The Jews remaining in Ethiopia are in imminent danger, lacking food and adequate medical care. SSEJ assists our desperately poor fellow Jews. Its Honorary Chairman is human rights activist, Elie Wiesel. Legal counsel is headed by Professors Alan Dershowitz of Harvard and Irwin Cotler (former Canadian Justice Minister). SSEJ's Board of Governors consists of members of Knesset, academics and human rights activists.
An emergency faces world Jewry today with few paying attention. A community of 9,000 Jews in Ethiopia waits to make aliyah. Because of war, poverty, and other social and economic pressures, like the Moranos in Spain, many ancestors of this community at least nominally converted to Christianity. Yet most of their descendants have fled to the northern capital Gondar to return to their Jewish roots. These Ethiopians, sometimes referred to as Felash Mura, are accepted as Jewish by the Chief Rabbi of Israel; Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform movements in America; and the spiritual leaders of the Ethiopian Jewish community. Despite this backing, major Jewish relief institutions fail to provide substantial assistance to the Ethiopian Jews. Consequently, they continue to suffer relatively ignored by the Jewish world; hundreds have already died while we fails to act.
The community subsists under appalling conditions: Over 96% of the members of the community live below the international poverty line of one dollar per day. Severe malnutrition is rampant and adequate shelter nonexistent.
In the face of their misfortune, Ethiopian Jews practice traditional Judaism. They pray three times a day, keep kosher, and celebrate the Sabbath and Jewish holidays. Moreover, the majority have parents, spouses, children or siblings living in Israel. Hoping to reunite with them and lead traditional Jewish lives in Israel, 9,000 Felash Mura in Gondar congregate outside the Israeli consulate, waiting to present their case for aliyah.
While the Ethiopian government permits its citizens to emigrate freely, the State of Israel delays admitting them, placing a strict quota on the number of Ethiopian Jews allowed to make aliyah.
The Chief Rabbi of Israel, the National Religious Party and Shas have called upon the Israeli government to hasten the pace of aliyah from Ethiopia. After a decade of inaction, lawsuits brought by the Ethiopian Jews in the Israeli Supreme Court have resulted in the admission of hundreds of Ethiopian Jews every year. At the current rate, however, many years will pass before the majority of these Jews can join their families in Israel.
While the Israeli government defers the ingathering of the remaining Ethiopian Jews, we must ensure that our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora do not continue to suffer and die needlessly while awaiting passage to their Jewish homeland.