Dozens of community leaders from Jewish Federations across the U.S. and Canada along with Jewish Agency for Israel senior officials spent 3 days in Ethiopia, where they visited sites of historical significance to Ethiopian Jewry, met with families waiting to immigrate to Israel and learned about aliyah and absorption needs.
The trip culminated with an emotional flight on Wednesday morning for 209 olim who were accompanied by the delegation, which was followed by a celebratory ceremony at the airport attended by Minister of Aliyah and Absorption Pnina Tamano-Shata. The delegation will also tour Jewish Agency for Israel housing and educational programs supported by Federations to help integrate olim into Israeli society.
President and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America Eric Fingerhut and Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel Major General (res.) Doron Almog also took part in the mission and flight.
“The true heroes of the Ethiopian aliyah are the olim themselves who have waited so long for this moment, yet never lost ‘hatikvah’ – the hope – that they would one day reach the Land of Israel,” said Fingerhut. “It is a tremendous privilege to know that for decades our Federation system has played an instrumental role in the aliyah journey of these men, women and children, as well as in supporting their first steps in Israel.”
"This return to Ethiopia, together with our dedicated partners from Jewish Federations across North America, has been an overwhelming experience that highlights the strength of the unity of the Jewish people and the need for us to work together to reunite Ethiopian families in Israel,” said Almog.
In addition to funding that Jewish Federations raise every year as part of their annual campaigns, Federations have also launched an emergency campaign this year that has raised to date $73 million for humanitarian aid for Ukrainian refugees, together with a $9 million campaign to support aliyah from Ethiopia and the humanitarian needs of the community while they await approval to immigrate to Israel.
“This has been a truly emotional journey, from learning about the rich history of Ethiopian Jewry to witnessing the deep-seated love for Israel that the community members possess, as well as the plight that so many of them are in,” said mission co-chairs and National Women’s Philanthropy chair Carolyn Gitlin and National Young Leadership co-chair Lauren Danneman. “In the name of the delegation participants, we pledge to take back the experiences and stories from this past week to our communities, and to continue to raise funds to support the incredible Ethiopian aliyah and absorption. This is not only our promise but our duty.”
For decades, Jewish Federations have worked side by side with their partner The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli Government to help 100,000 Ethiopian Jews realize their dream of making aliyah and to support their absorption into Israeli society.
This aliyah operation, known as Zur Israel or Rock of Israel, will see a total of 3,000 Ethiopian olim arriving in Israel this year, joining 2,150 others who arrived between December 2020 - May 2021. Many of these olim have waited over 20 years to immigrate to Israel and reunite with their families. The olim live in very difficult conditions in Addis Ababa and Gondar, and the funding that Federations provide is crucial to supporting their essential needs while awaiting aliyah, as well as their absorption once in Israel. In addition to the support they provide The Jewish Agency for Israel, Federations support the humanitarian relief provided in Ethiopia by the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ) organization.