South Asian Jews in India


Population
Main Language
Largest Religion
Christian
Evangelical
Progress
Progress Gauge
* From latest India census data.
Current Christian values may substantially differ.

Subgroups: 2

Subgroup Name Population
Kale Unknown
Gore Unknown

Introduction / History

There are basically four main South Asian Jewish communities in India, each of a different origin and with different cultural characteristics and traditions: the Cochins, the Bene Israel, Baghdadis, and Bene Menashe. These Jewish people basically have assimilated into the Indian culture or joined the large groups of Indians. The Cochin Jews say their ancestors originally left Jerusalem after the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD and settled in Malaysia. In the ninth century AD they migrated from Malaysia and settled on the Malabar Coast at the town of Cochin located in Kerala, India. They were excellent traders. In 1344 they built a synagogue in Cochin and continued to practice their Jewish religion. Due to their skills with trading and languages, a number of Cochin Jews worked for the Dutch East India Company who first came to India in the 1600s. The Cochins to this day remain highly efficient in business and trade. A leading family among the Cochin Jews was the Rahabi Family. Ezekiel Rahabi, a strong leader, was friendly with Christians; however, he believed they were heretical. In 1750 he wrote his own Hebrew translation of the New Testament titled The Book of the Gospel Belonging to the Followers of Jesus to show Jewish people that their Messiah was yet to come as Jesus was not the Messiah. The translation was biased and incorrect. This has had a strong impact on the Cochin Jews who remain resistant to the gospel. Ezekiel's son David Rahabi was instrumental in revivifying Judaism among the Bene-Israel and the Baghdadi Jews. When England gave India their independence in 1948 there were about 2,500 Cochin Jews in India. Many began to emigrate to Israel. Only a few Cochin Jews currently live in India. The early 19th century marks the arrival of the Bene Israel. They arrived in Bombay, now called Mumbai, where they were merchants of sesame oil. A few Bene Israel became proficient teachers of Hebrew. These Bene Israel scholars published Marathi translations of classic Hebrew texts, Jewish prayer books, rabbinical commentaries and sermons.


What Are Their Lives Like?

Compared to the others, Baghdadi Jews are relatively recent settlers in India. Originally from Aleppo, Baghdad, Basra and Yemen they settled mainly in Calcutta and Bombay in the early nineteenth century during the British rule. As white non-Indians, the Baghdadis enjoyed special status and prospered under the British. Like the Bene-Israel, they decided to leave India when the country became independent. BNei Menashe (meaning "Sons of Manasseh") are the Mizo and Chin-Kuki tribesmen from Manipur and Mizoram in East India. They are commonly known as Chikim tribes. Centuries ago, they were headhunters. They had no written history and spoke languages similar to the indigenous people of Tibet and Burma. In teaching them the Old Testament, Christian missionaries began to find that there were many similarities between their mythology and the Old Testament stories! In 1951 one of their leaders announced that in his dream Israel was the ancient homeland of Mizo and Chin- Kuki. A number of the tribal people began to think of themselves as Jewish. In 1970 a number of them embraced Judaism and started to study and practice Judaism. Like the other Jewish groups in India, almost all have migrated to Israel from India.


What Are Their Beliefs?

Organized Jewish life in India continues despite the fact most have moved to Israel. Most of them incorporate all or some of the traditional practices of Judaism into their lives. They observe dietary laws, Sabbath, and circumcise male children. Jewish holidays are important to them. These involve the festivals of Passover, Shavuot (Feast of Weeks and Sukkot (Festival of Booths). Others are the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simkah Torah. The Torah and other Jewish literature has been transliterated into their local languages. The few synagogues they have continue to function with committed religious Jewish leaders. The synagogues do not have a resident rabbi, however, rabbis from outside the country often visit and extend teaching to the people. The people vary in their acceptance of Judaism from Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.


What Are Their Needs?

