Gujarat Government on July 6, 2018 granted Religious Minority Status to Jews living in the state. In this regard, Gujarat’s Department of Social Justice and Empowerment issued a GR to this effect.
The government, thereon, mandated the Certificate issuing competent authorities to issue Religious Minority Status Certificate to the members of this community.
With this, there are now seven religious minorities in the state. The other six are - Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains.
Gujarat becomes the third state in India to grant Minority Status to Jews
With this, Gujarat became the third state in India to grant religious minority status to Jews after West Bengal and Maharashtra.
West Bengal had granted the Minority Status to Jews over a decade ago. The state had a Jewish population of 43 at that time.
Maharashtra had accorded minority status for Jews in 2017, prior to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to Israel. The state is home to over 2000 Jews, making it the largest for a state.
As religious minority members, Jews in the state will get religious minority rights envisaged in Constitution of India and various acts and rules of the state government.
They will also get benefits of welfare schemes formulated for religious minority communities within the jurisdiction of Gujarat.
Jews living in Gujarat had earlier in August 2017 represented before the state government that their population is very thin, in comparison to Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. Hence, they deserved to be declared as Religious Minority Community.
Earlier, Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani, during his official visit to Israel in June 2018, had announced that his government was in the process of granting religious minority status to the community. Gujarat also had hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his six-day India visit in January 2018.
Jews of Gujarat
• Gujarat is home to about 170 Jews and majority of them are located in Ahmedabad. The city also is home to the only synagogue in the state, the Magen Abraham Synagogue, built in 1934.
• The Jewish population in Gujarat is so minuscule that they didn’t even figure separately in the Census 2011, and were just mentioned as part of 16,480 ‘other communities’ in the state.
• The Jewish community of India is the fourth largest Asian Jewish community after Israel, Asian Russia, and Iran.
Indian Jews in Israel
When Israel was established in 1948, India inhabited around 25000 Jews. Between 1948 and 1979, 24000 Indian Jews immigrated to Israel and thousands more elsewhere. Over 70000 Indian Jews now live in Israel.
The Israeli towns of Dimona and Ashdod have been named as “Little India” by some residents, and it is largely inhabited by Indian Jews.
The Jews community practices the faith of Judaism, one of the oldest religions of the world that evolved in Egypt about 3700 years ago. Judaism is the religion, philosophy and way of life of the Jewish people.
Indian Jews are known as a peace-loving community. They follow Hebrew calendar. They have special thanks giving ceremony known as Eliyahoo-ha-Nabior i.e. ‘gratitude to Elijah the Prophet’.
Categories of Indian Jews
Bene Israel Jews - The Bene Israel Jews group is the largest Jewish group in India, which arrived in Maharashtra 2,100 years ago and now belong to the region in and around Maharashtra and Konkan.
Baghdadi Jews - The Baghdadi Jews arrived in the city of Surat from Iraq and other Arab states, Iran and Afghanistan about 250 years ago. By the mid 18th and 19th century, the Baghdadi Jews are said to have moved in to create a strong entrepreneurial class in the British port cities of India like Kolkata, Mumbai and Rangoon.
Bene Menashe - The Bnei Menashe are a group of Jews from the northeastern Indian states of Mizoram and Manipur who claim themselves as descendants of the Manasseh (Menashe) Tribe, one of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel.
Bene Ephraim - The Bene Ephraim are a small group of Telugu-speaking Jews in eastern Andhra Pradesh. Their observance of Judaism dates to 1981.
Cochin Jews - The oldest of the Indian Jewish communities is in Cochin, who arrived in India 2500 years ago and settled down in Kerala as traders.
Chennai Jews – These are the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, Paradesi Jews and British Jews who arrived at Madras during the 16th century. They were diamond merchants.
The Jews of Goa - These were Portuguese Jews who fled to Portuguese Goa after the commencement of the Inquisition in Portugal.
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