In the Third World these days, a lot of “indigenous” people are claiming to be Jewish. In America a lot of “foreigners” are claiming to be Indian. The motivation seems the same. These people want some kind of advantage. Their “Jewish” claims are stronger than some “Indian” claims, but they all want a better life.
Some people cannot advance socially, and see themselves in abject depression. The claim of a significant heritage offers them an alternative path to improvement, and certainly an easier path.
So it happens with the non-Semitic “Falasha,” the Ethiopians who practice Judaism. Their community in the northern province of Gondar went unknown to the modern world for centuries. Being Negroid did not spare them persecution and isolation from other Ethiopians. They were permanently impoverished. From 1977 to 1984, however, some 20,000 Falasha were brought to Israel, but thousands were still left in Ethiopia. By 1991, the number of Ethiopian Jews in Israel had reached 80,000, and recently 26,000 more are expected to “return” to Israel.
What did they bring to Israel? Poverty and disease, especially tuberculosis. Many settled in the Negev, and a decade study ending in the ‘80’s showed 91.9% of them had TB.
The Menashe people of northeastern Indian claim to be descendents of Manasseh. These “Shinlung” (cave dwellers) are in Myanmar, (formerly called Burma). They are a sub-species of Mongoloid, of course, but they have practiced some form of Judaism for 2,700 years, or so they claim. Some have “returned” to Israel, and now their Myanmar numbers have swollen to 2 million.
In the same area there are also smaller groups of non-Semitic “Jews,” like the Telugu of Nandial, and also the Cochin Jews of southwestern India, most of whom have already immigrated to Israel.
Of course, there are Semitic Jews in Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Yeman, and Iran, but these are all descendents of the Persian Jewish community, which has been continuous since 722 B.C. There were some 80,000 Jews in Iran before the 1979 Revolution. Many have since “immigrated” to Israel.
There are communities of Jews in Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba. These are mostly descendents of the sephardim, from the late 15th century expulsions of the Jews from Spain. But there are also small indigenous “Indian” groups who claim Jewish ancestry, and practice a mixed bag of Jewish customs. There are the mestizos of Mexico, like the “Iglasia de Dios,” and the “Casa de Dios.”
There is the “Iglesia Israelitas” of southern Chile, a remote Indian tribe that maintains Jewish customs.
In Peru there are the Trujillo Jews (begun in 1966 by Villanueva) among the Inca, who practice Judaism, but have never been accepted by the European Jews living there.
Of course, there are Marranos (Spanish Jews) in Northern Brazil whose ancestors fled Europe, but who assimilated to the Brazilian Catholic way of life in the 18th century. However, they have recently begun “purging” themselves and recovering their Judaism.
There are some 2,000 Jews in Cuba who, though poverty stricken, have begun openly practicing what Judaism they can afford.
All of these people should immigrate to Israel and put in their bid for Israeli citizenship. It worked for the Ethiopians, why not the Mongoloids and the Hispanic Caucasians and “Indians?”
Are they happy with just the status of calling themselves Jews? Never mind the economic potential, is it just something that attracts them in and of itself? In their hopelessly low estate, it psychologically gives them world status. Despite the persecution and social ostracism Judaism may bring them in their own environments, these “indigenous” peoples cling to it.
But short of eventual immigration to Israel, what social advantage does Judaism bring? Were they “proselytized” with merely the lure of eternal life?
(Some were in fact evangelized by early Christians who, in the first century, were ethnically still very Jewish. This is apparently the case of the St. Thomas churches of Cochin, India. There was ancient Sabbath-keeping among them, and it still exists today. Some of them in fact later panned out as Jewish, rather than Christian.)
In any case, the advantage of claiming to be Jewish today should indeed be the opportunity, if not the requirement, to immigrate to Israel and to contribute to the society there.
These claimants should all immigrate to Israel, and start replacing the Palestinian day workers hired by “liberal” Israelis. Then no Palestinians would have to enter Israel at all, staying in their own, new state instead. Israel could end the border checks. Everyone would be Jewish. And no one would be a threat.