Archive for the ‘Ethiopian Jews’ Category

The History of Ethiopian Jewry – My Jewish Learning

Piecing together legends and stories. By Atira Winchester

A Jewish community in Ethiopiathe Beta Israel (House of Israel)has existed for at least 15 centuries.

Because of low literacy levels, a tendency to rely on oral traditions, and nomadic lifestyles among most Ethiopians prior to the 20th century, historic material about this community is scant and unreliable. However, a tentative story can be pieced together from written records of Ethiopian rulers as well as testimony from the Beta Israel themselves.

Most likely, the Beta Israel arrived in Ethiopia between the first and sixth centuries, coming as merchants or artisans from various countries in the region.

An Ethiopian Jewish family shortly after arriving in Israel in 2009. (Jewish Agency for Israel/Flickr)

Scholars once believed that during the Middle Ages the Beta Israel were a homogeneous group living under unified, autonomous Jewish rule. Yet new discoveries have shown that the truth is far more complex. It seems the Ethiopian Jewish community was for the most part fragmented both physically and religiously, with each Beta Israel village appointing its own spiritual and secular leaders. There was little contact between Beta Israel communities, and usually no overarching leadership uniting them.

Sometimes the Beta Israel were treated well by the Ethiopian monarchy, but at other times they suffered persecution. Many fellow Ethiopians refer to the Beta Israel as falasha (a derogatory term meaning outsider), In 1624, the ruling kings army captured many Ethiopian Jews, forced them to be baptized, and denied them the right to own land. According to local legend, some members of the Beta Israel chose suicide over conversion.

Since the Beta Israel community existed in isolation from other Jewish communities around the world, they developed a unique set of religious practices in some ways quite different from what is typically considered Jewish.

For example, an order of Ethiopian Jewish monks was founded in the 15th century to strengthen the communitys religious identity and resist Christian influence. This monastic movement introduced an organized approach to religious practice, creating new religious literature and prayers, and adopting laws of ritual purity.

Historians learned about the communitys religious life in the 19th century from the writings of Joseph Halevy, a French Jew who visited the area in 1867. He provided the first eyewitness account of Beta Israel life from a European Jewish perspective.

Halevy described a community that followed legal sections in the Hebrew Bible and observed laws of purity surrounding menstruation, birth, and death. They observed Shabbat and believed in values such as respecting elders, receiving guests, and visiting mourners. They referred to the Torah as Orit (possibly from the Aramaic term for the Torah, Oraita), and kept their Torah scrolls covered in colorful cloths in houses of prayer or in the homes of one of the kessim (priests).

Ethiopian rabbis (Kessim) at the ceremony of a new spiritual leader in Ashkelon, Israel, in 2012. (Wikimedia Commons)

Like today in Israel, Ethiopian Jews celebrated Sigd, a festival which commemorates the giving of the Torah. On this holiday, community members would fast, climb the highest mountain in the area, and listen to the kessim chant passages of the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Book of Nehemiah. In the afternoon they would descend, break their fast, and rejoice in their renewed acceptance of the Orit.

At the time of Halevys report, one of the biggest challenges facing the Ethiopian Jewish community was European missionary activity. Though the community had frequently been pressured to convert by Ethiopian authorities, missionaries from abroad with large-scale, organized missions presented an even stronger threat.

European missionaries, well-versed in the Hebrew Bible, were educated and skilled in debate. The Beta Israels clergy could not compete. By providing schools and Bibles written in the local language, Amharic, the missionaries challenged the communitys practice and faith.

On a number of occasions the Beta Israels monastic clergy tried to escape the missionaries influence by leading their communities to the Promised Land (Israel). By and large, these journeys were disastrous. One particular attempt in 1862 ended in large-scale starvation and death.

Between 1882 and 1892 the regions of Ethiopia where the Beta Israel lived suffered from a famine that killed an estimated one third to one half of the Beta Israel.

Ethiopian Jewish women pray during a Sigd celebration in Jerusalem in 2014. (Wikimedia Commons)

Halevys student, Jaques Faitlovitch, was the first Jewish foreigner to work in earnest on improving conditions for the Ethiopian Jewish community. Arriving for his first visit in 1904 and returning several times in subsequent years, Faitlovitch created tiny schools in Addis Ababa for Beta Israel members, hand-picked 25 young leaders for education abroad, and acted as an emissary on behalf of the world Jewish community.

Faitlovich secured two letters from rabbis abroad acknowledging the Beta Israel as fellow Jews. The first letter, written in 1906, called the Beta Israel our brethren, sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who dwell in Abyssinia and our flesh and blood. The letter, which promised to help the community in its religious education, was signed by 44 world Jewish leaders including the chief rabbis of London and Vienna and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

The second letter, from 1921, was written by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the revered Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Palestine. He called on the Jewish people worldwide to save the Beta Israel 50,000 holy souls of the house of Israel from extinction and contamination.

Faitlovichs work on behalf of the Beta Israel community came to a dramatic halt with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-6. Under fascist rule, it became forbidden to practice Judaism in Ethiopia.

Some of Faitlovitchs work was undeniably controversial he created a schism dividing the young, westernized leaders he chose from the elders of the rural communities. But, until the 1960s, no one but Faitlovitch took such a dedicated interest in the community, invested in it financially and educationally, and visited with such regularity. Moreover, it was the letters that Faitlovitch brought to Ethiopia from Kook and other contemporary Jewish leaders that allowed the Beta Israel to cling to their hopes of returning to the Promised Land, and, decades later, for world Jewry to readily accept them.

Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Atira Winchester is a journalist who worked for many years as an editor for The Jerusalem Post. She currently lives in London, England where she works as a freelance writer, specializing in arts, culture and contemporary Israeli life.

A Jewish community in Ethiopiathe Beta Israel (House of Israel)has existed for at least 15 centuries.

Because of low literacy levels, a tendency to rely on oral traditions, and nomadic lifestyles among most Ethiopians prior to the 20th century, historic material about this community is scant and unreliable. However, a tentative story can be pieced together from written records of Ethiopian rulers as well as testimony from the Beta Israel themselves.

Most likely, the Beta Israel arrived in Ethiopia between the first and sixth centuries, coming as merchants or artisans from various countries in the region.

An Ethiopian Jewish family shortly after arriving in Israel in 2009. (Jewish Agency for Israel/Flickr)

Scholars once believed that during the Middle Ages the Beta Israel were a homogeneous group living under unified, autonomous Jewish rule. Yet new discoveries have shown that the truth is far more complex. It seems the Ethiopian Jewish community was for the most part fragmented both physically and religiously, with each Beta Israel village appointing its own spiritual and secular leaders. There was little contact between Beta Israel communities, and usually no overarching leadership uniting them.

Sometimes the Beta Israel were treated well by the Ethiopian monarchy, but at other times they suffered persecution. Many fellow Ethiopians refer to the Beta Israel as falasha (a derogatory term meaning outsider), In 1624, the ruling kings army captured many Ethiopian Jews, forced them to be baptized, and denied them the right to own land. According to local legend, some members of the Beta Israel chose suicide over conversion.

Since the Beta Israel community existed in isolation from other Jewish communities around the world, they developed a unique set of religious practices in some ways quite different from what is typically considered Jewish.

For example, an order of Ethiopian Jewish monks was founded in the 15th century to strengthen the communitys religious identity and resist Christian influence. This monastic movement introduced an organized approach to religious practice, creating new religious literature and prayers, and adopting laws of ritual purity.

Historians learned about the communitys religious life in the 19th century from the writings of Joseph Halevy, a French Jew who visited the area in 1867. He provided the first eyewitness account of Beta Israel life from a European Jewish perspective.

Halevy described a community that followed legal sections in the Hebrew Bible and observed laws of purity surrounding menstruation, birth, and death. They observed Shabbat and believed in values such as respecting elders, receiving guests, and visiting mourners. They referred to the Torah as Orit (possibly from the Aramaic term for the Torah, Oraita), and kept their Torah scrolls covered in colorful cloths in houses of prayer or in the homes of one of the kessim (priests).

Ethiopian rabbis (Kessim) at the ceremony of a new spiritual leader in Ashkelon, Israel, in 2012. (Wikimedia Commons)

Like today in Israel, Ethiopian Jews celebrated Sigd, a festival which commemorates the giving of the Torah. On this holiday, community members would fast, climb the highest mountain in the area, and listen to the kessim chant passages of the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Book of Nehemiah. In the afternoon they would descend, break their fast, and rejoice in their renewed acceptance of the Orit.

At the time of Halevys report, one of the biggest challenges facing the Ethiopian Jewish community was European missionary activity. Though the community had frequently been pressured to convert by Ethiopian authorities, missionaries from abroad with large-scale, organized missions presented an even stronger threat.

European missionaries, well-versed in the Hebrew Bible, were educated and skilled in debate. The Beta Israels clergy could not compete. By providing schools and Bibles written in the local language, Amharic, the missionaries challenged the communitys practice and faith.

On a number of occasions the Beta Israels monastic clergy tried to escape the missionaries influence by leading their communities to the Promised Land (Israel). By and large, these journeys were disastrous. One particular attempt in 1862 ended in large-scale starvation and death.

Between 1882 and 1892 the regions of Ethiopia where the Beta Israel lived suffered from a famine that killed an estimated one third to one half of the Beta Israel.

Ethiopian Jewish women pray during a Sigd celebration in Jerusalem in 2014. (Wikimedia Commons)

Halevys student, Jaques Faitlovitch, was the first Jewish foreigner to work in earnest on improving conditions for the Ethiopian Jewish community. Arriving for his first visit in 1904 and returning several times in subsequent years, Faitlovitch created tiny schools in Addis Ababa for Beta Israel members, hand-picked 25 young leaders for education abroad, and acted as an emissary on behalf of the world Jewish community.

Faitlovich secured two letters from rabbis abroad acknowledging the Beta Israel as fellow Jews. The first letter, written in 1906, called the Beta Israel our brethren, sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who dwell in Abyssinia and our flesh and blood. The letter, which promised to help the community in its religious education, was signed by 44 world Jewish leaders including the chief rabbis of London and Vienna and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

The second letter, from 1921, was written by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the revered Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Palestine. He called on the Jewish people worldwide to save the Beta Israel 50,000 holy souls of the house of Israel from extinction and contamination.

Faitlovichs work on behalf of the Beta Israel community came to a dramatic halt with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-6. Under fascist rule, it became forbidden to practice Judaism in Ethiopia.

Some of Faitlovitchs work was undeniably controversial he created a schism dividing the young, westernized leaders he chose from the elders of the rural communities. But, until the 1960s, no one but Faitlovitch took such a dedicated interest in the community, invested in it financially and educationally, and visited with such regularity. Moreover, it was the letters that Faitlovitch brought to Ethiopia from Kook and other contemporary Jewish leaders that allowed the Beta Israel to cling to their hopes of returning to the Promised Land, and, decades later, for world Jewry to readily accept them.

Continued here:

The History of Ethiopian Jewry – My Jewish Learning

Fair Usage Law

July 4, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Ethiopian Chapter – Black Jews

A Historical Analysis by Rabbi S.B. Levy 2002

At first glance one might incorrectly assume that the only thing Ethiopian Jews, who call themselves Beta Yisrael (The House of Israel), have in common with black Jews in other parts of the world is that their ancestors once lived on the same continent. While not entire true, this small fact is significant because Africawhether we acknowledge it or notis a crucial link that historically unites all Jews. Those whose African connection is more obvious because of race share this, too, as a bond for better or worse.

Actually, our similarities are more than skin deep. The direct connections between the Beta Israel and my community of black Jews in the United States antedates the recent public fascination with the African tribe by at least sixty years. The existence of all of our communities raise important questions about the ancient history, current composition, and future of Judaism. This essay covers the ancient history, culture and tradition of the Beta Yisrael. My analysis of their current status in Israel is covered on a separate page devoted to black Jews in Israel today.

The Beta Yisrael are perhaps the best known black Jewish sect in the world. Despite their ancient and well-documented history, they, like all black communities, have had their historical connections to Judaism challenged, the validity of their religious practice scrutinized, and their acceptance within the white Jewish world hindered. When the Ethiopians left the cultural isolation of their remote villages, they entered a world prefigured by race. They soon learned that their Jewish heritage was not the only thing that made them Falasha, (outsiders). For the black Jews of America, the existence of Ethiopian Jews was living proof that black people have a connection to Judaism that is as old as any claimed by Europeans.

