From Dalits to Bene Ephraim: Judaism in Andhra Pradesh
Issue: Vol 4 No. 1 (2010)
Journal: Religions of South Asia
The community of Bene Ephraim was established in the late 1980s in Andhra Pradesh by a group of Christianized Madiga who declared that they belonged to one of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The paper explores the extent to which Bene Ephraim narratives of origin have been and are being shaped by the responses of others on the level of national and international politics. It is demonstrated that while in the beginning the leaders of the community were keen to stress their affinity to the scheduled castes of India and portrayed their social and economic problems in terms of the upper and lower caste dichotomy, later on they modified their story of origin to dissociate the community from the untouchables. Their self-representation as victims of caste domination gave way to expressions of concern about the possibility of becoming victims of anti-Jewish terrorist attacks. The paper argues that this change in the way the Bene Ephraim chose to frame the socio-political problems that the community is facing was linked to their attempts to be recognized as a Jewish group and be accepted in the State of Israel. At the same time, it is also suggested that this tactic provides yet another example of a Dalit group attempting to attract the attention of the international community to their condition of discrimination by reinterpreting their plight in the terms that foreign audiences would be more familiar with and could relate to more easily.
Author: Yulia Egorova