The Other Median Judaism

While the core peoples of Median Judaism are the Alawites, the Alevis, the Bektashis, the Druze, the Samaritans, the Yarsanis and the Yezidis in addition to the pre-Israelite modern Sumerian Mandaeans are there other peoples of Median Judaism around the world who remain Jewish, meaning they have not been converted by religious imperialism, whether Islamic, Christian or Buddhist religious imperialism. Examples in Asia include the Qiangic peoples of Sichuan province, China and examples in Africa include the majority of the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania and the Odinani (i.e. the minority non-Christians of the) Igbo in Nigeria. These Median Jews outside of the Middle East were converted by the highly mobile, globalized Median Kohanite Maggidim (“Magis”) who travelled worldwide in trade and syncretically converted many peoples to Median Judaism in Africa, Asia, Oceania and perhaps in the Americas. 

While it is true that most of those peoples were later converted to religious imperialism, remnants remain who are all halakhically Jewish. Why are they halakhically Jewish? Their ancestors were converted in ancient times during the Zoroastrian period in the Middle East and this was prior to the rabbinical invention of halakhic conversion. If Ethiopian Jews are halakhically Jewish then so are they, the same principle applies. Furthermore, the Northern Jurisdiction of Israel has its own right to exercise religious jurisdiction, including to convert on their own terms and this is true even today. To be sure, only a small remnant of those peoples remain Jewish as most were tragically converted by religious imperialism. Even the Ethiopian Jews constitute a very small remnant of ancient Ethiopian Jewry as the Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians were all Jewish prior to being converted to Christianity. Ethiopian and Eritrean Christianity to this today follow aspects of Mosaic law including male circumcision and kosher slaughter. 

These are non-converted Median Jews from across the world for whom Aliyah to Israel is very attractive since they generally live in economically poor environments. Israel is multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural and will become even more so with the addition of those olim (Jewish immigrants) from around the world. It is truly remarkable and a genuine privilege for Israel and the Zionist movement to realize the visions of the prophets of ancient Israel and bring the remnants of the northern kingdom of Israel to Aliyah to modern Israel.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization

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