They called themselves Beta Yisrael because for centuries they believed that they were the last remnant of the ancient Israelites. In fact, in the nineteenth century when a French linguist named Joseph Halevy reached one of their villages on a mission from the Alliance Israelite Universelle, they did not believe that he, the European, could be a Jew. As Halevy described it, the Ethiopians said What!You a Falahsa! A white Falasha! You are laughing at us. Are there any white Falashas?[1] Imagine the irony of that moment: black Jews questioning the Jewishness of white Jews; and the white Jew trying to convince them of his authenticity. The levity of that scene is surpassed by a far more serious point: when different Jewish communities come together, one will usually occupy the superior position; the one of dominance, authority, and control. Not surprisingly, the dominant group is in a position to judge the subordinate. That is an exercise of power, and power underlies all of these relationships.

Dominance or power in this context is established by a combination of any or all of these factors: (1) numeric superiority, (2) access to wealth, (3) primo-occupancy; i.e. the act of being there first, (4) higher social status (this could be based on a privilege afforded one Jewish group by a Christian or Muslim authority that is more power than either Jewish group (5) racial or ethnic superiority (this would be true in racialized societies of the West and was evident in the interaction of Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Europe and Israel).

The Beta Israel maintain that their ancestors were descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. That union produced a child called Menileck (in Hebrew Mem Meleck literally means from king). This child was then trained by the wise men of Solomons court. They further assert that when Menileck left Jerusalem with a large retinue of Israelite nobles for Ethiopia they took with them the Ark of the Covenant that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Ethiopian claim is based on oral history that has been passed down from generation to generation by their elders, scholars called Dabtaras, and their priests, called Kahens (an Amharic word linguistically similar to the Hebrew word for priest, Kohen).[2] The written account of ancient Ethiopian history is known as the Kebra Nagast and it corroborates in even greater detail what the Beta Israel have always affirmed. Moreover, the Biblical record tends to substantiate their claim. It vividly describes the Queen of Sheba arriving in Jerusalem with a large entourage shortly after the completion of the temple. She is granted an audience with the king, they engage in a colloquy in which the queen is impressed with his Solomonic wisdom to the point where there was no more spirit left in her.And King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired, whatever she asked, in addition to all that he gave her of his royal bounty.[3]

Meeting of Solomon and Sheba Piero della Francesca, c. 1452

King Solomon and the Queen of Sheaba Illustrated by Avi Katz

Notice how the 15th century painter whose work is shown of the left depicted King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba as being white, archetypal Europeans. The Israeli artist whose work is shown on the right presents a more realistic depiction showing Makeda as the African queen that she was. These conflicting images reflect the old presumption of whiteness that was traditionally applied to all Biblical characters and the new multicultural realism that acknowledges the Eastern and African origins of Biblical figures respectively. Such realism is to be embraced and celebrated rather than denied and discouraged.

Rudolph R. Windsor examined the validity of this claim in his book From Babylon to Timbuktu. There he argued that the queen who visited King Solomon in 1012 B.C. was indeed an Ethiopian queen known variously as Makeda or Bilkis. Her dominion at that time included a province on the Arabian peninsula called Sheba; hence the title Queen of Sheba. That area would be in the region of Yemen today. Geographically, the Arabian peninsula is a peninsula of the African continent.[4] Yemen and the ancient boundaries of Ethiopia are adjacent points, separated only by a very thin isthmus. Further, the renowned Jewish historian Flavius Josephus identified the ruler of Sheba as a queen of Egypt and Ethiopia.[5] Not only does this comport with the view that Sheba was a vassal state of Ethiopia, but as Windsor contends, lends credence to the view that the people of this region were blacksince Upper Egypt, the area once ruled by Ethiopia, is today called the Sudan and the indigenous people there are very dark. [6]

If the Beta Israel are the product of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, then they have been in Ethiopia since the 10th Century B.C. That is twelve centuries before the writing of the Mishnah and sixteen centuries before the codification of the Talmud. The first European traveler did not stumble into their village until the 9th Century A.D. His name was Eldad Ha-Dani (which in Hebrew means Eldad of the tribe of Dan). He reported that he discovered Jews in the mountains of northern Abyssinia. Moreover, he believed that these Jews were also of the tribe of Dan.[7] He saw that they were Jews and assumed that they had to be of the tribe of Dan, like him, because of the tradition among Sephardic Jews that members of that tribe had emigrated when the Kingdom of Solomon split after his death, and they did not want to be ruled by Jerobaom in the northern sector known as Israel.[8] Other travlers such as Benjamin of Tudela, Solomon of Vienna (the first Ashkenazi Jew to reach them in 1626), and the apostate James Bruce in the 18th Century. Their intermittent logs created the lore about black Jews in Ethiopia that the aforementioned Joseph Ha Levy came to investigate.

And when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the Name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions. She communed with him of all that was in her heart. And Solomon answered her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the King, which he told her not. I Kings 10:1-3

How Jewish were the Beta Israel? Dr. Wolf Leslau spent ten months in 1947 living among the Beta Israel. He primarily studied the most urban of their isolated villages in Gondar, which is near Lake Tana and the Blue Nile. The influential book he published from his journals, Falasha Anthology, has become the source of much of the secondary literature on this subject. He observed that every Friday all work in the village stopped early in the afternoon so that the cooking, cleaning, and baking needed for the Sabbath could be completed before sunset. Their synagogues were humble, austere structures having at best a Star of David on display. Inside, the rooms were divided into two sections: the outer chamber for laymen who faced east toward Jerusalem while saying their prayers and the inner chamberrepresenting the holy of holies of the Mosaic Tabernacleinto which only the priests could enter.[9]

Priests of the Beta Israel pray seven time a day. Like the Levitical Priest of old, they sacrificed kosher animals on small alters built in front of their synagogues. Unlike the Levites, however, their positions were not hereditary; aspiring clerics had to study, apprentice, and live exemplary lives in order to be selected for the office. Once initiated, the priests wore a white cotton headdress that distinguished them from other Ethiopians. Their Torah, written in the Geez language on parchment, contained all the books of the Old Testament and some from the Apocrypha, but none of the New Testament and no references to Jesus at all. Some devotees have attempted to lead lives of solitude and quiet contemplation as nuns and monks.[10]

Judaism for them was not just an act of faith, it was a way of life governing almost every activity. All marriages were arranged by parents and elders. Individuals who married outside the group and women who were not virgins at the time of marriage could be banished. Their diet prohibited the eating of foods deemed uncleanincluding beef slaughtered by non-Jews or beef that has not had the sinew removed. They used a solar calendar for secular activities and a lunar calendar to calculate all Biblical festivals such as Passover, Shavuot, and the Day of Atonement. For example, the Feast of Tabernacle was celebrated in the seventh month with palm branches and weeping willows.[11]

Circumcision was performed on male children eight days after birth as the Torah proscribed. However, some have adopted the practice of female circumcision from their neighbors.[12] Burials were performed on the same day of death, if possible. Special blessings were said before and after eating and performing other rituals. In fact, the Beta Israel went to such great lengths to avoid spiritual defilement that locale gentiles referred to them as the people who smell of water because of their frequent baths and the touch-me-nots because of their aversion to physical contact with non-Jews.[13]

In his book, Acts of Faith: A Journey to the Fringes of Jewish Identity, Dan Ross described how the Beta Israel literally applied purity laws by building blood huts as temporary housing for women during menstruation:[14]

Like Samaritans, Falashas do not touch women during menstruation or after childbirth. But unlike Samaritans, Falasha women spend their menstrual periods in separate huts. Circles of stones mark a perimeter around those tukuls beyond which men may not pass. Additional huts are built for women to live in during their forty or eighty days of impurity after childbirth; these are burned afterwards.[15]

Dr. Leslau described the Judaism of the Beta Israel as being primitive because these people were not aware of all the rabbinic changes that have taken place since the redaction of the Talmud in the sixth century. From his perspective in the twentieth century, the menstrual huts and animal sacrifices must seem barbaric and a sure sign of ignorance. What he fails to recognizeor perhaps is ashamed to acknowledgeis that the customs of the Beta Israel today are a reflection of what the ancient Israelite must have looked like when they offered burnt offerings, incense, and libation to the same God that we as Jews worship today. Perhaps on some level this is unsettling. It is not often that a people can be confronted with their past in the present. Or, because Judaism outside of Ethiopia has changed so much over the centuries, those without the proper historical reference may not recognize their roots when the see them. Primitive, after all, is something associated with those uncivilized black tribes of Africa. Well, if that is true, then that is who, where, and how our Judaism evolved. I argue that rather than accept these possibilities, many scholars have blinded their eyes to these implications and have attempted to distance and disassociate themselves from the Beta Israel by discrediting their culture.

Despite all the evidence that has been adduced about the history and origins of the Beta Israel, there has been a profound, and often irrational, reluctance to accept that their claim is plausible. Scholars who are quite adept at understanding that the Bible may not always state the literal and unbiased truth of events, may yet remain an important tool in understanding how a people explained and preserved their culture. Nonetheless, many of these scholars seem incapable or unwilling to apply the same standards to their examination of the Beta Israel. Dr. Leslau in particular, seemed intent on dismissing the very evidence he presented. For example, he asserted that from all historical evidence it would seem that the Falasha never have been a Hebrew-speaking people.[16] Yet, before his eyes and throughout his text Hebrew words and names of months frequently appear. The fact that only a few Hebrew words have survived over the millennia does not mean they never had a working knowledge of the language. After all, Hebrew had ceased to be the lingua franqua of Israel long before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Would a traveler in the Holy Land at that time be correct in assuming that those Greek-speaking Jews never spoke Hebrew? Subsequent scholars have looked at words such as masia (messiah), mizvat (charity). Sanbat (Sabbath), Saitan (Satan), which bear remarkable similarity to Hebrew words but could derived from Amharic, another semetic language and the offical language of Ethiopia. However, the following words only appear in Falasha texts: safur (shofar), gadol (great), El Shaddai (Almighty God), goyyim (gentile) and Torah.[17] It seems perfectly logical that if one finds Hebrew words among people who claim to be descended from Hebrews, then the Hebrews are a likely source for how the words got there. It also does not require a great leap of faith to assume that if they know these words now, then they probably knew more words in the pastsince the tendency is for words to be lost over generations.

In the following passage, Dr. Leslau not only states his candid opinion of the Beta Israel, but he shares his insights into what many of his colleagues in the historical profession believe as well:

Very few of the western scholars who have dealt with the problem of the Falashas are of the opinion that they are ethnically Jews. Most of them think that they are a segment of the indigenous Agau population which was converted to Judaism. How and when they were converted is a problem for which historical evidence is lacking.[18]

It is extremely instructive for scholars looking anew at the Beta Israel to comprehend what Dr. Leslau admitted. Despite all the information he had in his possession, in the end, the Beta Israel did not look ethnically Jewish and because of that he and his colleagues were never able to overcome their doubt. Therefore, they concluded that the Beta Israel must have been convertedeven though historical evidence is lacking to support such a position. What effrontery. To dismiss a body of evidence that points in one direction in favor of another position for which there is no evidence.

Dr. Yosef Ben-Jocannan took issue with Dr. Leslau dubious reference to ethnic Jews. For Professor Leslau to have reached the conclusion that the Falashas are not ethnically Jews, he must have produced for public scrutiny at least one of his own Ethnic Jews from any part of the European and European-American communities where they still allegedly exist. But he must have started with the theory that there are such persons of Ethnic Jewish Origin dating back to the allegorical and mythical Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to validate his classification. [19]

What exactly is an ethnic Jew? This is the question that Dr. Ben-Jochannan and others have raised. Those who use this term assume that we know what it is. They can spot one when they see one and they know who looks Jewish and who does not. However, we need to examine more closely what is meant by these terms and how they are used. Naomi Zack defined and clarified terms such as this in her recent book, Thinking About Race. She argues that race and ethnicity are nebulous concepts into which and out of which a host of meanings can be put in order to socially construct an identity. As such, neither of these constitutes a fixed, universal, or objective reality; i.e. they mean whatever the society that uses them wants them to mean at the time. She points out that what masquerades today as the building blocks of ethnic identity (language, common origin, shared culture, etc.) are the same things that social scientist used prior to about 1920 when Jews, Poles, Italians, Germans, and others were classified as races.[20] What has changed since that timeparticularly in this era of political correctnessis that the word ethnicity is often used as a euphemism for race when speakers want to refer to race without causing offense to diverse listeners or readers.[21] Hence, all the groups previously mentioned have been transformed into ethnic groups, while people of African descent remain a race. This is not because physical characteristics are not a part of ethnicity; they often are, instead it seems that whiteness helps to make one ethnic.

Karen Brodkin has chronicled this process in her book, How Jews Became White Folks. Although she focused on explaining this phenomenon within the United States, I argue that how one defines American Jews, who are essentially European Jews transplanted, is to a large extent the standard against which all other Jews will be judgedsince Americans Jews are the largest, wealthiest, and most influential group of Jews in the world. And these American Jews have, despite rigorous resistance, become white folks.[22] Like Dr. Zack, Dr. Brodkin recognizes this racial dimension to how Jews are perceived and how they often perceive themselves. She actually prefers the term ethnoracial, but uses it inconsistently.[23] Nonetheless, their works help us to decode the hidden racial messages embedded in terms like ethnicity.

