BENE EPHRAIM


BENE EPHRAIM
BENE EPHRAIM, name adopted by a Judaizing movement of Telugu-speaking Indians from Andhra Pradesh. There is no historic element to the Bene Ephraim. They have come to a kind of Judaism for reasons which are somewhat obscure, but the ambitions of their religious leaders – the Sadoc brothers – or the brothers' disappointment with the Baptist Church – may figure among them. Nonetheless, the community as it is presently constituted has a genuine sense of Jewish identity: for the children and young people it is their main identity in the villages where they live. They are sincere in their desire to be recognized as Jews both by their neighbors and by foreign Jews; they practice Judaism as best as they can and learn Hebrew as best as they can. They feel embittered that they have been ignored by Jews elsewhere and point to their Christian neighbors who receive sustenance from overseas Christian churches in the U.S. and elsewhere. The community, which maintains two synagogues, seems to be marked by piety, a desire to better their lot, and a determination to raise the flag of Judaism in Andhra Pradesh. Because of their vague idea of descent from Israelites they feel ethnically as well as religiously Jewish. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Francisco, "'Discovering' the Telugu Jews of India," in: K. Primack, Jews in Places You Never Thought Of (1998); T. Parfitt, The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of a Myth (2002). (Tudor Parfitt (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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