Shavei Bans Torah School, Beats Up Its Own Head Goon

(May 5) It could only happen with Shavei Israel. First it sends its goons to violently disrupt classes of the B’nei Menashe Council-run Rabbi Eliyahu Avichail School at Beit Shalom synagogue in Churachandpur. Then it seizes control of the synagogue, northeast India’s largest, by staging a phony election for its chairmanship. Then it has the synagogue’s new chairman formally expel the school from its premises. Then said chairman appoints the head of the goons to be the synagogue’s chazzan or prayer leader. And finally, when the new chazzan angers pro-Shavei members of the synagogue by his behavior, he gets beaten up by them in turn. One couldn’t wish for a more perfect record.


Much of all this has already been reported by this Newsletter. The first Shavei attack on the school, which had been operating on the synagogue’s premises with full permission, was related in our March 24 article, “Shavei Hooligans Storm Churachandpur Classroom.” The fake election was described in our March 31 piece, “Shavei Strong Arm Tactics Continue in Manipur With Synagogue Putsch.” A second Shavei assault on the school, which led to police intervention, was the subject of our April 7 “Shavei Invaders, Avichail School Students, Brawl At Beit Shalom.” You can read about it all on this page.


As for the latest developments, they began when Beit Shalom’s new chairman, Shavei Israel activist Seithang Haokip, announced after Passover that Beit Shalom would no longer host the Avichail School and was expelling it. This was accompanied by another announcement that Ronel Letkholien Haokip, who had led both of the two thuggish attacks on the school, would be Beit Shalom’s new chazzan, replacing the former prayer leader Avichayil Manchong. This was an unusual move even by Shavei’s standards, since Avichail Manchong was known as one of the most Jewishly educated B’nei Menashe in Manipur while Ronel Haokip was reputed to have difficulty with the Hebrew alphabet.


Ronel’s comeuppance was not long in coming. Stumbling through the prayers that he led, he began issuing arbitrary orders, the most recent of which, issued at last week’s Friday night services, was that all children under bar-mitzvah age must leave the synagogue at once. An argument followed in which the infuriated congregants demanded to know the reason for this unprecedented fiat. Before Ronel, hardly an expert on Jewish precedents, could finish explaining his action, the crowd set on him and gave him a thrashing and a bloody nose. This time, too, the police had to be called to restore order.


The situation among Manipur’s B’nei Menashe is tense. “There is a pervasive fear that violence can break out again at any moment.” says Ohaliav Haokip, General Secretary of the B’nei Menashe Council. “Pro-BMC B’nei Menashe fear even to attend services at Beit Shalom. If Shavei militants can physically attack one of their own trusted members, it goes without saying that no one is safe.”


“For they have sown the wind and they have harvested the storm,” said the prophet Hosea of the godless of his day. The storm that Shavei is now harvesting would appear to have only begun.