There are many who would argue that Jewishness does not conform to the ethnoracial paradigm that defines other groups. They might argue that Judaism is a religion that people of all ethnoracial backgrounds can and do practice. Daniel and Jonathan Boyarin have tried to carve out just such an exception. Their tact is a very interesting one. Rather than simply positing that Judaism is a religion of peace and love for all peoplewhich it is for manythey concede that there are popular conceptions of Judaism that promulgate racist or quasi-racist notions of Jewishness.[24] They further concede that the belief in a distinct Jewish genealogy and the belief that there is something indefinable and found only in Jewish women (not Jewish men) that make their children Jewish, strongly implies that there is a biological component to being Jewish. All the forgoing not withstanding, they argue that conversion to Judaism not only changes ones religion, it miraculously changes ones genealogy as well. In the case of male converts, circumcision alters them physically so that they now look like other Jews. In other words, by this process a convert is not someone of another ethnoracial group who has chosen to practice Judaism, he is in fact and genealogy as Jew. [The implied difference between practicing Judaism and being Jewish will become important to our discussion later.]

More revealingly, however, the convert’s name is changed to ‘ben Avraham” or “bas Avraham,” son or daughter of Abraham. The convert is adopted into the family and assigned a new “genealogical” identity, but because Abraham is the first convert in Jewish tradition, converts are his descendants in that sense as well. There is thus a sense in which the convert becomes the ideal type of the Jew.[25]

The denouement of the Boyarin theory is not that Judaism can never be thought of as a kind of race, but that anyone who joins the religion simultaneously becomes a member of the same race. Well, that certainly would make being Jewish different from being black, white, or Asianif it were true. However, if the Boyarins mean that all Jews are members of the same Jewish race in the eyes of God, then it would not help us to see how Jews view each otherparticularly those who started out as members of other races.

In the 1930s, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan advocated another way of thinking about Judaism. His movement led to a new denomination of Judaism in the United States called Reconstructionist Jews. One basic tenet of Reconstructionism is that Judaism is not necessarily a race, religion, or an ethnic group, but can be experienced as part of a civilization. Here the emphasis is on Jewish culture rather than any particular Jewish practices or beliefs.[26] If Judaism is a culture, as Reconstructionist hold, does that culture have any bearing on race?

Walter Benn Michaels has studied the relationship between cultural groups and race. He began by looking at how social critics and historians such as Mellville J. Herskovits attempted to define black people in America in purely cultural terms. Herskovits was interested in understanding what role, if any, African cultures and American culture had on the development of what might be called African-American culture. This included such things as art, music, literature, speechanything except race. Michaels, who deplores racial classifications or distinctions, found that most groups that define themselves as a culture rely on things that are inherently racial in nature for defining membership in their culture. Therefore, the term culture may sound race neutral, but often it is not. In the case of African-Americans, it was fairly easy to prove, at least rhetorically, that most of the cultural connections that were being made between people in one place and people in other place were based on the premise that both peoples were of the same race; i.e. black. Michaels noticed that the racial underpinnings of group cultures were not always as obvious as the example, but they were usually present. As he explained:

It is only the appeal to race that makes culture an object of affect and that gives notions like losing our culture, preserving it, stealing someone elses culture, restoring people’s culture to them, and so on, their pathos. Our race identifies the culture to which we have a right, a right that may be violated or defended, repudiated or recovered. Race transforms people who learn to do what we do into thieves of our culture and people who teach us to do what they do into the destroyers of our culture; it makes assimilation into a kind of betrayal and the refusal to assimilate into a form of heroism. Without race, losing our culture can mean no more than doing things differently from the way we now do them–the melodrama of assimilation disappears.[27]

Michaels thesis is directly on point. His argument is not about what constitutes a culture, he is concerned about what constitutes the our in our culture, or the their in their culture. That is where the racial element is to be found if it exists. When people refer to Jewish culture or Jewish civilization the things they point to may be racially innocuous; e.g. cooking or music, but, when pressed to explain what is Jewish about it or what connects them to it and each other, and the user of the cultural term soon finds himself in a morass of racial euphemisms. The racial elements are what usually allow members of the group to explain why this is mine and that is yours. If we are all participants in something then that thing is de facto a part of our shared culture. We are what we do. Race allows us to claim or deny connections based on who we are, not what we do. Like African-American culture, Jewish culture implies that this Jew and that Jew have something in common that goes much deeper than the matzo balls. The question which culture we belong to is relevant only if culture is anchored in race.[28]

To be ethnically Jewish is to be Jewish according to white European or American standards. It was obvious and undeniable that the Beta Israel were doing Jewish things. By Michaels non-racial standards, people who do the same things share the shame culture unless a racial claim in made; ergo Beta Israel are part of Jewish culture unless white folk say there not. However, we recall that the Boyarins asserted that Jews are people who are Jewish by birth or conversion and who do Jewish things. Therefore, by the latter racialized definition, people who are not recognized as being Jewish first, can do all the Jewish things they want for as long as they can and it will not make them Jewishit can only make them persistent, exhausted, and ultimately frustrated Jewish imitators.

Beta Israel, and black Jews in other areas, are discovering that neither who they are nor what they do guarantees their membership or acceptance within a racial context.

In 1904, Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch (1880-1955) was given a grant by Baron Edmond de Rothschild and the blessings of the Chief Rabbi of Paris, Zadok Kahn, to go to Africa and investigate persistent rumors of there being black Jews in Ethiopia. He returned to France the following year to report that the people he saw are really Jews. By 1906, Dr. Faitlovitch was trying to convince the rabbis of Europe that the black Jews of Ethiopia were our flesh and blood.[29] This announcement by a prominent Jewish scholar was soon followed by photographs, articles, and speaking engagements. Unlike his predecessors, Dr. Faitlovitch was steadfastly committed to winning recognition for the Beta Israel. For the rest of his life he worked tirelessly on three continents and through two world wars to remedy the plight of black Jews in Ethiopia. Although his methods and actions are open to scrutiny, his sincerity and dedication are not.

The first major victory that Faitlovitch won for the Beta Israel came in 1906. He persuaded forty-four eminent rabbis to sign a letter addressed to the Beta Israel that referred to them as our brethren, sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacobour flesh and blood. The signers included: Herman Adler (Chief Rabbi of London), Raphael Meir Panigel (Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jersusalem / Palestine) and Jacob Reines of Russia (head of the Mizrachi movement) and others.[30] For a moment, it looked as if the world Jewish community was going to come to the immediate and unconditional aide of their fellow Jews in Ethiopia. But, the following year a Turkish rabbi named Haim Nahoum made his own journey to Ethiopia and upon his return he reported that It does not seem to me desirable that anything should be done.[31]

Thus would begin a cruel pattern of expressions of enthusiastic support and solidarity followed by long periods of inactivity and indifference. Because the Beta Israel were frequently forgotten, they have been repeatedly rediscoveredmost recently again during the dramatic airlift of fifty thousand Ethiopians to Israel in the 1980s. However, individuals like Faitlovitch consistently tried to keep the Ethiopian issue on the agendas of major Jewish organizations. In March of 1914, just prior to the outbreak of World War One, Faitlovitch established the Pro-Falasha Committee as a lobbying group solely dedicated to this cause. They had officers in several European countries and one in New York City.[32] The Alliance Israelite Universelle, which had been an early sponsor, thought the best way to help the Ethiopians was through vocational training. Faitlovitch favored classical academic training. In many ways, their disagreement over the best way to help the Ethiopians parallels the debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois over the best way to help black people in the United StatesWashington favoring vocational and DuBois, liberal artsthough in both cases the differences should not be exaggerated. Where they are similar, however, is that vocational training is an approach usually applied to the masses, while university training is usually directed at an educated elite.

Here we begin to see a troubling side to Dr. Faitlovitchs advocacy of the Beta Israel. Dr. Simon Messing, who knew and interviewed Dr. Faitlovitch, explained that many people of that period believed that Africans lacked the intellect to acquire a classical education. So, Faitlovitch demonstrated Falasha mental capacity by a test that was accepted in the ethnocentric Europe of the time: One of his students had been brought to Switzerland where he had learned to speak fluent German![33] After this student, Faitlovitch created about six Ethiopian protgs who often accompanied him on speaking and fund raising tours. He arranged for their educations, attempted to direct their careers, reshaped their religious views, and tried to control their political activities. Dr. Faitlovitch fervently fought for the advancement of Ethiopian Jews, but he defined progress by his ability to make Ethiopian Jews more like European Jews. Tragically, his program began to resemble a Jewish version of the White Mans Burden; i.e. it was the moral duty of European Jews to save and civilize the Jews of Africa.

He was determined to rescue the Falashas and to bring them into rabbinic Judaism, the pattern known in Western Europe as Torah im Derkh-Eretz (lit. Bible together with the Way of the Land), which signified strict religious Orthodoxy together with modern behavior in manner, clothing, shelter, fine arts and careers.[34]

When the first of Faitlovitchs students, Getye Jeremias, returned to his Ethiopian village dressed in a European jacket and high leather riding boots, he was an envied model of what others should become. He next student, who would become the well-known Professor Taamrat Emmanuel and have an important interaction with the black Jews of Harlem, was literally rescued from a Chrisitan mission that had already converted his parents. Faitlovitch was greatly impressed with the young man who was fluent in Italian, Tigrinya (a local dialect), and his native Amharic. Faitlovitch took him to Paris where he learned French, then to Italy where he studied at the Collegio Rabbinico, and finally to Jerusalem where he was entrusted to the supervision of Herr Goldschmidt. Like Getye before him, Taamrat was installed as the headmaster of one of the village Hebrew schools that Faitlovitch had created back in Ethiopia. Faitlovitch understood that he was making leaders; his students were being trained to lead their people out of darkness.[35] However, Taamrat and some of his peers had their own ideas on how best to use their talents. They had also come to the attention of the Emperor Menilek and his Regent in Addis Ababa, Ras Tafari Makonnenwho would later himself become the Emperor Haile Selassie I.[36]

What Faitlovitch did not realize at first and then later strongly discouraged, was that his prized students were not only black Jews, but black Ethiopians as well. As they traveled and read they became aware of how the Western world viewed them and how their own leaders treated them. Faitlovitch opposed the development of any race consciousness or nationalist sentiments other than his brand of religious Zionism. When Taamrat, Yonah Boggale, and Mequria Segay temporarily left their posts in the village Hebrew schools for government positions in Haile Selassies administration, Faitlovitch saw this as a personal betrayal and an abandonment of the missions for which they were trained. They were expected to shed their black identity and their Ethiopian identity; they were to master and emulate what they were taught; and, when enough of them had done this successfully, they would be accepted back into the Jewish fold. By taking these jobs his students were not merely motivated by a personal desire for greater wealth and statusalthough those were, no doubt, factorsbut, more importantly they were also sincere idealists who were swept up in the hope and optimism of creating a new Ethiopia and a new Africa. The significance of Haile Selassies rise to power in 1930 and the struggle for Ethiopian independence against Italian aggression, profoundly affected black people all over the worldparticularly black people in America and the Caribbean. Faitlovitch was less sanguine about these events. He returned to Ethiopia after WWII from Israel, his new home, and in his forceful manner cajoled Yonah to leave his postwhich was dangerous since the Emperor had not agreed to release him. Taamrat retired from his position as Cultural Attach at the Ethiopian Embassy in Paris in 1952, disillusioned by the slow rate of democratization and land reform. He, too, immigrated to Israel but continued to march to the beat of his own drum until his death in 1968. In many ways, Taamrats journey literally and symbolically adumbrated the physical, political, intellectual, and emotional journey of the thousands of black Jews who would follow him.

As a poltical activist, Taamrat regarded Faitlovitch as an antiquarian who was stern in his condemnation of Falasha wrong practices and insufficiently respectful of Falahsa pride in their long independence. Taamrat viewed the future of the Falashas as largely bound up with the modernization of Ethiopia. Only modern education of the general population could finally free the Falashas from being victimized by accusations of lycanthropy as were-hyenas. Neither did he think that Rabbinic Orthodoxy should be imposed on them to qualify them as Jews.[37]

Taamrat Emmanuels struggle to find a balance between preserving a healthy respect for the traditions of the Beta Israel, while at the same time trying to forge a meaningful relationship with European Jewry, proved to be illusory. Though well intentioned, Faitlovitch and those that followed him made what has become a classic liberal mistake: they setout to remake those they helped in their own image. This often has the consequence of saving the people, but destroying their culture. Complete cultural assimilation unintentionally leads to the cultural annihilation of the dependent group. The Nobel laureate, Chinua Achebe, described in his fictional novel, Things Fall Apart, how the stable social fabric of a pre-colonial Nigerian village began to unravel before the juggernaut of Western conformity. In this context, European Jewry is the juggernaut that black Jewish communities fear, admire, resent, and need.

