BMC Chairman, ORT officials, Conclude Agreement
(August 25) At an August 23 meeting in Mumbai, B’nei Menashe Council Chairman Lalam Hangshing and officials of ORT India, the Indian chapter of the international Jewish educational and vocational training organization, formally decided to transfer ORT’s current computer skills program from Imphal, Manipur’s capital, to the new Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail Memorial School in Churichandpur, Manipur’s center of B’nei Menashe life.
ORT originally opened a computer training program on the premises of Churachandpur’s Beit Shalom synagogue in the late 1990s, but moved it to Imphal a decade later after friction with Shavei Israel led to its being asked to leave Beit Shalom. In Imphal too, however, Shavei’s opposition to ORT’s involvement in B’nei Menashe life led to the program’s dwindling over time.
Now, with the launching in Churachandpur of the BMC-sponsored Avichail School, ORT has agreed to move its computer program back to that city while assuming partial responsibility for the school’s funding.
Hangshing met in Mumbai with four ORT officials: Dean Johnny Jhirad; Project Manager Elkan Palkar; CEO Shivani Astamkar; and board member Benjamin Isaacs. “It’s our hope,” he told our Newsletter, “that this agreement will give a big push to both Avichail Schools, in Churachandpur and in Aizawl. There is a lot of enthusiasm for it on both our part and ORT’s. B’nei Menashe education in Manipur and Mizoram has been woefully neglected in recent decades. The whole emphasis has been on Aliyah – and while this remains a primary objective, we can’t go on letting the B’nei Menashe youth that is waiting for Aliyah be deprived of an education, both Jewish and general. Computers should be just a start. With ORT’s help, we can think of vocational training in other areas as well, which would complement the Avichail Schools’ Jewish and Hebrew curriculum. We need young B’nei Menashe to arrive in Israel equipped with at least some of the skills and knowledge that they will need to succeed there. The future of the B’nei Menashe community depends on the future of each one of its young people.”