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29 décembre 2006 / 00h53
- Les tribus juives dispersées

in Africa: Mozambique: The Jewish community that once lived in Mozambique fled to avoid persecution by anti-colonialists.
Now the government has softened its stance toward the West and returned the Maputo synagogue to the Jewish community, but little to no Jewish community remains to reclaim it.

The once-proud Egyptian Jewish community is now nearing extinction.


The Jews of Africa are not the only Jews who live in remote or distant areas, far away from the mainstream of contemporary Judaism. Similarly non-traditional Jewish communities exist all over the world, from the jungles of the Amazon to the distant mountains of India.

The Jewish people can trace their history back several thousand years to the Fertile Crescent, an area bordered by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in the Central Asian region once known as Mesopotamia. Since their inception as a people, many Jews have traveled eastward from the Fertile Crescent to trade silk and spices with other Central and Eastern Asian merchants. When the Assyrians conquered Palestine in 721 B.C. and the ten northern tribes of Israel fled to points unknown, did some follow those trade routes through Persia and Afghanistan to India, China, perhaps even as far as Japan? Some researchers believe that Jewish practices may more likely have spread eastward through gradual contact with Hebrew traders, but the fact remains that there are practicing Jewish communities sprinkled about Asia. In fact, there are well-documented cases of Jews fleeing eastward to avoid religious persecution by Romans and Muslims, and as recently as World War II, tens of thousands of Jews fled to distant Asian cities like Shanghai to avoid Nazi persecution, joining communities of already-practicing Jews in Central Asia, India and China. Some of the more interesting communities that the authors could feature in The Jews of Asia may include:


-- the Shinlung ("cave dwellers") live in the northeastern India near the border of Myanmar. According to tribal lore, this Jewish community descends from the wandering tribe of Menashe, cast out of Israel almost 2,700 years ago. After traveling through Persia to Afghanistan and finally to China, this tribe claims that they fled religious persecution a final time by moving into caves in the mountains of northeastern India. Over the centuries they emerged from the caves and began to live in mountain towns, finally falling prey to Christian missionaries in the late 19th century. In the last twenty-five years, several thousand Shinlung rediscovered their ancestors’ religion and have since become observant Jews. Three hundred members of the community have emigrated to Israel, though five thousand remain in India.

-- the Telugu: a very poor community of Jewish "untouchables" who live in the eastern Indian region of Andhra Pradesh. They believe that their ancestors are Jews that migrated from northern India, Afghanistan or the North-East Frontier region (Manipur, Mizoram) during the 9th or 10th centuries and settled around the area of Nandial. Most of the current Telugu Jews live in the small town Kottareddipalem, though some scattered families live in Ongole in the Prakasham District.

-- Cochin: The Jews of Cochin -- a small city in Southwestern India -- claim that they first arrived in India after the destruction of Jerusalem’s Great Temple in the year 70. Their sprawling Jewish community consolidated the town of Cranganore in about 1000 when the local Hindu leader granted control of the region to a Jew named Joseph Rabban. When the Moors raided Cranganore in 1524 the Jews fled to Cochin under the protection of a Hindu Raja who granted them their own area of the city, which later came to be called "Jew Town." Though most Cochin Jews have emigrated to Israel or the West, some still inhabit Jew Town and maintain Jewish practices there.


-- Kaifeng: a once-thriving Jewish community whose members are likely to be descended from Persian Jewish traders who settled in Kaifeng in the 10th & 11th centuries. Most Kaifeng Jews assimilated with local Confucians in the 16th century, but 500 contemporary descendants of those Jews have revitalized their Jewish practices.

-- Shanghai: During WWII, Shanghai’s small Jewish community of merchants and descendants of silk traders became a safe haven for almost 30,000 European Jews who were fleeing from the Nazis. During the war they were allowed to practice freely and even build their own autonomous government. Though most emigrated to the U.S. after the war ended, some Jews still live in Shanghai and practice an increasingly "Chinese" Judaism.