In December of 1930, Taamrat ignored the urging of his handlers at the Pro-Falsha Committee in New York and journeyed uptown to Harlem were he met with Chief Rabbi Matthew and addressed the Commandment Keepers Congregation. Shortly thereafter, dozens of black Jews left the United States to establish a colony in Ethiopia that lasted until the Italian invasion and the death of Rabbi Arnold Ford in 1935.[38] During the years that followed, individuals from both communities would seek each other out whenever possible, but neither has been in a position to significantly help the other. Yet, the cry of Ethiopia continues to loom large in the hearts of black Jews all over the world for we share a common struggle.

Emperor Haile Selassie greeting Rabbi Hailu Paris, an Ethiopian-born leader and teacher in our community at a gathering in New York City in which he and Chief Rabbi W. A. Matthew went to meet the Lion of Judah, a direct descendent of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Read the original post:

Ethiopian Chapter – Black Jews

Fair Usage Law

July 1, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Israeli Government Admits to Sterilizing Ethiopian Jews …

February 21, 2012 According to recent Forbes and Haaretz articles, the Israeli government has been pursuing a long term plan of sterilization of immigrant Ethiopian Jews.

The Depo-Prevara injections were enforced upon women in transit camps in Ethiopia.

One might ask: why? At this point, no absolutely clear answer can be given. There are, of course, speculations about racial motives; that is, with the Israeli ruling class being mainly of Ashkenazi back ground, while the Ethiopian Jews are not. The outrage eventually led to the Israeli government suspending injections unless the women understood the ramifications. The shots have led to a drop in the Ethiopian Jewish birth-rate byabout 20%.

According to the UK Independent:

The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive.

as well as noting:

Sharona Eliahu Chai, a lawyer for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), said: Findings from investigations into the use of Depo Provera are extremely worrisome, raising concerns of harmful health policies with racist implications in violation of medical ethics. The Ministry of Healths director-general was right to act quickly and put forth new guidelines.

The Ethiopian Jewish community of course has its past shrouded in mystery. Different theories abound as to its origins. However, despite dispute about their ability to legally come to Israel, it was decided that those Ethiopian Jews who agreed to undergo a conversion to Orthdoox Talmudic Judaism would be allowed entry. The Ethiopian Jewish community has left in large numbers from Ethiopia, especially since the culture was hostile to them (for example, prior to the over-throw of the old imperial system, they could not own property).

Read the original here:

Israeli Government Admits to Sterilizing Ethiopian Jews …

Fair Usage Law

June 20, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Ethiopian Jews in Israel – My Jewish Learning

Ancient traditions in a new Jewish State. By Atira Winchester

The Jews of Ethiopiaknown as the Beta Israelhave experienced a long history of famine, religious oppression, and civil war. But in the 20th century the community went through some major changes as it was transplanted into Israel.

In 1974, following a coup detat, Ethiopia came under the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Under Mariams regime, anti-Semitism rose, and physical conditions worsened for the Beta Israel, with starvation across the country.

In May 1977, Israeli President Menachem Begin started selling arms to Mariams government, hoping to secure freedom for Ethiopias Jews. Later that year, Israel took 200 Jews out of Ethiopia on a plane that had emptied its arms cargo for Mariams use. Mariam agreed to the airliftgiven his reliance on Israels arms, he could hardly refuse.

Between 1977 and 1984, a total of 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came to Israel in a number of small airlifts, all authorized, albeit grudgingly, by the Ethiopian government. Large-scale aliya started in 1984 with Operation Moses, a mission that brought 8,000 Jews to Israel in just a few months. The operation, which began in November, 1984, ended prematurely in January 1985 when news of the airlift reached Ethiopias Arab allies.

In March 1985, another 650 Jews were rescued in Operation Joshua, but approximately 15,000 Beta Israel still remained in Ethiopia, many of them elderly, sick, or weak.

Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Atira Winchester is a journalist who worked for many years as an editor for The Jerusalem Post. She currently lives in London, England where she works as a freelance writer, specializing in arts, culture and contemporary Israeli life.

The Jews of Ethiopiaknown as the Beta Israelhave experienced a long history of famine, religious oppression, and civil war. But in the 20th century the community went through some major changes as it was transplanted into Israel.

In 1974, following a coup detat, Ethiopia came under the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Under Mariams regime, anti-Semitism rose, and physical conditions worsened for the Beta Israel, with starvation across the country.

In May 1977, Israeli President Menachem Begin started selling arms to Mariams government, hoping to secure freedom for Ethiopias Jews. Later that year, Israel took 200 Jews out of Ethiopia on a plane that had emptied its arms cargo for Mariams use. Mariam agreed to the airliftgiven his reliance on Israels arms, he could hardly refuse.

Between 1977 and 1984, a total of 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came to Israel in a number of small airlifts, all authorized, albeit grudgingly, by the Ethiopian government. Large-scale aliya started in 1984 with Operation Moses, a mission that brought 8,000 Jews to Israel in just a few months. The operation, which began in November, 1984, ended prematurely in January 1985 when news of the airlift reached Ethiopias Arab allies.

In March 1985, another 650 Jews were rescued in Operation Joshua, but approximately 15,000 Beta Israel still remained in Ethiopia, many of them elderly, sick, or weak.

The final and most dramatic large-scale operation was Operation Solomon. 14,325 Beta Israel were airlifted to Israel in 36 hours on May 24 -25, 1991 amid political turmoil that forced Mariam to flee the country.

By the end of 1991, only a handful of Beta Israel remained in Ethiopia, although many thousands of Falasha Mura, whose Jewish identity has been disputed, still remain today.

While the operations that brought about Beta Israels exodus were dramatic and swift, integration into Israeli society has been painstakingly slow. Even today, the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel is still grappling with problems: they are marginalized socially, religiously, geographically, and professionally.

When they first arrived, housing was often provided in mobile homes located in Israels peripheral areas. Housing conditions were regularly squalid, inadequately heated in the winter or cooled in the summer. Ethiopians were isolated and disempowered, with children far from decent schools. Life in an industrialized, modern society baffled many of the older community members, and adjusting to simple things like electricity was often difficult.

Israelis were not always quick to help make the transition easier. For example, Yehuda Dominitz, then Director General of the Jewish Agencys Department of Immigration and Absorption, declared in 1980 that, [taking] a Falasha out of his village, its like taking a fish out of waterIm not in favor of bringing them [to Israel].

Excerpt from:

Ethiopian Jews in Israel – My Jewish Learning

Fair Usage Law

June 16, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Ethiopia Virtual Jewish Tour | Jewish Virtual Library

Once they were kings. A half million strong, they matched their faith with fervor and out-matched the Moslem and Christian tribesmen around them to rule the mountain highlands around Lake Tana. They called themselves Beta Israelthe house of Israeland used the Torah to guide their prayers and memories of the heights of Jerusalem as they lived in their thatched huts in Ethiopia. But their neighbors called them Falashasthe alien ones, the invaders. And even three hundred years of rule, even the black features that matched those of all the people around them did not make the Jews of Ethiopia secure governors of their destiny in Africa (Falashas: The Forgotten Jews, Baltimore Jewish Times, 9 November 1979).

For centuries, the world Jewish community was not even aware of the existence of the Jewish community of Ethiopia in the northern province of Gondar. The miracle of Operation Solomon is only now being fully understood; an ancient Jewish community has been brought back from the edge of government-imposed exile and starvation.

But once they were kings. . .

– History – Modern Contact – The Mengistu Threat – Operations Moses & Joshua – Operation Solomon – Authentic Jews – Jewish Apathy & its Defeat – Operation Dove’s Wings – Recent Developments

Christianity spread through the Axum dynasty of Ethiopia in the 4th century CE. By the 7th century, however, Islam had surpassed Christianity and had separated Ethiopia from its Christian African neighbors.

Prior to this, the Beta Israel had enjoyed relative independence through the Middle Ages. Their reign was threatened in the 13th century CE under the Solomonic Empire, and intermittent fighting continuing for the next three centuries with other tribes.

In 1624, the Beta Israel fought what would be their last battle for independent autonomy against Portuguese-backed Ethiopians. A graphic eyewitness account described the battle:

Falasha men and women fought to the death from the steep heights of their fortress… they threw themselves over the precipice or cut each other’s throats rather than be taken prisonerit was a Falasha Masada. [The rebel leaders] burned all of the Falasha’s written history and all of their religious books, it was an attempt to eradicate forever the Judaic memory of Ethiopia (Righteous Jews Honored by Falasha Supporters, AAEJ Press Release, 1981).

Those Jews captured alive were sold into slavery, forced to be baptized, and denied the right to own land. The independence of the Beta Israel was torn from them just as it was from their Israeli brethren at Masada centuries before.

The first modern contact with the now oppressed community came in 1769, when Scottish explorer James Bruce stumbled upon them while searching for the source of the Nile River. His estimates at the time placed the Beta Israel population at 100,000, already greatly decreased from an estimate from centuries before of a half-million.

Little additional contact was made with the community, but in 1935 their stability was greatly threatened as the Italian army marched into Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s ruler, Emperor Haile Selassie fled his country and actually took refuge in Jerusalem for a short time. Selassie returned to power in 1941, but the situation for the Beta Israel improved little.

In 1947, Ethiopia abstained on the United Nations Partition Plan for the British Mandate of Palestine, which reestablished the State of Israel. By 1955, the non-governmental Jewish Agency of Israel had already begun construction of schools and a teacher’s seminary for the Beta Israel in Ethiopia.

In 1956, Ethiopia and Israel established consular relations, which were improved in 1961 when the two countries established full diplomatic ties. Positive relations between Israel and Ethiopia existed until 1973, when, in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, Ethiopia (and 28 African nations) broke diplomatic relations with Israel under the threat of an Arab oil embargo.

Months later, Emperor Selassie’s regime ended in a coup d’etat. Selassie was replaced by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose Marxist-Leninist dictatorship increased the threat to the Beta Israel. During the weeks surrounding Mariam’s coup, an estimated 2,500 Jews were killed and 7,000 became homeless.

Soon Mariam instituted a policy of villagization, relocating millions of peasant farmers onto state-run cooperatives which greatly harmed the Beta Israel by forcing them to share their villagesthough they were denied the right to own the landwith non-Jewish farmers, resulting in increased levels of anti-Semitism throughout the Gondar Province. According to the Ethiopian government, over 30% of the population had been moved from privately owned farms to cooperatives as of 1989.

After taking office in 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was eager to facilitate the rescue of Ethiopia’s Jews, and so Israel entered into a period of selling arms to the Mariam government in hopes that Ethiopia would allow Jews to leave for Israel. In 1977, Begin asked President Mengistu to allow 200 Ethiopian Jews to leave for Israel aboard an Israeli military jet that had emptied its military cargo and was returning to Israel. Mariam agreed, and that may have been the precursor to the mass exodus of Operation Moses.

In the early 1980’s, Ethiopia forbade the practice of Judaism and the teaching of Hebrew. Numerous members of the Beta Israel were imprisoned on fabricated charges of being Zionist spies, and Jewish religious leaders, Kesim,(sing. Kes) were harassed and monitored by the government.

The situation remained exceedingly bleak through the early 1980’s. Forced conscription at age 12 took many Jewish boys away from their parents, some never to be heard from again. Additionally, with the constant threat of war, famine, and horrendous health conditions (Ethiopia has one of the world’s worst infant mortality rates and doctor to patient ratios), the Beta Israel’s position became more precarious as time progressed.

The government began to slightly soften its treatment of the Jews, however, during the mid-1980’s when terrible famines wreaked havoc on the economy. Ethiopia was forced to ask Western nations for famine relief, including the United States of America and Israel, allowing them both to exert a modicum of pressure for the release of the Beta Israel.

Over 8,000 Beta Israel came to Israel between 1977 and 1984. But these efforts pale in comparison with the modern exodus that took place during 1984’s Operation Moses.

Under a news blackout for security reasons, Operation Moses began on November 18, 1984, and ended six weeks later on January 5, 1985. In that time, just over 7,000 Jews were rescued and brought to Israel.

But the mission was not without problems. Because of news leaks (blamed primarily on a December 6 article in the Washington Jewish Week and full page advertisements placed by the United Jewish Appeal), the mission ended prematurely as Arab nations pressured the Sudanese government to prevent any more Jews from using Sudan to go to Israel. Almost 15,000 Jews were left behind in Ethiopia.

Thus, by the end of Operation Moses in January 1985, almost two-thirds of the Beta Israel remained in Ethiopia. They were comprised almost entirely of women, young children, and the sick, since only the strongest members of the community were encouraged to make the harrowing trek to Sudan where the airlift would actually occur. In addition, many young boys were encouraged to make the dangerous trek to freedom due to the low age of conscription, often as young as age twelve.