Many Indian Jews are mixed between Jewish and Indian ancestry. This has produced a problem for those in Israel when it to marriage or being accepted as Jewish. When the different Indian Jewish groups started to migrate to Israel the orthodox rabbinic council questioned their Jewish heritage. This carried over to problems when Indian Jews wanted to marry Israeli Jews from other countries. Surprisingly, the Court recognized the Bnei Menashe community as one of the ten lost tribes of Israel in 2005. Faithful to their Jewish religion, most of them are not open to Christ followers reaching out to them with the gospel. It is important that Messianic believers, especially in Israel, make the effort to develop trusting friendships with the Indian Jews so they can see the evidence of the living Lord in their lives.


Prayer Points

* Scripture Prayers for the Jew, South Asian in India.

Pray these people will be open to hearing the teachings of Jesus and knowing that in them comes the deeper spiritual blessing of knowing God's grace. Pray that Messianic Jewish believers will reach out to these people. Pray they will be directed to where they can hear Bible radio broadcasts. Pray these Jewish people will firmly understand that following Christ will not separate them from their Jewish identity.


Profile Source:   JoshuaProject  

People Name General Jew, South Asian
People Name in Country Jew, South Asian
Natural Name South Asian Jews
Population this Country 6,100
Population all Countries 6,900
Total Countries 2
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
Alternate Names Bene Israel; Shanvar Teli; Yahudan; Yahudi; Yudan; ज्यू, साउत एशियन
People ID 19239
ROP3 Code 115649
Country India
Region Asia, South
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 10  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Total States on file 15
Largest States
Maharashtra
4,400
Gujarat
400
Mizoram
300
Manipur
200
Kerala
200
Rajasthan
200
Madhya Pradesh
100
West Bengal
90
Delhi
80
Karnataka
80
Goa
40
Tamil Nadu
20
Daman and Diu
20
Jammu and Kashmir
20
Haryana
20
Specialized Website South Asia Peoples
Country India
Region Asia, South
Continent Asia
10/40 Window Yes
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank 10  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Total States 15
  Maharashtra 4,400
  Gujarat 400
  Mizoram 300
  Manipur 200
  Kerala 200
  Rajasthan 200
  Madhya Pradesh 100
  West Bengal 90
  Delhi 80
  Karnataka 80
  Goa 40
  Tamil Nadu 20
  Daman and Diu 20
  Jammu and Kashmir 20
  Haryana 20
Website South Asia Peoples
Primary Language Marathi (4,400 speakers)
Language Code mar   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 7
Secondary Languages
Hindi
500
English
500
Meitei
400
Malayalam
200
Hebrew
200
Gujarati
90
Primary Language Marathi (4,400 speakers)
Language Code mar   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 7
Secondary Languages
  Hindi 500
  English 500
  Meitei 400
  Malayalam 200
  Hebrew 200
  Gujarati 90
People Groups Speaking Marathi

Primary Language:  Marathi

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1807-1957)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (1811-1982)
Bible-Complete Yes  (1821-2015)
Bible-NT Audio Online
Bible-NT Text Online
Possible Print Bibles
Amazon
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (GRN)
Audio Recordings Online New Testament (FCBH)
Audio Recordings Online Scripture (Talking Bibles)
Audio Recordings Online Scripture / Bible
Audio Recordings Oral Bible stories in Marathi
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video Following Jesus (India, JF Project)
Film / Video God's Story Video
Film / Video Indigitube.tv Video / Animation
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Marathi
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels
Film / Video Magdalena (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video My Last Day (Jesus Film Project Anime)
Film / Video Story of Jesus for Children (JF Project)
General Four Spiritual Laws
General Gospel website in this language
General Got Questions Ministry
Mobile App Download audio Bible app as APK file from FCBH
Mobile App Download audio Bible app from Google Play Store
Mobile App Download Bible from Google Play Store
Primary Religion: Ethnic Religions
Major Religion Percent *
Buddhism
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
100.00 %
Hinduism
0.00 %
Islam
0.00 %
Non-Religious
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
Unknown
0.00 %
* From latest India census data.
Current Christian values may substantially differ.
Photo Source Bethany World Prayer Center 
Map Source People Group data: Omid. Map geography: UNESCO / GMI. Map Design: Joshua Project  
Profile Source JoshuaProject  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more


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