The Sons of Joseph and the Diaspora
c 1995 by Melvin J. Laney
Part of the work of Kulanu is to collect the traditions of people who are outside the mainstream of Jewish thought, and thereby expand and enrich the meaning of he Diaspora. To the many other traditions that Rabbi Avichail and Kulanu have collected -- the Ethiopian Jews, the Shinlung Menashe, the Afghan tribes -- I now add the traditions of the Sons of Joseph.
Rabbi Avichail's book, The Tribes of Israel, refers to the Sons of Joseph on page 43, and includes a source stating that the Yusuf-Sai (Sons of Josef) are among the bravest of the Afriti families in Afghanistan (page 94). But I believe this is the first report of the history of the Sons of Joseph in Ireland, England and America, and of Kulanu's efforts to establish contacts between the Yusuf-Sai in Afghanistan and the Sons of Joseph in America.
As with all traditions of the Diaspora, whether collected by Rabbi Avichail or by others, there is always the question of how much credence to give them. I make no claim that the traditions of the Sons of Joseph are true. What meaning to give these traditions is a matter for conjecture. I claim only that these traditions were passed down by generations of my ancestors, and that I in turn have passed them on to my children. Unfortunately, historical records to validate these claims go back only a few hundred years.
My ancestors claimed to be descendants of the biblical Joseph who was sold into Egypt. They say Jacob took only two of Joseph's sons for the House of Israel, and gave the birthright of Abram to Joseph's other sons, to live separate and apart from the House of Israel, as Joseph had predicted in his dreams.
My ancestors believed that before the Diaspora the Sons of Joseph visited with the Children of Israel. However, there was continual bickering and enmity between the Children of Israel and the Sons of Joseph. The Sons of Joseph made predictions and the Children of Israel rejected them even as they were made.