As Babu Yakov, a Beta Israel leader, summed up, Those who could not flee are elderly, sick, and infants. Those least capable of defending themselves are now facing their enemies alone.

In 1985, then Vice President George Bush arranged a CIA-sponsored follow-up mission to Operation Moses. Operation Joshua brought an additional 500 Beta Israel from Sudan to Israel. But in the following five years, a virtual stalemate occurred in the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry. All efforts on behalf of the Beta Israel fell on the closed ears of the Mariam dictatorship.

Meanwhile, those Jews who did escape during Operation Moses were separated from their loved ones while attempting to adjust to Israeli society. The new arrivals spent between six months and two years in absorption centers learning Hebrew, being retrained for Israel’s industrial society, and learning how to live in a modern society (most Ethiopian villages had no running water or electricity). Suicide, all but unheard of in their tukuls in Ethiopia, even claimed a few of the new arrivals due to the anxiety of separation and departure.

Over 1,600 orphans of circumstance lived day to day separated from their families, not knowing the fate of their parents, brothers, sisters, and loved ones.

The grim prospect of thousands of Jewish children growing up separated from their parents in Israel almost became a reality. Little could be done to persuade the Mariam government to increase the trickle of Jews leaving Ethiopia in the years between Operations Joshua and Solomon. But in November 1990, Ethiopia and Israel reached an agreement that would allow Ethiopian Jews to move to Israel under the context of family reunification. It soon became clear, however, that Mengistu was willing to allow Ethiopian Jews to leave outside of the guise of reunification. November and December, 1990, showed increased numbers of Ethiopians leaving for Israel. The Ethiopian Jews were finally ready to come home.

In early 1991, Eritrean and Tigrean rebels began a concerted attack on Mengistu forces, meeting with surprising success for the first time since the civil war began in 1975. With the rebel armies advancing each day, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam fled his country in early May. Rebels claimed control of the capital Addis Ababa shortly thereafter, and the situation of the Beta Israel took top priority in Israel. The Likud government of Yitzhak Shamir authorized a special permit for the Israeli airline, El Al, to fly on the Jewish Sabbath. On Friday, May 24, and continuing non-stop for 36 hours, a total of 34 El Al jumbo jets and Hercules C-130sseats removed to accommodate the maximum number of Ethiopiansbegan a new chapter in the struggle for the freedom of Ethiopian Jewry.

Operation Solomon, named for the king from whom one of the theories suggest that the Beta Israel draw their lineage, ended almost as quickly as it began. Timing was crucial, since any delay by Israel could have allowed the rebels to hold the Jews as bargaining chips with Israel or the United States. A total of 14,324 Ethiopian Jews were rescued and resettled in Israel, a modern exodus of the grandest design. Operation Solomon rescued nearly double the number of Jews as were saved during Operation Moses and Joshua, and it did so in a mere fraction of the time.

More than 36,000 Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel and despite both economic and social hardships, their community has an integral part in Israeli society. In 1999, Avraham Yitzhak became the first Ethiopian immigrant to earn an MD degree from an Israeli medical school. In 2011, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed Rachamim Elazar as Israel’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, making him the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to ever serve as an ambassador for the State of Israel. There are still many problems within the Ethiopian community in Israel – poverty, lack of education, etc – but large strides are being made every day.

Because much of the Beta Israel’s history is passed orally from generation to generation, we may never truly know their origins. Four main theories exist concerning the beginnings of the Beta Israel community:

1) The Beta Israel may be the lost Israelite tribe of Dan. 2) They may be descendants of Menelik I, son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. 3) They may be descendants of Ethiopian Christians and pagans who converted to Judaism centuries ago. 4) They may be descendants of Jews who fled Israel for Egypt after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and settled in Ethiopia.

Without regard as to which theory may actually be correct (and each theory has its support), the authenticity of the Jewishness of the community became an issue.

As early as the 16th century, Egypt’s Chief Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Avi Zimra (Radbaz) declared that in Halachic (Jewish legal) issues, the Beta Israel were indeed Jews. In 1855, Daniel ben Hamdya, a member of the Beta Israel, was the first Ethiopian Jew to visit Israel, meeting with a council of rabbis in Jerusalem concerning the authenticity of the Beta Israel. By 1864, almost all leading Jewish authorities, most notably Rabbi Azriel Hildsheimer of Eisenstadt, Germany, accepted the Beta Israel as true Jews. In 1908 the chief rabbis of forty-five countries had heeded Rabbi Hildsheimer’s call and officially recognized the Beta Israel as fellow Jews.

In reaffirming the Radbaz’s position centuries before, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, stated in 1972, I have come to the conclusion that Falashas are Jews who must be saved from absorption and assimilation. We are obliged to speed up their immigration to Israel and educate them in the spirit of the holy Torah, making them partners in the building of the Holy Land.

In 1975, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren wrote to the Beta Israel telling them, You are our brothers, you are our blood and our flesh. You are true Jews. Later that same year the Israeli Interministerial Commission officially recognized the Beta Israel as Jews under Israel’s Law of Return, a law designed to aid in Jewish immigration to Israel. The Beta Israel were ready to come home.

Indeed, the Beta Israel were strictly observant in pre-Talmudic Jewish traditions. The women went to the mikvah, or ritual bath, just as observant Jewish women do to this day, and they continue to carry out ancient festivals, such as Seged, that have been passed down through the generations of Beta Israel. The Kesim, or religious leaders, are as widely revered and respected as the great rabbis in each community, passing the Jewish customs through storytelling and maintaining the few Jewish books and Torahs some communities were fortunate enough to have written in the liturgical language of Ge’ez.

The struggle to free the Beta Israel was not fought solely against the Ethiopian government. Much like some timid Jewish leaders during the Holocaust, some recent Jews sought to prevent a shanda fur de goyim (an embarrassment in front of the non-Jews) by not stirring up waves over Ethiopian Jewry.

The history of the Beta Israel’s rescue is at times open to debate regarding the heroes of the Ethiopian Jewry movement. As with many struggles to free oppressed Jewry around the world, many advocated and vocalized opposition to those responsible for the lack of action on their behalf. Others, however, argued for a more quiet diplomacy, void of the public demonstrations and arrests that marked the struggle for Soviet Jewry.

Though over 8,000 Beta Israel managed to flee to Israel during his tenure, it was an Israeli official in charge of the Ethiopian Jews’ absorption who may best symbolize the insensitivity that an extreme minority of people once held. Yehuda Dominitz who served as Director General of the Jewish Agency’s Department of Immigration and Absorption, declared in 1980 that, [taking] a Falasha (sic) out of his village, it’s like taking a fish out of water…I’m not in favor of bringing them [to Israel]. Dominitz also refused to allow his agency to rent buses so Ethiopian Jews in Israel could travel to Jerusalem to observe their ancient holiday of Seged (Dominitz eventually relented, but had the buses take the Beta Israel to Haifa instead of Jerusalem).

Malkah Raymist, a writer for the World Zionist Organization, wrote in 1956 in The Jewish Horizon (of the Hapoel Hamizrachi of America Movement) that, the reasons [for not bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel] are simple and weighty. On one hand, they are well off where they are, while their development and mental outlook is that of children; they could fall an easy prey of exploitation, if brought here without any preparation. On the other hand, being a backward element, they would be and it would take several years before they could be educated towards a minimum of progressive thinking.

In an American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) press release, the AAEJ quoted its founder, Dr. Graenum Berger, as criticizing those who sought any delay in the rescue of the Beta Israel. Berger declared, Not when Jews are dying…these revelations show once again that the policy of influencing factions of the government of Israel always have been against the immigration of the Ethiopian Jews. And, the same people who controlled their immigration then are controlling it now. These are the same people who gave instructions to the Israeli Embassy in Ethiopia (1956-1973) not to issue immigration visas to any Jew from Ethiopia.

Berger himself came under criticism for his outspoken remarks concerning the Israeli efforts to rescue the Beta Israel, showing that nobody was immune from the rhetoric surrounding the issue.

In December 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to bring to the Jewish State the few thousands Jews remaining in the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia. Nicknamed Operation Dove’s Wings, the plan sought to fly a few hundred each month to Israel. The first flight brough 240 new Ethiopian immigrants.

In July 2012, the government decided to increase the rate of aliyah from Ethiopia to 160 per month over the proceeding 10 months. In August 2013, the final two flights of Operation Dove’s Wings arrived in Israel with 450 immigrants. In a ceremony held at Ben-Gurion Airport, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said: “We are closing a 3,000-year-old circle.”

To mark the occasion, Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement saying, “I am proud that as Prime Minister, beginning in my first term, I upheld the Zionist and Jewish imperative of bringing to Israel our brothers and sisters from Ethiopia. I see this as a moral obligation.”

More than 135,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, 92,000 of whom have been brought into the country.

The Israeli government approved the entry of the last group of Ethiopian Jews in November 2015, aiming to finish what was started by Operation Moses 30 years prior. This announcement comes two years after Israeli government officials claimed that no Jews remained in Ethiopia. There have been several supposedly last groups of Ethiopian Jews that have made aliyah to Israel, with the most recent group of 450 arriving in Israel in 2013. It is estimated that this proposal approved the entry into Israel of approximately 9,100 Ethiopian Jews, most of whom were at the time living in refugee camps in Adis Ababa and Gondar.

Sources: Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ). Written by the staff of PRIMER – Promoting Research in the Middle East Region; Israel Hayom (August 29, 2013); Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Israel approves ‘last’ round of Ethiopian immigration, Al Arabiya (November 15, 2015)

Read the original here:

Ethiopia Virtual Jewish Tour | Jewish Virtual Library

Fair Usage Law

June 10, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Friends of Ethiopian Jews

Friends of Ethiopian Jews, Inc. (FEJ) supports grassroots Ethiopian-Israeli organizations working to create full integration and successful absorption in Israel for the Ethiopian Jewish community. FEJ was founded in 1998 by members of theAmerican Association for Ethiopian Jews(AAEJ) and other veteran activists dedicated to assisting the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel. Through supporting programs and projects led by Ethiopian-Israelis themselves, FEJ strives to empower the community, to help improve opportunities for Ethiopian-Israelis and to help create a just society in Israel overall. FEJ supports organizations that are effective, well-managed grassroots groups, which are achieving measurable, successful results. Today, FEJ helps sixEthiopian-Israeli groups, and welcomes donations on behalf of these outstanding organizations:

Friends by Nature Community EmpowermentFriends by Nature (FBN)Community Empowerment is a non-profit Israeli organization that was established in 2005 by a diverse group of Ethiopian-Israelis and veteran Israelis, secular and religious..Read More

Olim Beyahad Or Bandelay Woodelay (in Amharic), or Rising Together (in English) integrates members of the Ethiopian Israeli community as a normative and important part of Israeli life in the areas of employment, residence, education, and social life. ..Read More

Tech-Career Computer Training for Ethiopian-Israelis For over 25 years, Ethiopian-Israelis have been attempting to break out of the harsh socio-economic reality in which they live and integrate into Israeli society. According to the latest ..Read More

Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ) The Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ),directed and run by Ethiopians, is a unique advocacy organization and formidable voice for, and defender of, the Ethiopian community in..Read More

Tebeka Advocacy for Equality & Justice for Ethiopian-Israeli.TEBEKA, (Amharic for Advocate of Justice), is the legal aid organization serving Israels 120,000-member Ethiopian-Israeli community. It was founded in 2000 by Itzik Dessie, the first ..Read More

See the original post here:

Friends of Ethiopian Jews

Fair Usage Law

June 10, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Ethiopian Jews in Israel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ethiopian Jews in Israel refers to the immigrants and descendants of the immigrants of the Beta Israel communities of Ethiopia, who now reside in Israel.[2][3][4]

Most of the community made aliyah from Ethiopia to Israel in two waves of mass immigration assisted by the Israeli government: Operation Moses (1984) and Operation Solomon (1991).[5][6] Today Israel is home to the largest Beta Israel community in the world with about 125,500 citizens of Ethiopian descent in 2011,[1] who are mainly assembled in the smaller urban areas of central Israel.[7]

The first Ethiopian Jews who settled in Palestine in the modern times came in 1934 along with the Yemenite Jews from Italian Eritrea.

Between the years 1963 and 1975 a relatively small group of Beta Israel emigrated to Israel. The Beta Israel immigrants in that period were mainly very few men who have studied and came to Israel on a tourist visa and then remained in the country illegally.

Several of their supporters in Israel, who recognized their “Jewishness” decided to assist them. These supporters began organizing in associations, among others under the direction of Ovadia Hazzi, an Eritrean born Yemeni Jew and former sergeant in the Israeli army. Several of those illegal immigrants managed to get a regularization with the Israeli authorities through the assistance of these support associations. Some agreed to “convert” to Judaism, which helped them regulated their personal status and remain in Israel. People who get their regularization often brought their families to Israel as well.

