A Last-Day-of-Hanukkah Gift

(December 10) It all began with coffee at a local café. Jessica Thangjom, the wife of Degel Menashe’s executive director Yitzhak Thangjom and herself a member of the board of KeepOlim, an NGO that lobbies for the rights of immigrants, has an old friend, Mona Judah. One day about a month ago, Mona, an executive at the World Jewish Congress who hails from the Bene Israel community of Indian Jews in Israel, called Jessica and said that she wanted to meet. When they got together, Mona told Jessica her that she had been following her activities on Facebook and would like to contribute her share by giving a Hanukkah present this year to the B’nei Menashe. Did Jessica have any suggestions as to what form this might take?

Mona Judah.

The two talked it over and decided that the best present would be gift cards to a needy B’nei Menashe community. The most useful gift, they concluded after considering the possibilities, would be food and the most deserving community that of Tiberias, whose new B’nei Menashe immigrants have been struggling while showing a commendable ability to organize and take matters into their own hands.

Some of the food card recipients: B’nei Menashe Torah students in Tiberias.

Their strong commitment to Judaism has been a part of their economic difficulties, since many of their menfolk are Torah students who do not hold paying jobs.


Mona and Jessica turned to the Tiberias community’s recognized leader, Aharon Chongloi, who agreed to draw up a list of worthy recipients. Ordering the food cards from the Rami Levi supermarket chain took longer than expected, but at the last minute they arrived just in time for the last candle of the holiday. “It was a minor Hanukkah miracle,” Jessica says – and a much appreciated one by the gift cards’ recipients.