First B’nei Menashe Dies of Covid-19

(July 23) The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in its first B’nei Menashe fatality with the death Thursday night of Jangkholun Zvulun Kipgen, 69, of the Manipuri village of Gamgiphai between Imphal and Kangpokpi. Kipgen was the father of Michael Kipgen, who has also fallen ill with the Corona virus. [See “Letter from Manipur” in today’s Newsletter.) Jangkholun passed away in the Regional Institute of Medical Science hospital in Imphal, to which he was taken a few days earlier after suffering from shortness of breath.


Jangkholun Kipgen was born in Leikot, a village not far from Gamgiphai, whose Jewish community he joined in 2015. A practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine, he also farmed and owned rice fields. He is survived by his wife, Sarah Hatlam Kipgen, and three children, Khanna Hoineo, Mercy, and Michael.


No announcement of Jangkholun’s death was made by Gamgiphai’s B’nei Menashe community and only a few of its members, our Newsletter has learned, have expressed their condolences. The Kipgen family was expelled from the Shavei Israel-controlled B’nei Menashe community of Gamgiphai a little less than a year ago in retaliation by Shavei for Michael’s participation in Degel Menashe’s emergency food distribution campaign last summer. Arriving at the local Beit Shalom synagogue for services on the holiday of Simchat Torah, the Kipgens were told, scant weeks after the synagogue’s officials and congregation had taken the food that Michael helped distribute, that they were no longer welcome. Since then they were barred from participating in the village’s Jewish life.


“The B’nei Menashe of Manipur have lost one of their heroes,” declared Ohaliav Haokip, general secretary of the B’nei Menashe Council, upon hearing of Jangkholun’s death. “He was steadfast in fighting alongside the BMC against the hypocrites who abuse us all.”


Denied access to the Jewish cemetery of Gamgiphai, Jangkholun Kipgen was buried on his property in a private ceremony.


Jangkholun Kipgen is laid to rest.

Yehi Zikhro Barukh. May his memory be a blessing.