In 1973, Ovadia Hazzi officially raised the question of the “Jewishness” of the Beta Israel to the Israeli Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The rabbi, who cited a rabbinic ruling from the 16th century David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra and asserted that the Beta Israel are descended from the lost tribe of Dan, and eventually acknowledged their “Jewishness” in February 1973. This ruling was initially rejected by the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who eventually changed his opinion on the matter in 1974.

In April 1975, the Israeli government of Yitzhak Rabin officially accepted the Beta Israel as Jews, for the purpose of the Law of Return (An Israeli act which grants all the Jews in the world the right to immigrate to Israel).

Later on, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin obtained clear rulings from Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that they were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel did however initially require them to undergo pro forma Jewish conversions, to remove any doubt as to their Jewish status.

Ethiopian Beta Israel are gradually becoming part of the mainstream Israeli society in religious life, military service (with nearly all males doing national service), education, and politics. Similarly to other groups of immigrant Jews, who made aliyah to Israel, the Ethiopian Beta Israel have faced obstacles in their integration to Israeli society. The Ethiopian Beta Israel community’s internal challenges have been complicated by the racism of Israeli society and the official establishment.[11] One study found that some social and cultural traditions have been treated as problems that need to be overcome.[12]

Individual Ethiopian Beta Israel had lived in Eretz Yisrael prior to the establishment of the state. A youth group arrived in Israel in the 1950s to undergo training in Hebrew education and returned to Ethiopia to educate young Beta Israeli community members there. Also, Ethiopian Beta Israel had been trickling into Israel prior to the 1970s. The numbers of such Ethiopian immigrants grew after the Israeli government officially recognized them in 1973 as Jews, entitled to Israeli citizenship.[13]

See the rest here:

Ethiopian Jews in Israel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fair Usage Law

August 7, 2015   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Jewish Virtual Library – Timeline of Ethiopian Jewish History

4th Century CE Christianity is introduced into the Axum dynasty in Ethiopia.

7th Century With the spread of Islam, Ethiopia is isolated from most of the Christian world. The Beta Israel enjoy a period of independence before the power struggles of the middle ages.

9th Century The earliest apparent reference to the Beta Israel appears in the diary of Eldad Hadani, a merchant and traveler claiming to have been a citizen of an autonomous Jewish state in eastern Africa inhabited by the tribes of Dan, Naftali, Gad, and Asher.

13th Century The Solominic dynasty (which claims decent from Solomon and Sheba) assumes control. During the next 300 years (1320-1620), intermittent wars are fought between the Christian kings of Ethiopia and those of the Beta Israel, which finally result in the Beta Israel’s loss of independence.

16th Century Rabbi David B. Zimra, known as the Radbaz, issues a legal response in Cairo declaring that “those who come from the land Cush (Ethiopia) are without a doubt the Tribe of Dan…” He confirms that Ethiopian Jews are fully Jewish.

1622 Christians conquer the Ethiopian Jewish Kingdom following 300 years of warfare. The vanquished Jews are sold as slaves, forced to baptize, and denied the right to own land.

1769 Scottish explorer James Bruce awakens the western world to the existence of the Ethiopian Jews in his travels to discover the source of the Nile. He estimates the Jewish population at 100,000.

1855 Daniel Ben Hamdya, an Ethiopian Jew, independently travels to Jerusalem to meet with rabbis.

1864 Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer, the Rabbi of Eisenstadt, Germany, publishes a manifesto in the Jewish press calling for the spiritual rescue of Ethiopian Jewry.

1867 Professor Joseph Halevy is the first European Jew to visit the Beta Israel, subsequently becoming an advocate for the community.

Excerpt from:

Jewish Virtual Library – Timeline of Ethiopian Jewish History

Fair Usage Law

August 7, 2015   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Falasha Black Jews of Ethiopia – Tripod.com

Origins of Abyssinian Jews

The early days of the Beta ‘Esra’el (House of Israel) community in Abyssinia remain a mystery. There is no doubt that the roots of Judaism were influential in this part of Africa at a very early date –perhaps even as far back as the First Temple period. Since there are no factual data from those times, and given the Ethiopian Jews’ racial resemblance to native Ethiopians, various theories have been proposed concerning the origins of the community, based on superficial research of their traditions, customs and roots.

Many aspects of Ethiopian culture still show traces of Judaic influence. The Abyssinian Church is considered very close to ancient Judaism, with customs such as circumcision, a form of Sabbath observance, dietary laws similar to those found in the Tora, and other practices preserved in its doctrine. We know that before the spread of Christianity in the 4th century CE, the Mosaic faith was practiced in Abyssinia, alongside the idol worship which still remains widespread. See Moses — was the lawgiver of Israel an Ethiopian?

According to Ethiopia national legend, the founder of the royal dynasty, whose last monarch was Negus (Emperor) Haile Selassie –the symbolic and titular “Lion of Judah” –was the son of the Queen of Sheba (Makida, according to the legend) and King Solomon. See Solomon’s Temple. The son, Menelik, as an educated adult, returned to his father in Jerusalem, and then resettled in Ethiopia together with many members of the Israelite tribes, including priests and Levites. He also smuggled the Ark of the Covenant and the Tablets of the Law out from Jerusalem, and brought them to Aksum, capital of ancient Abyssinia. The Jews of Ethiopia do not generally accept this legend, and take it to be mere fabrication. However, this old tradition only strengthens what we know from other sources –that there was an early Jewish influence in Abyssinia . For Biblical ties, see http://robt.shepherd.tripod.com/spiritual-africa.html

A 9th-century tradition, based on the story of Eldad ha-Dani (the Danite), maintains that during the rift between Rehoboam, son of Solomon, and Jeroboam, son of Nebat –leaders of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel respectively –the tribe of Dan chose not to be drawn into tribal disputes. To avoid the impending civil war they resettled in Egypt. Once there, the Danites continued southwards up the Nile to the historic Land of Cush (today in Sudan and Ethiopia) and found it to be rich in resources. Eldad ha-Dani himself was probably from this area. According to his report, members of the tribes of Naftali, Gad and Asher lived there together with the Danites, and he himself could trace his ancestry back to Dan, son of Jacob.

This tradition, which may have a certain Biblical basis, is also found in other medieval sources. Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro came across two Abyssinian Jewish prisoners of war in Egypt in the late 15th century and wrote that they claimed to be descended from the tribe of Dan. Rabbi David ben-Zimra (RaDBaZ) ruled in his 16th century responsa that the Jews of Ethiopia were unquestionably Danites who had settled in Abyssinia, possibly even before the Second Temple period. The tradition appears to have been widely held by the Jews of Abyssinia and the surrounding areas until recently, though this is no longer the case today.

At the time when the Ten Tribes were exiled to Assyria (during the reign of King Hosea, son of Elah of Israel, approximately one century before the First Temple was destroyed and Judah was exiled), the Prophet Isaiah prophesied the End of Days, when the dispersed people of Israel and Judah would be gathered in from their place of exile. Cush is one of the places mentioned.

And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord will set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, that shall remain from Assyria and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11-12)

The return of the people living “beyond the rivers of Abyssinia” to “the place of the name of the Lord of Hosts” is prophesied in detail in Isaiah 18:7 and Zephania 3:10. These sources are sufficient to demonstrate Jewish presence in Ethiopia towards the end of the First Temple period.

After the destruction of the First Temple, the Jewish community in Egypt expanded. Findings discovered at the beginning of this century in Yev (Elephantine) in southern Egypt on the Nile, near Aswan (the area of Biblical Pathros) indicate there were Jewish communities near the Sudanese border dating at least to the Return to Zion in the Persian period. The Jews of Yev, like those of Abyssinia, built a temple and performed sacrifices, but did not reject the sanctity of Jerusalem and its Temple. Similarly, Onias’ Temple, in Lower Egypt, dates from the Second Temple period. Other similarities in traditions and special customs support the evidence of a link between the ancient Egyptian Jews and those of Ethiopia.

Original post:

