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samedi 30 décembre 2017

MASS CONVERSIONS OF CHRISTIANS INTO JUDAISM : THREE CASE HISTORIES

While there has been historical references of mass conversions to Judaism, they have been extremely rare. All of us are aware of the King of Khuzars/Khazars who converted and his courtesans who followed. There was a group of farmers who were descended from a long line of christians and reading their bibles dutifully felt that the Mosaic tradition was truest, they lived along the Caspian Sea.
I am not talking about lost tribes and their longing to return. My interest has always been jews surviving in extreme isolation and not those who "discover" their judaism. Most scientific thought would support that having Middle Eastern genes do not constitute a Jewish ancestry, such as the claims of Lemba in Zimbabwe who have their majority genes from Africa. 
I am talking about Christians who are religious who convert their practises into the Jewish one, en masse, usually at the behest of some charismatic preacher. I know of two such communities, one in Erode in Tamilnadu in India and the other in Medellin, Colombia. Their followers number in the thousands and they are fervently religious.
Jews of Cochin, like Jews of Lithuania or Arab countries have a great admixture of local genes , have an unbroken history going back at least 1100 years . The last remaining jew of that community in Cochin is Elias and he recently accepted an invitation to visit the Erode Community. He was well received by them and he was suitably impressed with the observance of jewish law among the people in the community.
In this remarkable photo, you see from left to right, the leader of the community in Erode, Tamil Nadu. Sitting next to him is Abraham Ben Hur, a Nasrani from Wayanad, Kerala who is an expert on the Jewish Origins of the Indian people and his latest book is on the Lost tribes of Israel. Next to him, is the last jew of Cochin, Elias Babu. I maintain that the Cochin jews, especially those who arrived before the 16th century have Yemeni and Iraqi origins. Just look at the man sitting at the extreme right. He is an Israeli of Yemenite Origin.
Jewish identity is a complex matter. Religion while remaining central is not essential for a Jewish identity and those new comers who are identifying with Jewish religion only will have a difficult time to understand the psychological aspects of Jewish Survival and that too with profound success.

Even in Israel only 22 per cent of the Jewish population is religious and the figures would be lower in the western countries with large jewish populations (namely USA France UK and Argentina). In the USA, only about one in ten or 10 per cent of the Jews are Orthodox or religiously obervant, as understood by non jews. Majority of Jews identify themselves as Jews but only ten percent follow the strict religious traditions.
So, the belief that being religious and being well off has no ground. Jews are the best educated group in the USA and as such are financially better off. It is interesting to note that Hindu migrants from India are much better educated than Muslim migrants from the Subcontinent and it shows in their income distribution.
I will follow with great interest the development of the Erode Community
I did not say much about the third christian community which converted into Jewish practice. They are in Uganda and their interesting history would make a blog of its own.