Guntur Jews pin hope on Modi’s Israel visit

KURNOOL: The Jewish community of Kothareddypalem, near Chebrolu in Guntur district, is eagerly following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel. Members of the community, who claim to be the lost tribe of Ephraim, hope that they will soon be able to join their brethren in the Holy Land. Despite living in India and speaking Telugu, their traditions are in keeping with those of Israel. Most members of the community are daily-wage workers who have had to brave persecution at the hands of local chieftains in order to be permitted to follow their customs. For example, their working week is from Sunday to Friday, and they observe Sabbath on Saturday. They have built a synagogue and they offer prayers in Hebrew.

The villagers observe and celebrate Jewish festivals such as Rosh Chodesh (the new month), Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), Selichot, Tzom Gedalia (the fast of Gedalia), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Sukkot (the Feast of Booths), Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, and Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights). Rabbis from the USA, Australia and Israel have visited this tiny village whose inhabitants have a unique way of life.

Mr Shadok Yacobi, rabbi of the community, said that the community wishes to migrate to Israel. He said that the process is already underway, but progress has been delayed due to political reasons. He said that the community’s request was under active consideration in the Israeli Parliament, Knesset. “The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has already sent some Rabbis to assist us in assimilating into the community. We are hoping to soon be able to mix with our brothers in Israel,” he says. Meanwhile, several members of the community, including Mr Yacobi’s elder brother, have already moved to Israel. The rabbi said that the Jewish community of Kothareddypalem, along with the Bene Israeli and Baghdadi Jews of Mumbai, have been asking for minority status in India, but it has not been granted to them.

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