Descendants of Iraqi Jews who came to Indonesia more than a century ago to trade spices still live and practice in Surabaya in the eastern half of the densely populated (and almost exclusively Muslim) island of Java. Their Jewish traditions are primarily ancient in origin (the Sabbath before Yom Kippur, for example, the community leader slaughters a chicken and swings it around the synagogue courtyard to dispel the community’s sins), though Dutch Jewish traders from the 18th and 19th centuries introduced them to some European Rabbinical teachings.


The Bukharan Jewish community, living mainly in Samarkand and Bukhara, traces its origins back to 5th-century exiles from Persia, though some claim that Bukhara is actually the ancient city of Habor, to which the Lost Tribes were exiled. Community members speak their own Tajik-Jewish dialect and have a number of unique festivals and practices that have developed over centuries of relative isolation in the Asian mountains.


Nearly 8,000 "Mountain Jews" live in the Azerbaijan in cities like Baku and in villages such as Krasnaya, Sloboda and Vartashen. These Jews descend from Iranian tribes that moved into the Azerbaijani mountains in the 5th and 6th centuries. They are separate from other Jewish communities in that they speak Tat, a unique New-Persian language, and have developed many practices and traditions in kind with Dagestan mountain tribes. They have traditionally been grain farmers and wine makers, and were allowed to retain many of their skills (although less of their culture) during the Soviet period. The community has become active again since the end of the Soviet period, but Azerbaijiani nationalism has recently threatened to curtail their revival.


Jews have lived in what is now known as Afghanistan for more than two thousand years. Fleeing persecution in the ancient land of Israel, many stayed to work as merchants, trading silk and spices from the East. In the early 19th century, tens of thousands of Persian Jews settled to Afghanistan fleeing forced conversion. Though the community dwindled throughout the 20th century due to isolation and Islamic suppression, a small, determined Jewish community of merchants and traders does continue in Kabul. Afghani Jews currently live under the strict Islamic Taliban regime and have had scant contact with the international Jewish community in recent years, but they maintain a synagogue in Kabul and pursue their Jewish practices.


The roots of the Persian Jewish community reach back to the 6th century B.C. The Jewish community in Persia used to be one of the most culturally vibrant in the world, yet its numbers have dwindled due to centuries of harsh persecution. Before the Islamic revolution in 1979 there were 80,000 Jews in Iran, and though most have emigrated to Israel, there is still a dedicated Jewish community in Tehran. There currently a small number of synagogues in Tehran, as well as three Jewish schools. Though curriculum in the Jewish schools is strictly Islamic and teachers are only allowed to teach the Bible in Persian, there is some Hebrew instruction available through the community’s elders. The recent moderate regime in Iran has loosened control on the Jewish minority in Tehran, and the community has been able to revitalize some of its religious practices.


Though Jews have populated Yemen since Biblical times, the first substantial number of Yemenites to accept Judaism did so in the fifth century under King Du-Nuas. As the only non-Muslims in the country, Yemenite Jews have faced constant persecution, including laws forbidding them to wear certain colors, ride animals or build tall houses. Jews began to emigrate from Yemen in 1882 and many landed in Israel. Emigration increased when Israel became a nation in 1948, and the fledgling nation accepted thousands of Jews who fled anti-Jewish riots. Despite the suppression, a small, secretive Jewish community remains in northern Yemen in villages in the vicinity of Saada, which is located in Sa'ata Province, close to the Saudi border. These Jews are not allowed to hold political office and are discouraged from having contact with their Muslim neighbors, so they continue their practices in virtual seclusion.

