Looking to 2023: A Degel Menashe Editorial
(January 5) The start of 2023 also marks the start of the fourth year of Degel Menashe’s activities. We were granted our Israeli NGO or amuta status by the Registrar of Non-Profit Organizations in Jerusalem at the end of 2019, and began to operate in January 2020.
We’ve come a long way since then. Although we’re still a small organization, we’ve grown greatly. Our income, our budget, and the scope of our activities have expanded from year to year. We’ve accomplished much and hope to accomplish much more.
All this was spelled out at our annual Board of Directors meeting held in the last week of December. As presented to the board, our 2022 record was impressive. In Israel, it included our academic and vocational scholarship program that awarded grants to 21 winners, the highest number ever; our oral history project, which culminated in the publication last summer of the already much-acclaimed Lives of the Children of Manasia; the help extended by us, some of it openly and some behind the scenes, to members of the B’nei Menashe community in need of counseling and aid; and our active participation in events of the Indian Jewish community, which – in part due to our efforts -- now regards the B’nei Menashe as an integral component.
In India, we can point to our educational programs in Manipur and Mizoram, where Jewish schools, with our financial and administrative assistance, are now functioning for the first time on a daily basis; to our backing of Manipur’s resuscitated B’nei Menashe Council, which once again, after long years of abeyance, has become a hub of communal activity; to our musicology project, which has been collecting traditional B’nei Menashe songs with an eye to issuing one or more CDs of them; and to our unwavering legal and moral support for Sarah Baite, whose battle against injustice, followed by the entire B’nei Menashe community, has made her a B’nei Menashe heroine.
All of this will be continued in 2023 with the addition, we hope, of additional projects, such as a leadership training program to provide young leaders for the B’nei Menashe community in Israel; a socio-economic survey of Israel’s B’nei Menashe to pinpoint their problems and needs with an eye to developing government and private programs to deal with these; a “peace corps” of young Israelis who will travel to India to teach the B’nei Menashe Hebrew and other subjects while interacting with them and learning about their history and culture, and still other things.
This leaves for last our campaign for reforming and quickening the process of B’nei Menashe Aliyah and having it transferred from the hands of the private organization, Shavei Israel, that now has exclusive control of it to a public body, preferably The Jewish Agency, so that it can be administered fairly, expeditiously, and without the many abuses that have characterized it until now. 2022, a year which witnessed no B’nei Menashe Aliyah at all, saw a continuance of this campaign, culminating in a commitment obtained by us from the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration not to extend Shavei Israel’s monopoly on the B’nei Menashe Aliyah process on the future. If the Jewish Agency does not step in, the Ministry promised in an official document, the process will be opened to competing organizations.
Now that 2023 has ushered in a new government, we have every hope that the Ministry, which is as new political administration, will honor its predecessors’ commitments. Degel Menashe will do all it can to see that this happens and will continue to lobby with the Ministry, The Jewish Agency, and the Israeli Rabbinate to help press its campaign for B’nei Menashe Aliyah reform to a successful conclusion.
.A happy new year to all our readers!