Bene Israel

Also found in: Wikipedia.

Bene Israel

Bene Israel or Beni Israel (both: bāˈnē) [Heb.,=sons of Israel], Jewish community of India, living mostly in and near Mumbai (formerly Bombay). Many thousands of others have settled in Israel since 1948. According to their own legend, they are descended from Jews who fled persecutions in Palestine in the 2d cent. B.C. Some scholars believe, however, that they are descended either from Babylonian Jews who migrated for reasons of trade or from Yemenite Jews who fled the persecutions of Mohammad; the latter hypothesis would explain the use of the name Bene Israel, which is found in the Qur'an as a favorable reference to Jews. The Bene Israel are referred to in the travel accounts of Benjamin of Tudela (10th cent.) and Marco Polo (13th cent). When the Bene Israel were rediscovered by Westerners in the late 18th cent. their customs were substantially like those of the Hindus except that they kept the Sabbath and several Jewish festivals and circumcised boys on the eighth day after birth. Wealthy Jews established schools to instruct the Bene Israel in Hebrew and Judaism, and in time their religious practices became similar to those of Jews throughout the world.


See S. Strizower, The Bene Israel of Bombay (1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
There were about 1,000 Jews living in Karachi at the beginning of the 20th Century, mostly Bene Israel Jews from Maharashtra, India.
Mumbai has three distinct Jewish communities - Bene Israel Jews, Baghdadi Jews and the Malabar Jews.
Roland's comparison of Indian Bene Israel immigrants in contemporary Israel and the United States; and Ava F.
Their topics include reflections of an American Jewish lawyer on the British Supreme Court ruling invalidating Jewish religious law, ancient priests and modern Jewish identity, conversion in the diaspora and in the modern nation-state, the Bene Israel and the "who is a Jew" controversy in Israel, and the assimilated Jewish community of the Warsaw ghetto in the letters of Wanda Lubelska and Hala Szwambaum.
She was born in 1960 into the Marathi-speaking Bene Israel Jewish community of Bombay (Mumbai)--a complex Indian Jewish world.
Konkan is a smorgasbord of communities, castes and cooking styles -- from the Bene Israel and the Nawayats of Bhatkal to the Kolis, the Sidis of Ethipian descent and the Samvedi Christians, each have a kitchen that reflects their cultural roots.
For centuries, India has been home to Jews, primarily from three distinct groups: the Cochin Jews, the Bene Israel and the Baghdadi Jews.
Despite this, and even though the poet set himself apart from the majority of his fellow Bene Israel Jews, who largely chose immigration to Israel in the decades following Partition and Indian independence, Nissim's Jewish identity was never in doubt in his poetry.
The Jews of Pakistan were of various origins, but most were from the Bene Israel community of India, and came to Pakistan in the employ of the British.
India's largest Jewish community is called the Bene Israel, and its membership numbers perhaps four thousand.
Bene Israel; studies in the archaeology of Israel and the Levant during the Bronze and Iron ages offered in honour of Israel Finkelstein.