Falasha Black Jews of Ethiopia – Tripod.com

Fair Usage Law

August 7, 2015   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

The History of Ethiopian Jewry – My Jewish Learning

Piecing together legends and stories. By Atira Winchester A Jewish community in Ethiopiathe Beta Israel (House of Israel)has existed for at least 15 centuries. Because of low literacy levels, a tendency to rely on oral traditions, and nomadic lifestyles among most Ethiopians prior to the 20th century, historic material about this community is scant and unreliable. However, a tentative story can be pieced together from written records of Ethiopian rulers as well as testimony from the Beta Israel themselves. Most likely, the Beta Israel arrived in Ethiopia between the first and sixth centuries, coming as merchants or artisans from various countries in the region. An Ethiopian Jewish family shortly after arriving in Israel in 2009. (Jewish Agency for Israel/Flickr) Scholars once believed that during the Middle Ages the Beta Israel were a homogeneous group living under unified, autonomous Jewish rule. Yet new discoveries have shown that the truth is far more complex. It seems the Ethiopian Jewish community was for the most part fragmented both physically and religiously, with each Beta Israel village appointing its own spiritual and secular leaders. There was little contact between Beta Israel communities, and usually no overarching leadership uniting them. Sometimes the Beta Israel were treated well by the Ethiopian monarchy, but at other times they suffered persecution. Many fellow Ethiopians refer to the Beta Israel as falasha (a derogatory term meaning outsider), In 1624, the ruling kings army captured many Ethiopian Jews, forced them to be baptized, and denied them the right to own land. According to local legend, some members of the Beta Israel chose suicide over conversion. Since the Beta Israel community existed in isolation from other Jewish communities around the world, they developed a unique set of religious practices in some ways quite different from what is typically considered Jewish. For example, an order of Ethiopian Jewish monks was founded in the 15th century to strengthen the communitys religious identity and resist Christian influence. This monastic movement introduced an organized approach to religious practice, creating new religious literature and prayers, and adopting laws of ritual purity. Historians learned about the communitys religious life in the 19th century from the writings of Joseph Halevy, a French Jew who visited the area in 1867. He provided the first eyewitness account of Beta Israel life from a European Jewish perspective. Halevy described a community that followed legal sections in the Hebrew Bible and observed laws of purity surrounding menstruation, birth, and death. They observed Shabbat and believed in values such as respecting elders, receiving guests, and visiting mourners. They referred to the Torah as Orit (possibly from the Aramaic term for the Torah, Oraita), and kept their Torah scrolls covered in colorful cloths in houses of prayer or in the homes of one of the kessim (priests). Ethiopian rabbis (Kessim) at the ceremony of a new spiritual leader in Ashkelon, Israel, in 2012. (Wikimedia Commons) Like today in Israel, Ethiopian Jews celebrated Sigd, a festival which commemorates the giving of the Torah. On this holiday, community members would fast, climb the highest mountain in the area, and listen to the kessim chant passages of the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Book of Nehemiah. In the afternoon they would descend, break their fast, and rejoice in their renewed acceptance of the Orit. At the time of Halevys report, one of the biggest challenges facing the Ethiopian Jewish community was European missionary activity. Though the community had frequently been pressured to convert by Ethiopian authorities, missionaries from abroad with large-scale, organized missions presented an even stronger threat. European missionaries, well-versed in the Hebrew Bible, were educated and skilled in debate. The Beta Israels clergy could not compete. By providing schools and Bibles written in the local language, Amharic, the missionaries challenged the communitys practice and faith. On a number of occasions the Beta Israels monastic clergy tried to escape the missionaries influence by leading their communities to the Promised Land (Israel). By and large, these journeys were disastrous. One particular attempt in 1862 ended in large-scale starvation and death. Between 1882 and 1892 the regions of Ethiopia where the Beta Israel lived suffered from a famine that killed an estimated one third to one half of the Beta Israel. Ethiopian Jewish women pray during a Sigd celebration in Jerusalem in 2014. (Wikimedia Commons) Halevys student, Jaques Faitlovitch, was the first Jewish foreigner to work in earnest on improving conditions for the Ethiopian Jewish community. Arriving for his first visit in 1904 and returning several times in subsequent years, Faitlovitch created tiny schools in Addis Ababa for Beta Israel members, hand-picked 25 young leaders for education abroad, and acted as an emissary on behalf of the world Jewish community. Faitlovich secured two letters from rabbis abroad acknowledging the Beta Israel as fellow Jews. The first letter, written in 1906, called the Beta Israel our brethren, sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who dwell in Abyssinia and our flesh and blood. The letter, which promised to help the community in its religious education, was signed by 44 world Jewish leaders including the chief rabbis of London and Vienna and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. The second letter, from 1921, was written by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the revered Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Palestine. He called on the Jewish people worldwide to save the Beta Israel 50,000 holy souls of the house of Israel from extinction and contamination. Faitlovichs work on behalf of the Beta Israel community came to a dramatic halt with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-6. Under fascist rule, it became forbidden to practice Judaism in Ethiopia. Some of Faitlovitchs work was undeniably controversial he created a schism dividing the young, westernized leaders he chose from the elders of the rural communities. But, until the 1960s, no one but Faitlovitch took such a dedicated interest in the community, invested in it financially and educationally, and visited with such regularity. Moreover, it was the letters that Faitlovitch brought to Ethiopia from Kook and other contemporary Jewish leaders that allowed the Beta Israel to cling to their hopes of returning to the Promised Land, and, decades later, for world Jewry to readily accept them. Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization. Please consider making a donation today. Atira Winchester is a journalist who worked for many years as an editor for The Jerusalem Post. She currently lives in London, England where she works as a freelance writer, specializing in arts, culture and contemporary Israeli life. A Jewish community in Ethiopiathe Beta Israel (House of Israel)has existed for at least 15 centuries. Because of low literacy levels, a tendency to rely on oral traditions, and nomadic lifestyles among most Ethiopians prior to the 20th century, historic material about this community is scant and unreliable. However, a tentative story can be pieced together from written records of Ethiopian rulers as well as testimony from the Beta Israel themselves. Most likely, the Beta Israel arrived in Ethiopia between the first and sixth centuries, coming as merchants or artisans from various countries in the region. An Ethiopian Jewish family shortly after arriving in Israel in 2009. (Jewish Agency for Israel/Flickr) Scholars once believed that during the Middle Ages the Beta Israel were a homogeneous group living under unified, autonomous Jewish rule. Yet new discoveries have shown that the truth is far more complex. It seems the Ethiopian Jewish community was for the most part fragmented both physically and religiously, with each Beta Israel village appointing its own spiritual and secular leaders. There was little contact between Beta Israel communities, and usually no overarching leadership uniting them. Sometimes the Beta Israel were treated well by the Ethiopian monarchy, but at other times they suffered persecution. Many fellow Ethiopians refer to the Beta Israel as falasha (a derogatory term meaning outsider), In 1624, the ruling kings army captured many Ethiopian Jews, forced them to be baptized, and denied them the right to own land. According to local legend, some members of the Beta Israel chose suicide over conversion. Since the Beta Israel community existed in isolation from other Jewish communities around the world, they developed a unique set of religious practices in some ways quite different from what is typically considered Jewish. For example, an order of Ethiopian Jewish monks was founded in the 15th century to strengthen the communitys religious identity and resist Christian influence. This monastic movement introduced an organized approach to religious practice, creating new religious literature and prayers, and adopting laws of ritual purity. Historians learned about the communitys religious life in the 19th century from the writings of Joseph Halevy, a French Jew who visited the area in 1867. He provided the first eyewitness account of Beta Israel life from a European Jewish perspective. Halevy described a community that followed legal sections in the Hebrew Bible and observed laws of purity surrounding menstruation, birth, and death. They observed Shabbat and believed in values such as respecting elders, receiving guests, and visiting mourners. They referred to the Torah as Orit (possibly from the Aramaic term for the Torah, Oraita), and kept their Torah scrolls covered in colorful cloths in houses of prayer or in the homes of one of the kessim (priests). Ethiopian rabbis (Kessim) at the ceremony of a new spiritual leader in Ashkelon, Israel, in 2012. (Wikimedia Commons) Like today in Israel, Ethiopian Jews celebrated Sigd, a festival which commemorates the giving of the Torah. On this holiday, community members would fast, climb the highest mountain in the area, and listen to the kessim chant passages of the Hebrew Bible, particularly the Book of Nehemiah. In the afternoon they would descend, break their fast, and rejoice in their renewed acceptance of the Orit. At the time of Halevys report, one of the biggest challenges facing the Ethiopian Jewish community was European missionary activity. Though the community had frequently been pressured to convert by Ethiopian authorities, missionaries from abroad with large-scale, organized missions presented an even stronger threat. European missionaries, well-versed in the Hebrew Bible, were educated and skilled in debate. The Beta Israels clergy could not compete. By providing schools and Bibles written in the local language, Amharic, the missionaries challenged the communitys practice and faith. On a number of occasions the Beta Israels monastic clergy tried to escape the missionaries influence by leading their communities to the Promised Land (Israel). By and large, these journeys were disastrous. One particular attempt in 1862 ended in large-scale starvation and death. Between 1882 and 1892 the regions of Ethiopia where the Beta Israel lived suffered from a famine that killed an estimated one third to one half of the Beta Israel. Ethiopian Jewish women pray during a Sigd celebration in Jerusalem in 2014. (Wikimedia Commons) Halevys student, Jaques Faitlovitch, was the first Jewish foreigner to work in earnest on improving conditions for the Ethiopian Jewish community. Arriving for his first visit in 1904 and returning several times in subsequent years, Faitlovitch created tiny schools in Addis Ababa for Beta Israel members, hand-picked 25 young leaders for education abroad, and acted as an emissary on behalf of the world Jewish community. Faitlovich secured two letters from rabbis abroad acknowledging the Beta Israel as fellow Jews. The first letter, written in 1906, called the Beta Israel our brethren, sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who dwell in Abyssinia and our flesh and blood. The letter, which promised to help the community in its religious education, was signed by 44 world Jewish leaders including the chief rabbis of London and Vienna and the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. The second letter, from 1921, was written by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the revered Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Palestine. He called on the Jewish people worldwide to save the Beta Israel 50,000 holy souls of the house of Israel from extinction and contamination. Faitlovichs work on behalf of the Beta Israel community came to a dramatic halt with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935-6. Under fascist rule, it became forbidden to practice Judaism in Ethiopia. Some of Faitlovitchs work was undeniably controversial he created a schism dividing the young, westernized leaders he chose from the elders of the rural communities. But, until the 1960s, no one but Faitlovitch took such a dedicated interest in the community, invested in it financially and educationally, and visited with such regularity. Moreover, it was the letters that Faitlovitch brought to Ethiopia from Kook and other contemporary Jewish leaders that allowed the Beta Israel to cling to their hopes of returning to the Promised Land, and, decades later, for world Jewry to readily accept them.

Fair Usage Law

July 4, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Ethiopian Chapter – Black Jews