Latin America

When the Jews of Spain and Portugal fled the Inquisition, many emigrated to distant places like the newly developing lands of Latin America. Even in their new surroundings the Jews were not immune to persecution; many publicly converted to Catholicism while continuing their Jewish practices underground. Almost five hundred years after the Inquisition, some South Americans have begun to examine their non-traditional Catholic practices and realize that they have been practicing the underground Judaism of their ancestors. Jews like those in Venhaver and Natal in the Rio Grande do Norte area of Brazil, the Antiquenas of Colombia and Jews from the Naucalpan and Vallejo districts of Mexico City have begun to revisit their progenitors’ practices. They live on the margins of already-thriving Jewish communities in Latin American cities like Sao Paulo, Brazil, Lima Peru and Santiago, Chile, the members of which are descendants of Spanish, Persian and Iraqi traders who immigrated to Latin America in the 18th and 19th centuries or European Jews also fled there to avoid the Nazis during World War II. In addition to these more mainstream Jewish communities, there are also a large number of "non-traditional" Jews in Latin America such as the "Iglesia Israelitas" in Southern Chile, a remote Indian tribe with many Jewish practices, and certain communities of mestizos (Mexicans of mixed Indian and European ancestry) who claim ancient Jewish roots, such as the "Iglesia de Dios" and "Casa de Dios." Some of the more colorful Jewish communities in Latin America include:


In 1966, an Incan Catholic from the Peruvian city of Trujillo named Villanueva began to learn more about Judaism and, when the Catholic Church excommunicated him for his increasing hostility toward Catholicism, he emigrated to Spain to avoid further prejudice. While in Spain Villanueva studied Judaism and returned to Peru to convert his community of Indians to his new-found faith. More than five hundred of his fellow community members became devoted Jews. As the poor Trujillo Jews became more observant they found that they were not able to acquire sufficient ritual objects such as prayer books (siddurim) or prayer shawls (tallisim). In the absence of necessary ritual objects the Incan Jewish community began to focus more on studying mystical questions such as reincarnation (gilgul) and concept of a Messiah. The European-descended Jews of Lima did not accept the Incas’ Judaism and did not allow them to use the synagogue or ritual bath (mikva); when Inca Jewish women needed to use the ritual bath they used the ocean or a nearby waterfall. In order to find a more receptive environment for their Judaism three hundred members of the community have emigrated to Israel, but some have remained, assuring that their way of life would not disappear from Peru. Their ranks are growing, and the Incan Jewish community of Trujillo has again had to face poverty, prejudice and the question of how they are going to maintain their Judaism.


In the arid Northern region of Brazil, Rio Grande do Norte, Catholics in villages like Venhaver and Natal have long been recognized for their "unusual" religious practices. Settled in the early 1700s when Portuguese Inquisitional activity was at its strongest in the Brazilian northeast, Rio Grande do Norte is remote enough that Jews fleeing persecution were able to avoid much of it by hiding there. Even so, most of the Northern Brazilian Jews became Catholic, though they wove their Jewish practices into their Catholicism. Even today, members of the Venhaver community eat according to the Jewish dietary laws, hang small bags of dirt on their door post (traditional Jews hang a mezuzah on their door post, a small container with particular passage of the Torah enclosed), light candles on Friday nights, refuse to kneel in Church when they pray and hold alternative services at a secret place called the "snoga," which some suggest is derived from the Portuguese word "sinagoga," Dozens of Marrano-descended families in the larger city of Natal have undergone "purification" ceremonies to cleanse them of Catholic beliefs and allow them to resume their ancestors’ Judaism.


Since the Soviet Union stopped funding Fidel Castro’s Communist Cuba in the late 1980s, Castro has slowly loosened the economic and social control of his people and allowed those interested in religion to resume their practices. Approximately 2,000 Jews remain in Cuba, most of whom are of Spanish descent. Most are poor, generally unable to afford prayer books and other Jewish articles, and elderly, as the Communist government has prohibited Jewish practices for nearly thirty years. Jews in Havana and Santiago have recently reopened their synagogues and have held public celebrations and Jewish study sessions in order to interest younger Cubans in the religion, openly affirming their Judaism for the first time in decades.

For more information e-mail: Jay Sand JayPSand@yahoo.com

Haut de page Article rédigé par Y.K - Source : www.mindspring.com/~jaypsand/dispersed.htm

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