SSEJ logo Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry

Rabbis' Call To Action


American Rabbis

Letter from the Rabbinical Council of America.

The RCA is the single largest American organization representing Orthodox rabbis.

12 Shevat 5760
January 19, 2000

Over the past few years, approximately thirty thousand Ethiopians of Jewish ancestry have returned, or are in the process of returning, to the Jewish faith. Over the course of several generations this community, sometimes referred to as Feles Mura, had become estranged from their Jewish forbears= practices and beliefs. Many Feles Mura, probably most, had converted to Christianity. However, they rarely intermarried and identified themselves and were identified by their neighbors as part of the Beta Israel community.

In a phenomenon, virtually unprecedented in Jewish history, practically the entire community has adopted an halakhic way of life, including observance of Shabbat and the laws of kashrut and family purity. In Ethiopia today four thousand children attend two Jewish day schools; Thousands of adults participate daily in prayer services and classes in Jewish education. In Israel, Feles Mura appear before a Rabbinical Court to accept the yoke of the commandments, thereby complying with procedures set forth by the Chief Rabbinate. Their children are educated in religious Israeli schools, including, pursuant to the request of Rabbi Chaim Druckman, the best yeshivot and ulpanot of the Bnai Akiva system. In a recent letter, six Ethiopian rabbis who work intensively with the community attested that the Feles Mura who arrive in Israel have continued to observe the practices of traditional halakhic Judaism.

Throughout history, the Jewish people, in accordance with halakhah, have joyfully welcomed back to the fold repentant Jews, including those who have converted to another religion. The Feles Mura have eagerly embraced an halakhic way of life and are certainly entitled to be welcomed to Israel under the Law of Return.

The Rabbinical Council of America believes it is a Jewish imperative that the suffering of the 26,000 Beta Israel remaining in Ethiopia be brought to a swift conclusion. We call upon the State of Israel to facilitate the rapid aliyah of the entire Feles Mura community. We urge all Jewish relief organizations, particularly the Joint Distribution Committee and NACOEJ, as well as the United Jewish Communities, to provide the maximum possible physical and spiritual assistance to this distressed Diaspora community, until its members can be reunited with their brethren in Israel.

Rabbi Kenneth N. Hain

Letter from the Unites Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism Resolution on Beta Israel in Addis Ababa
Passed by The USCJ Board June 2, 1996

Whereas, at the time of Operation Solomon (May 24-25, 1991), a remnant of the Beta Israel Community was left behind because of doubts about the sincerity of this community's return to Judaism and desire to rejoin the Jewish people; and

Whereas, since that time the 3,800 men, women and children in Addis Ababa, who are certainly of recent Jewish ancestry, now lead lives of intense Jewish commitment and Zionist fervor, practicing Judaism according to the most rigorous traditional standards, observing the Sabbath and holidays, maintaining a synagogue and mikvah and engaging in Jewish study and do not
follow or adhere to any other faith; and

Whereas, the 1,700 members of this community who have reached Israel continue to observe Jewish religious practices and remain loyal Jews and citizens of the State of Israel in all respects; and

Whereas, we believe that when a lapsed individual or community of clear Jewish ancestry returns to, or undertakes, the practice of Judaism and declares the intention to continue to live and raise children as Jews, this suffices to recognize the person or community as Jewish without the need of further ritual; and

Whereas, the Beta Israel in Addis live in circumstances of dire poverty, illness, isolation and separation from close family members in Israel

Now, therefore, be it resolved that The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism calls upon the two American Jewish organizations the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry who have for six years provided the only assistance the community has received, to continue and enhance such assistance to the
maximum extent possible and further urges other Jewish organizations to come to the aid of the beleaguered Jewish community; and

Be it further resolved that The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism calls upon its affiliated congregations and their members to support the work of these organizations in Ethiopia; and

Be it further resolved that The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism calls upon the State of Israel to recognize the Beta Israel remaining in Addis Ababa as a Jewish community all of whose individual members are entitled to emigrate to their homeland, under the Law of Return, with the goal of bringing all 3,800 men, women and children to Israel by the end of 1996.

Letter from the Union of American Hebrew Congregations

The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, having received in reply to its request for a Responsum from the Responsa Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis that affirms the Jewishness of the Falas Mura community in Addis Ababa and of the individuals who comprise that community, now expresses its urgent hope that those Jews will be speedily admitted to the State of Israel under the Law of Return.



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