects this.

“Genetic testing can be a double-edged sword,” Freund explained. “The Jewish people are both a nation and a religion. On the one hand we are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But throughout history, individuals and groups have converted and formally joined the Jewish people. In the case of Ashkenazic Jewry, 60 percent of the population can be traced back to four Jewish families that migrated to Europe from Israel. But that means that the other 40 percent of Ashkenazi Jews don’t have that genetic test result. We wouldn’t want to deny them their rightful Jewish identity on the basis of a DNA test.”

“On the other hand,” Freund reasoned, “genetic testing is an important tool in helping people discover their Jewish ancestry.”


Shavei Israel founder and director Michael Freund (Photo: Michael Freund, Facebook)

Freund has had first-hand experience with the benefits of testing. “I have seen this in various countries throughout the world,” he said. “I have connected with many people who have done genetic testing and were stunned to discover that they have Jewish ancestors.” He specified that “this is not always a religious connection. Sometimes it arouses an affinity for Israel and Jewish causes. In other cases it does lead them on a transformative religious journey.”

He warned that, as the question of Jewish identity is already a matter of fierce debate in rabbinic courts, the genetic factor and its implications must be discussed among religious leaders. “This is still in the very early stages but it is an issue that rabbinic authorities will have to deal with in the next couple of years,” he predicted.

Overall, Freud believes genetic testing is a good thing. “I see it as an exclusively positive tool for the Jewish people, strengthening our connection with the world and allowing people to discover their Jewish identity in a way that was impossible only a few years ago,” he said.

“We may come to a point in the near future when a mitochondrial DNA test could be proof of Jewish identity. That will be a turning point in Jewish history.”

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The messianic concept of arriving on eagle’s wings has also served as inspiration to modern day Israel. In June 1949, the newly established country launched an operation to bring Yemen’s threatened community of Jews to Israel. British and American transport planes made over 380 flights from Aden in a secret operation that saved 49,000 Jews.

WATCH: Jews from India Return ‘Home’ After 2700 Years of ExileEnd of a 2,700-Year Exile: Israel Marks 8 Million Shekels for Return of India’s Lost Tribe

By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz May 26, 2016 , 12:30 pm 78 16 6 20Email 1.4KShare

“Thus saith the Lord GOD: I will even gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered and I will give you the land of Yisrael.” Ezekiel 11:17 (The Israel Bible™)


MK Rabbi Dov Lipman and Israel Retruns Founder Michael Freund at Ben Gurion Airport together with the Bnei Menashe children who made Aliyah in 2014. (Photo: Nir Kafri)

It is truly a blessing to the nation when their tax dollars go towards bringing about a Biblical prophecy. This was the case when the Israeli government set aside eight million shekels to settle 712 members of the Bnei Menashe, a religious group from India which claims Jewish roots, in the Holy Land. The decision was reported in Israeli media on Sunday.

The Bnei Menashe tribe, which numbers around 9,000 members, last had contact with the Jewish people thousands of years ago, according to their oral history. They are distinct and separate from the community of Indian Jews known as Bnei Israel, who arrived in Israel in 1952. The Bnei Israel did not need to undergo conversion and genetic testing has recently substantiated their unbroken genealogical connection with Israel.

The Bnei Menashe live in northeast India, in an area situated between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Also known as the Shinlung, the Bnei Menashe have an oral tradition, passed down for 2,700 years, which describes how the Assyrians invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 721 BCE and took them into slavery.

According to their tradition, they escaped slavery and fled to Persia, and then Afghanistan. The Bnei Menashe later migrated toward Hindu-Kush and Tibet, eventually reaching Kaifeng in East Central China around 240 BCE.

In 100 CE, the Bnei Menashe were expelled from China. Some fled down the Mekong River into Vietnam, the Philippines, Siam, Thailand and Malaysia. Others went to Burma and west to India.


The Bnei Menashe have always observed mitzvot (Torah commandments) and lived as Jews in every respect, and there are over 50 synagogues throughout northeastern India. Several hundred members of the community have already immigrated to Israel, and thousands more clamor to join them.

Israel’s Absorption Ministry gave responsibility for the aliyah and resettling of the 712 Bnei Menashe members to Shavei Israel, a non-profit outreach organization that helps people around the world who are descendants of Jews in order to strengthen their connection with Israel. Shavei will make arrangements with the local Indian government and fly the community from India to Israel. After the Indian Jews arrive, the organization will also be responsible for all aspects of their integration.

Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, first heard of the Bnei Menashe 15 years ago when he was working as a deputy in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s communications office. Freund received a letter from the Bnei Menashe, claiming they were the long-lost descendants of the tribe of Menashe, and one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. They asked for his help in returning to the Promised Land.


Shavei Israel founder and director Michael Freund (Photo: Michael Freund, Facebook)

Though Israel is eager to help long-lost brethren return to their homeland, the absorption process is difficult and has not always been successful. Almost the entire population of Ethiopian Jews was brought to Israel in multiple airlifts, but their integration into Israeli society suffered serious shortcomings.

Freund explained the challenge of resettling long-lost Jews in Israel. “When we started Shavei, I saw the need for establishing a comprehensive absorption model together with the government,” Freund told Breaking Israel News.

“A lot of time and planning went into this model. We consulted with experts in the field and as a result, the Bnei Menashe are considered a model for success,” Freund explained. “All of the communities have asked for more immigrants from the group, and other communities have heard of the success of the program and have asked to take part.”

Over 3,000 Bnei Menashe and tens of thousands new immigrants from other communities have make aliyah to Israel, with the help of organizations like Shavei and the Israeli government.

The prophetic project has diplomatic implications, as it brings Israel and India even closer. In October last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the Bnei Menashe a “living bridge between our two peoples” in his speech at the special Knesset session in honor of the president of India, Pranab Mukherjee.

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© 2010 einron


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    • einron profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA


      Glad to help any student in her/his study. Appreciate what you said about the hub being very good material and very well researched.

      Blessing and Peace!

    • LisaG profile image


      8 years ago from Caribbean

      This is very good material I can use for my studies. Very well researched too. God's Word is truth!

    • einron profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

      Deborrah K. Ogans

      God's words are being fulfilled in Jeremiah and Ezekiel. He is coming soon! All Glory to God!

      Bless you for understanding the words of God!

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 

      8 years ago

      Einron, Very interesting and thought provoking hub! The prophecies in Jeremiah and Ezekiel are being fulfilled! God's Word is true! All the signs serve to confirm the Lord's Word! Jesus Is Coming Soon! To God be the GLORY!

      Thank you for sharing, In His love, Peace & Blessings!


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