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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Shavei Israel’s Seminar for Bnei Menashe in Northeast India
By Yochanan Phaltual - Shavei Israel Administrator India

This Wednesday and Thursday night the Jewish High Holiday, Rosh Hashanah occurs and will usher a new beginning, one of continuation and sea change.

In the recent 275 Bnei Menashe Aliya were participated almost all local community Torah teachers called “Shavei Israel’s Fellows”. There is a deep sense of urgency and a need of keeping the ember of Torah education and Jewishness among the Bnei Menashe community. So, the Shavei Israel conducted the largest Seminar for Bnei Menashe in terms of participants. There were 94 people from Northeastern state of Manipur, Mizoram, Assam, Nagaland and two young boys from Myanmar.

The Seminar was conducted under the supervision and Director of Seminar Rav Hanoch Avizedek. The staff includes Tzvi Khaute, Coordinator of Seminar, Rav Yehuda Gin, Rav Gurion Sela and extra-curricular activities in charge Miss Vered.

To be able to keep the continuation of Torah teaching and to be ready to face the new change by the Bnei Menashe, the Shavei Israel organized this Seminar at Sikkim, which is the smallest state of Northeast India.

So, for 25 days (1 – 25 August), the Seminar under the flagship “New Generation Bnei Menashe” and with the Theme – EARTH AND SKY, was held during the month of Elul which also marks the time of preparations for new start and new beginning for reconnection of Earth and Sky.

The first week with one Shabbat, we had our Seminar at Gangtok the capital city of Sikkim. There were 3 young boys (Eli Friedman, Uri and Dylan) from Ranana in Israel who had just finishes their high school. They teaches for a days about youth life and geography of Israel. It was a good experience for them and lots of social interaction program with the young guns of the Seminarian.

Though Gangtok being one of the most beautiful hills city of India, Rav Hanoch decided to change place and we shifted to a more calm and peaceful location. The new place is Yuksom (Yaksum), a whole one full-day journey from Gangtok and about a hundred kilometers on exciting, twisting and winding narrow roads.

Yuksam is a tiny village, the last base camp for treks to Kanchandzongha, the highest mountain peak of India and the third highest mountain in the world. It is a real get-away from the hustle and bustle city atmosphere of Gangtok. The place is quite beautiful that you can just be there and relax and gaze at the nature and you will not know where time would fly by. From our Hotel which is the best hotel in Yuksam – Yuksam Residency – we can see the majestic Himalaya mountain peaks covered with snow in clear sky morning.

It is here we are camping for 3 weeks learning the key or the bridge of “Earth and Sky”. The Seminarians learned from the Rabbis various basic subject of Judaism ranging from Emuna, Halacha and Mitzvot, Chagim, Shabbat, Hilkhot Yesodei HaTorah of Rambam and all daily practical mitzvoth. Besides, religious learning there were scores of extra-curricular activities of fun, entertainment, games, artistic and craftsmanship work (For example, making challah board and cover cloth with artistic design) from a very smart and talented yound Morah from Israel, Ms. Vered. She was truly the balm to the tired body and mind – a refreshing hub.

One day, in the middle of Seminar there was an outing and sporting program. We visited the oldest Buddhist Monastery of Sikkim called Dubdi Monastery which was built in 1701. It is located at the top of a hill about an hour’s walk by trekking up from Yuksam. The places were infested with leeches and no one of us has seen such battalion of this blood-sucking crawling worm in our lives. We also visited the coronation site of the first Monarch of Sikkim called “Throne of Norbugang or Coronation Crown”. Yuksam is the first capital of Sikkim and was established in 1642 and it is here the first Monarch was coronated.

A Seminar in such picturesque area with whooshing sound of the rushing waterfall near the village adds a soothing element to the serene ambiance and this is just an exterior education of appreciating the incredible scenery of Heavenly wonders on earth.

The 25 days of Seminar was a days of opportunity. As Elul month is a preparatory month for restart and return to our truest selves and the time for change, the SHAVEI ISRAEL always a harbinger of Bnei Menashe journey back to HOME, again sponsored the Seminar for the continuation of a new beginning for the New Generation Bnei Menashe.

The Seminar is a gift – a crash course in openness and truthfulness for new Shavei Israel’s Fellows. As Rav Hanoch said, like the first Seminar in the wilderness under Moshe Rabbeinu, Shavei Israel is continuing the Sinai tradition down to the Bnei Menashe.

And like our ancestors in the past, we know we have reason to be in the Seminar and of course the responsibility. With the new year in short days, Shavei Israel is presenting a special give to the Bnei Menashe – new Shavei Israel Fellows to guide and continue the old tradition and bring about new changes for the new generation Bnei Menashe.

A new dawn has just begun!

LeShanah Tovah Tikatevu Ve Gemar Khatimah Tovah!

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