Halachic status

Concerning the halachic status of the Bene Israel, it is worthwhile to note the position of Rabbi Jacob Sapir, himself an outstanding Talmudist who lived for a time amongst us. Having observed our practice, he wrote that “should a Bene Israel woman be rejected by her husband, whether for adultery or any other reason, she returns to her parent’s home and never remarries for the rest of her life.” Dr. Rabbi Isaac Herzog, former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, wrote that there was no reason to doubt the testimony of Sapir, whose good faith and Talmudic scholarship had been highly regarded by contemporary rabbis in Jerusalem. Similarly, Bentzion Uziel, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, wrote in a Responsa that there was no doubt regarding the Jewish descent of the Bene Israel.

Rabbi Shmuel Abo of Tzfat, and his son, Rabbi Avraham, were both shlichim (emissaries) who resided amongst the Bene Israel in India. Upon returning to Israel, the Ashkenazi Beth Din of Tzfat accepted the testimony of Rabbi Abo as to the willingness, and indeed the eagerness, of the Bene Israel to learn more about Judaism and the observance of Torah.

Perhaps most significant is that the greatest Sephardi sage of our generation, Maran, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, has emphatically ruled that the Bene Israel are halachically Jewish.

Today, the Bene Israel continue to yearn for acceptance as a lost tribe, unsullied by any alleged impurity, and wish to return to their homeland and contribute – as they are in fact doing – to the building up of the State of Israel.

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