Sarah Baite Answers Michael Freund
(February 10) Sarah Baite has replied to Michael Freund.
“I had never expected to receive a letter from you,’ begins her response to Shavei Israel chairman, written two weeks after receiving a letter from him. (See our January 27 article, “Michael Freund Writes to Sarah Baite.”) One of these two weeks was spent in hiding from threatening phone calls warning her that she had better withdraw her police complaint in which she charged a fellow B’nei Menashe, now living in Israel, with the 2016 rape of her daughter.
Baite’s letter to Freund was written in Kuki, the only language she knows, and translated for her into an understandable if not always idiomatically correct English. Here is the complete text of the translation, with a notary’s authentication at the bottom:
For those of our readers who prefer to read the letter in its original form, its handwritten Kuki version appears at the bottom of this article.
To help put Baite’s answer to Freund in proper context, several things should be pointed out:
1. In his January 21 letter to Baite, Michael Freund professed to have known nothing about her daughter’s rape prior to her January 11 complaint to the police. As Baite points out, however, this can only mean that Freund’s senior staff, especially Meital Singson, who was Shavei Israel’s Manipur administrator in 2016 when the rape took place, and Tzvi Khaute, Shavei Israel’s international Coordinator and Freund’s top aide in running the organization, have hidden vital information from him, since both were demonstrably aware of the incident when it took place. Nor could the decision, taken at the time, to expel Baite from Beit Shalom synagogue in Churachandpur for the “crime” of reporting the rape to the Village Authority where she lived, have been carried out without Singson’s and Khaute’s express approval.
2. In his January 21 letter, Freund called on Baite “to contact all the relevant authorities so that they will investigate the matter thoroughly.” Yet although it has been publicly known for the past month that Shlomo Sehjalal Kipgen, Shavei Israel’s current Manipur Administrator, repeatedly threatened Baite, both personally and by thugs employed by him, that she had better withdraw her police complaint, he has not been removed from his position by Freund or even openly rebuked for his actions.
3. In his letter to Baite, Freund wrote, referring to an appeal made by her to Aliyah minister Pnina Tamano-Shata in August 2020, “I can assure you that no one from Shavei Israel blocked your Aliya or removed you from any Aliya list.” To this Baite has answered that she never claimed in her appeal to Tamano-Shata to have been removed from such a list. She wrote the minister that her requests to be interviewed by Shavei for inclusion in an Aliya list were ignored or flatly turned down – in a word, that Shavei did block her Aliya.
4. Freund concluded his letter by writing, “If there is anything else that we can do to assist you, please feel free to contact me directly.” Sarah Baite has now contacted Michael Freund directly. It will be interesting to see what he does about it.
Having returned to Churchandpur after spending a week in concealment in the countryside to get away from Sehjalal Kipgen’s threats, Baite has told our Newsletter that these have ceased since her return. She has, though, she says, “been getting a lot of questions from curious neighbors, friends, and relatives ever since I filed my police complaint. Some have been supportive and some have accused me of reviving a case that should have been left to die. I tell them that I did it because I was humiliated by justice being denied me, but from some people in the B’nei Menashe community, this has only gotten me cold stares. Obviously, they are Shavei Israel supporters.”
We asked Baite why her police complaint mentioned her daughter’s being sexually assaulted only once, whereas the First Investigation Report issued this week by the police (see this week’s article, “Churachandpur Police Seek BMC’s Help”) spoke of these assaults having been made “repeatedly”. Her daughter, she answered, told the police things she had never told her mother.
“I was shocked by this,” Baite says. “But it was a frightful experience for my daughter, which was why she didn’t tell me everything. Even in 2016, I only found out what I did because my daughter told her grandmother, who then told me. Now, learning the whole truth, it’s more difficult than ever to live with it. I have no choice, but I am so angry.”
Below appears Sarah Baite’s letter in her own writing.