Aliyah from India and East Asia

The story of the Jews of India is the saga of three different groups of Jews who had very little contact between them until fairly recently. The numerically dominant group was the Bene Israel, a group claiming an ancestry dating back thousands of years in India, although nothing was known about them until the last few centuries. Next, were the Jews of Cochin with an attested history from about 1000 C.E. Finally there were the "Baghdadi" Jews who arrived from Iraq, Iran and Syria about two hundred years ago and had settled in India, due to persecution in their native lands.

The Jews were always an insignificant minority in the vastness of the Indian continent, reaching a peak of a few tens of thousands earlier this century. There was no anti-Jewish feeling and the Jews prospered as a community largely composed of merchants and traders.
At the time of Israeli independence, which was also the time of Indian independence, a number of factors occurred to change the situation. Firstly, an immediate reaction set in towards groups like the Jews who had not played a part in India's struggle for independence, which generated a sense of unease among the different Jewish communities. Moreover, the new Indian government adopted economic policies that damaged the areas of commerce in which many Jews were traditionally involved, and the prosperity of the community consequently declined. At the same time, enormous enthusiasm broke out among the Jews following Israel's independence.

All these factors led to a spontaneous, large-scale Aliyah movement in the years following the establishment of the State of Israel. Thousands of Indian Jews, most especially, but not exclusively, from the Cochini and Baghdadi communities came on Aliyah; the overall Jewish population, which had stood at just over 25,000 in 1948, started to decline considerably. It should be added that there were also some Jews who decided to leave and go elsewhere, especially to England and other English-speaking countries. Over the years, this pattern of Aliyah and emigration has been maintained and currently, there are estimated to be between five and six thousand Jews still there, (out of a total general population of around 950,000,000). Most of these are Bene Israel Jews, in and around the area of Bombay, Puna, etc.

Unlike the community of Yemen, however, this remainder of Indian Jewry is composed largely of Jews who wish to stay in India. It is difficult to believe that in the long term they will be successful: there are too many forces pulling the surviving members of the community towards Israel. One is the pull of family ties - many Indian Jews have brothers and sisters or cousins in Israel - and, in addition, many young people in the community often tend to look towards Israel as a place to find a husband or wife. Nevertheless, as stated, the desire exists to maintain the community. Training programmes have been introduced for young leadership; interestingly enough, however, although there is an Israeli component in these programmes, which are being organised by Diaspora organisations, principally the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's Israel office. Once again, it can be suggested, that the Zionist organisations are at best, ambivalent about the encouragement of schemes to "save" the community.
In the Zionist model, the entire community should emigrate to Israel - and the sooner, the better.


Aliyah in 3 Steps

Step 1

Interview with a Shaliach

As part of the Aliyah process, an interview with your local Aliyah Shaliach (Jewish Agency representative) will be required.
You will be asked to present all the aforementioned original documents:

These documents will be returned to you during your meeting.

The Aliyah Shaliach is a representative of the Jewish Agency for Israel who is responsible for validating your Aliyah documents and meeting with you. You can make an appointment to speak with the Shaliach directly, as per the listing below:




The Jewish Agency
17/19 Hira Bldg.
1st Floor Rm.8
(Opposite GPO, Kabutar Khana Fort)
Mint Road,
Mumbai 400001, India
Tel: (0091) 2222-692551
Fax: (0091) 2222-692553

The interview will include these topics:

Step 2

Approval for Aliyah

The Jewish Agency is the body responsible for authorizing Aliyah according to the Law of Return. Your application will be reviewed by The Jewish Agency, and you will receive a notification letter.

Step 3

Absorption Planning & Flight to Israel

Together with your file manager or Shaliach you'll need to plan your absorption in Israel:

Once you're landing in Israel you're considered as an Oleh Chadash, Welcome to Israel!


After Aliyah

Please visit our "Step-by-step" Guide of the first steps in Israel as a New Oleh.

The Global Service Center

India:    000-800-972-1056

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