A Historical Analysis by Rabbi S.B. Levy 2002 At first glance one might incorrectly assume that the only thing Ethiopian Jews, who call themselves Beta Yisrael (The House of Israel), have in common with black Jews in other parts of the world is that their ancestors once lived on the same continent. While not entire true, this small fact is significant because Africawhether we acknowledge it or notis a crucial link that historically unites all Jews. Those whose African connection is more obvious because of race share this, too, as a bond for better or worse. Actually, our similarities are more than skin deep. The direct connections between the Beta Israel and my community of black Jews in the United States antedates the recent public fascination with the African tribe by at least sixty years. The existence of all of our communities raise important questions about the ancient history, current composition, and future of Judaism. This essay covers the ancient history, culture and tradition of the Beta Yisrael. My analysis of their current status in Israel is covered on a separate page devoted to black Jews in Israel today. The Beta Yisrael are perhaps the best known black Jewish sect in the world. Despite their ancient and well-documented history, they, like all black communities, have had their historical connections to Judaism challenged, the validity of their religious practice scrutinized, and their acceptance within the white Jewish world hindered. When the Ethiopians left the cultural isolation of their remote villages, they entered a world prefigured by race. They soon learned that their Jewish heritage was not the only thing that made them Falasha, (outsiders). For the black Jews of America, the existence of Ethiopian Jews was living proof that black people have a connection to Judaism that is as old as any claimed by Europeans. They called themselves Beta Yisrael because for centuries they believed that they were the last remnant of the ancient Israelites. In fact, in the nineteenth century when a French linguist named Joseph Halevy reached one of their villages on a mission from the Alliance Israelite Universelle, they did not believe that he, the European, could be a Jew. As Halevy described it, the Ethiopians said What!You a Falahsa! A white Falasha! You are laughing at us. Are there any white Falashas?[1] Imagine the irony of that moment: black Jews questioning the Jewishness of white Jews; and the white Jew trying to convince them of his authenticity. The levity of that scene is surpassed by a far more serious point: when different Jewish communities come together, one will usually occupy the superior position; the one of dominance, authority, and control. Not surprisingly, the dominant group is in a position to judge the subordinate. That is an exercise of power, and power underlies all of these relationships. Dominance or power in this context is established by a combination of any or all of these factors: (1) numeric superiority, (2) access to wealth, (3) primo-occupancy; i.e. the act of being there first, (4) higher social status (this could be based on a privilege afforded one Jewish group by a Christian or Muslim authority that is more power than either Jewish group (5) racial or ethnic superiority (this would be true in racialized societies of the West and was evident in the interaction of Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Europe and Israel). The Beta Israel maintain that their ancestors were descended from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. That union produced a child called Menileck (in Hebrew Mem Meleck literally means from king). This child was then trained by the wise men of Solomons court. They further assert that when Menileck left Jerusalem with a large retinue of Israelite nobles for Ethiopia they took with them the Ark of the Covenant that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The Ethiopian claim is based on oral history that has been passed down from generation to generation by their elders, scholars called Dabtaras, and their priests, called Kahens (an Amharic word linguistically similar to the Hebrew word for priest, Kohen).[2] The written account of ancient Ethiopian history is known as the Kebra Nagast and it corroborates in even greater detail what the Beta Israel have always affirmed. Moreover, the Biblical record tends to substantiate their claim. It vividly describes the Queen of Sheba arriving in Jerusalem with a large entourage shortly after the completion of the temple. She is granted an audience with the king, they engage in a colloquy in which the queen is impressed with his Solomonic wisdom to the point where there was no more spirit left in her.And King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired, whatever she asked, in addition to all that he gave her of his royal bounty.[3] Meeting of Solomon and Sheba Piero della Francesca, c. 1452 King Solomon and the Queen of Sheaba Illustrated by Avi Katz Notice how the 15th century painter whose work is shown of the left depicted King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba as being white, archetypal Europeans. The Israeli artist whose work is shown on the right presents a more realistic depiction showing Makeda as the African queen that she was. These conflicting images reflect the old presumption of whiteness that was traditionally applied to all Biblical characters and the new multicultural realism that acknowledges the Eastern and African origins of Biblical figures respectively. Such realism is to be embraced and celebrated rather than denied and discouraged. Rudolph R. Windsor examined the validity of this claim in his book From Babylon to Timbuktu. There he argued that the queen who visited King Solomon in 1012 B.C. was indeed an Ethiopian queen known variously as Makeda or Bilkis. Her dominion at that time included a province on the Arabian peninsula called Sheba; hence the title Queen of Sheba. That area would be in the region of Yemen today. Geographically, the Arabian peninsula is a peninsula of the African continent.[4] Yemen and the ancient boundaries of Ethiopia are adjacent points, separated only by a very thin isthmus. Further, the renowned Jewish historian Flavius Josephus identified the ruler of Sheba as a queen of Egypt and Ethiopia.[5] Not only does this comport with the view that Sheba was a vassal state of Ethiopia, but as Windsor contends, lends credence to the view that the people of this region were blacksince Upper Egypt, the area once ruled by Ethiopia, is today called the Sudan and the indigenous people there are very dark. [6] If the Beta Israel are the product of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, then they have been in Ethiopia since the 10th Century B.C. That is twelve centuries before the writing of the Mishnah and sixteen centuries before the codification of the Talmud. The first European traveler did not stumble into their village until the 9th Century A.D. His name was Eldad Ha-Dani (which in Hebrew means Eldad of the tribe of Dan). He reported that he discovered Jews in the mountains of northern Abyssinia. Moreover, he believed that these Jews were also of the tribe of Dan.[7] He saw that they were Jews and assumed that they had to be of the tribe of Dan, like him, because of the tradition among Sephardic Jews that members of that tribe had emigrated when the Kingdom of Solomon split after his death, and they did not want to be ruled by Jerobaom in the northern sector known as Israel.[8] Other travlers such as Benjamin of Tudela, Solomon of Vienna (the first Ashkenazi Jew to reach them in 1626), and the apostate James Bruce in the 18th Century. Their intermittent logs created the lore about black Jews in Ethiopia that the aforementioned Joseph Ha Levy came to investigate. And when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the Name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions. She communed with him of all that was in her heart. And Solomon answered her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the King, which he told her not. I Kings 10:1-3 How Jewish were the Beta Israel? Dr. Wolf Leslau spent ten months in 1947 living among the Beta Israel. He primarily studied the most urban of their isolated villages in Gondar, which is near Lake Tana and the Blue Nile. The influential book he published from his journals, Falasha Anthology, has become the source of much of the secondary literature on this subject. He observed that every Friday all work in the village stopped early in the afternoon so that the cooking, cleaning, and baking needed for the Sabbath could be completed before sunset. Their synagogues were humble, austere structures having at best a Star of David on display. Inside, the rooms were divided into two sections: the outer chamber for laymen who faced east toward Jerusalem while saying their prayers and the inner chamberrepresenting the holy of holies of the Mosaic Tabernacleinto which only the priests could enter.[9] Priests of the Beta Israel pray seven time a day. Like the Levitical Priest of old, they sacrificed kosher animals on small alters built in front of their synagogues. Unlike the Levites, however, their positions were not hereditary; aspiring clerics had to study, apprentice, and live exemplary lives in order to be selected for the office. Once initiated, the priests wore a white cotton headdress that distinguished them from other Ethiopians. Their Torah, written in the Geez language on parchment, contained all the books of the Old Testament and some from the Apocrypha, but none of the New Testament and no references to Jesus at all. Some devotees have attempted to lead lives of solitude and quiet contemplation as nuns and monks.[10] Judaism for them was not just an act of faith, it was a way of life governing almost every activity. All marriages were arranged by parents and elders. Individuals who married outside the group and women who were not virgins at the time of marriage could be banished. Their diet prohibited the eating of foods deemed uncleanincluding beef slaughtered by non-Jews or beef that has not had the sinew removed. They used a solar calendar for secular activities and a lunar calendar to calculate all Biblical festivals such as Passover, Shavuot, and the Day of Atonement. For example, the Feast of Tabernacle was celebrated in the seventh month with palm branches and weeping willows.[11] Circumcision was performed on male children eight days after birth as the Torah proscribed. However, some have adopted the practice of female circumcision from their neighbors.[12] Burials were performed on the same day of death, if possible. Special blessings were said before and after eating and performing other rituals. In fact, the Beta Israel went to such great lengths to avoid spiritual defilement that locale gentiles referred to them as the people who smell of water because of their frequent baths and the touch-me-nots because of their aversion to physical contact with non-Jews.[13] In his book, Acts of Faith: A Journey to the Fringes of Jewish Identity, Dan Ross described how the Beta Israel literally applied purity laws by building blood huts as temporary housing for women during menstruation:[14] Like Samaritans, Falashas do not touch women during menstruation or after childbirth. But unlike Samaritans, Falasha women spend their menstrual periods in separate huts. Circles of stones mark a perimeter around those tukuls beyond which men may not pass. Additional huts are built for women to live in during their forty or eighty days of impurity after childbirth; these are burned afterwards.[15] Dr. Leslau described the Judaism of the Beta Israel as being primitive because these people were not aware of all the rabbinic changes that have taken place since the redaction of the Talmud in the sixth century. From his perspective in the twentieth century, the menstrual huts and animal sacrifices must seem barbaric and a sure sign of ignorance. What he fails to recognizeor perhaps is ashamed to acknowledgeis that the customs of the Beta Israel today are a reflection of what the ancient Israelite must have looked like when they offered burnt offerings, incense, and libation to the same God that we as Jews worship today. Perhaps on some level this is unsettling. It is not often that a people can be confronted with their past in the present. Or, because Judaism outside of Ethiopia has changed so much over the centuries, those without the proper historical reference may not recognize their roots when the see them. Primitive, after all, is something associated with those uncivilized black tribes of Africa. Well, if that is true, then that is who, where, and how our Judaism evolved. I argue that rather than accept these possibilities, many scholars have blinded their eyes to these implications and have attempted to distance and disassociate themselves from the Beta Israel by discrediting their culture. Despite all the evidence that has been adduced about the history and origins of the Beta Israel, there has been a profound, and often irrational, reluctance to accept that their claim is plausible. Scholars who are quite adept at understanding that the Bible may not always state the literal and unbiased truth of events, may yet remain an important tool in understanding how a people explained and preserved their culture. Nonetheless, many of these scholars seem incapable or unwilling to apply the same standards to their examination of the Beta Israel. Dr. Leslau in particular, seemed intent on dismissing the very evidence he presented. For example, he asserted that from all historical evidence it would seem that the Falasha never have been a Hebrew-speaking people.[16] Yet, before his eyes and throughout his text Hebrew words and names of months frequently appear. The fact that only a few Hebrew words have survived over the millennia does not mean they never had a working knowledge of the language. After all, Hebrew had ceased to be the lingua franqua of Israel long before the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Would a traveler in the Holy Land at that time be correct in assuming that those Greek-speaking Jews never spoke Hebrew? Subsequent scholars have looked at words such as masia (messiah), mizvat (charity). Sanbat (Sabbath), Saitan (Satan), which bear remarkable similarity to Hebrew words but could derived from Amharic, another semetic language and the offical language of Ethiopia. However, the following words only appear in Falasha texts: safur (shofar), gadol (great), El Shaddai (Almighty God), goyyim (gentile) and Torah.[17] It seems perfectly logical that if one finds Hebrew words among people who claim to be descended from Hebrews, then the Hebrews are a likely source for how the words got there. It also does not require a great leap of faith to assume that if they know these words now, then they probably knew more words in the pastsince the tendency is for words to be lost over generations. In the following passage, Dr. Leslau not only states his candid opinion of the Beta Israel, but he shares his insights into what many of his colleagues in the historical profession believe as well: Very few of the western scholars who have dealt with the problem of the Falashas are of the opinion that they are ethnically Jews. Most of them think that they are a segment of the indigenous Agau population which was converted to Judaism. How and when they were converted is a problem for which historical evidence is lacking.[18] It is extremely instructive for scholars looking anew at the Beta Israel to comprehend what Dr. Leslau admitted. Despite all the information he had in his possession, in the end, the Beta Israel did not look ethnically Jewish and because of that he and his colleagues were never able to overcome their doubt. Therefore, they concluded that the Beta Israel must have been convertedeven though historical evidence is lacking to support such a position. What effrontery. To dismiss a body of evidence that points in one direction in favor of another position for which there is no evidence. Dr. Yosef Ben-Jocannan took issue with Dr. Leslau dubious reference to ethnic Jews. For Professor Leslau to have reached the conclusion that the Falashas are not ethnically Jews, he must have produced for public scrutiny at least one of his own Ethnic Jews from any part of the European and European-American communities where they still allegedly exist. But he must have started with the theory that there are such persons of Ethnic Jewish Origin dating back to the allegorical and mythical Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to validate his classification. [19] What exactly is an ethnic Jew? This is the question that Dr. Ben-Jochannan and others have raised. Those who use this term assume that we know what it is. They can spot one when they see one and they know who looks Jewish and who does not. However, we need to examine more closely what is meant by these terms and how they are used. Naomi Zack defined and clarified terms such as this in her recent book, Thinking About Race. She argues that race and ethnicity are nebulous concepts into which and out of which a host of meanings can be put in order to socially construct an identity. As such, neither of these constitutes a fixed, universal, or objective reality; i.e. they mean whatever the society that uses them wants them to mean at the time. She points out that what masquerades today as the building blocks of ethnic identity (language, common origin, shared culture, etc.) are the same things that social scientist used prior to about 1920 when Jews, Poles, Italians, Germans, and others were classified as races.[20] What has changed since that timeparticularly in this era of political correctnessis that the word ethnicity is often used as a euphemism for race when speakers want to refer to race without causing offense to diverse listeners or readers.[21] Hence, all the groups previously mentioned have been transformed into ethnic groups, while people of African descent remain a race. This is not because physical characteristics are not a part of ethnicity; they often are, instead it seems that whiteness helps to make one ethnic. Karen Brodkin has chronicled this process in her book, How Jews Became White Folks. Although she focused on explaining this phenomenon within the United States, I argue that how one defines American Jews, who are essentially European Jews transplanted, is to a large extent the standard against which all other Jews will be judgedsince Americans Jews are the largest, wealthiest, and most influential group of Jews in the world. And these American Jews have, despite rigorous resistance, become white folks.[22] Like Dr. Zack, Dr. Brodkin recognizes this racial dimension to how Jews are perceived and how they often perceive themselves. She actually prefers the term ethnoracial, but uses it inconsistently.[23] Nonetheless, their works help us to decode the hidden racial messages embedded in terms like ethnicity. There are many who would argue that Jewishness does not conform to the ethnoracial paradigm that defines other groups. They might argue that Judaism is a religion that people of all ethnoracial backgrounds can and do practice. Daniel and Jonathan Boyarin have tried to carve out just such an exception. Their tact is a very interesting one. Rather than simply positing that Judaism is a religion of peace and love for all peoplewhich it is for manythey concede that there are popular conceptions of Judaism that promulgate racist or quasi-racist notions of Jewishness.[24] They further concede that the belief in a distinct Jewish genealogy and the belief that there is something indefinable and found only in Jewish women (not Jewish men) that make their children Jewish, strongly implies that there is a biological component to being Jewish. All the forgoing not withstanding, they argue that conversion to Judaism not only changes ones religion, it miraculously changes ones genealogy as well. In the case of male converts, circumcision alters them physically so that they now look like other Jews. In other words, by this process a convert is not someone of another ethnoracial group who has chosen to practice Judaism, he is in fact and genealogy as Jew. [The implied difference between practicing Judaism and being Jewish will become important to our discussion later.] More revealingly, however, the convert’s name is changed to ‘ben Avraham” or “bas Avraham,” son or daughter of Abraham. The convert is adopted into the family and assigned a new “genealogical” identity, but because Abraham is the first convert in Jewish tradition, converts are his descendants in that sense as well. There is thus a sense in which the convert becomes the ideal type of the Jew.[25] The denouement of the Boyarin theory is not that Judaism can never be thought of as a kind of race, but that anyone who joins the religion simultaneously becomes a member of the same race. Well, that certainly would make being Jewish different from being black, white, or Asianif it were true. However, if the Boyarins mean that all Jews are members of the same Jewish race in the eyes of God, then it would not help us to see how Jews view each otherparticularly those who started out as members of other races. In the 1930s, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan advocated another way of thinking about Judaism. His movement led to a new denomination of Judaism in the United States called Reconstructionist Jews. One basic tenet of Reconstructionism is that Judaism is not necessarily a race, religion, or an ethnic group, but can be experienced as part of a civilization. Here the emphasis is on Jewish culture rather than any particular Jewish practices or beliefs.[26] If Judaism is a culture, as Reconstructionist hold, does that culture have any bearing on race? Walter Benn Michaels has studied the relationship between cultural groups and race. He began by looking at how social critics and historians such as Mellville J. Herskovits attempted to define black people in America in purely cultural terms. Herskovits was interested in understanding what role, if any, African cultures and American culture had on the development of what might be called African-American culture. This included such things as art, music, literature, speechanything except race. Michaels, who deplores racial classifications or distinctions, found that most groups that define themselves as a culture rely on things that are inherently racial in nature for defining membership in their culture. Therefore, the term culture may sound race neutral, but often it is not. In the case of African-Americans, it was fairly easy to prove, at least rhetorically, that most of the cultural connections that were being made between people in one place and people in other place were based on the premise that both peoples were of the same race; i.e. black. Michaels noticed that the racial underpinnings of group cultures were not always as obvious as the example, but they were usually present. As he explained: It is only the appeal to race that makes culture an object of affect and that gives notions like losing our culture, preserving it, stealing someone elses culture, restoring people’s culture to them, and so on, their pathos. Our race identifies the culture to which we have a right, a right that may be violated or defended, repudiated or recovered. Race transforms people who learn to do what we do into thieves of our culture and people who teach us to do what they do into the destroyers of our culture; it makes assimilation into a kind of betrayal and the refusal to assimilate into a form of heroism. Without race, losing our culture can mean no more than doing things differently from the way we now do them–the melodrama of assimilation disappears.[27] Michaels thesis is directly on point. His argument is not about what constitutes a culture, he is concerned about what constitutes the our in our culture, or the their in their culture. That is where the racial element is to be found if it exists. When people refer to Jewish culture or Jewish civilization the things they point to may be racially innocuous; e.g. cooking or music, but, when pressed to explain what is Jewish about it or what connects them to it and each other, and the user of the cultural term soon finds himself in a morass of racial euphemisms. The racial elements are what usually allow members of the group to explain why this is mine and that is yours. If we are all participants in something then that thing is de facto a part of our shared culture. We are what we do. Race allows us to claim or deny connections based on who we are, not what we do. Like African-American culture, Jewish culture implies that this Jew and that Jew have something in common that goes much deeper than the matzo balls. The question which culture we belong to is relevant only if culture is anchored in race.[28] To be ethnically Jewish is to be Jewish according to white European or American standards. It was obvious and undeniable that the Beta Israel were doing Jewish things. By Michaels non-racial standards, people who do the same things share the shame culture unless a racial claim in made; ergo Beta Israel are part of Jewish culture unless white folk say there not. However, we recall that the Boyarins asserted that Jews are people who are Jewish by birth or conversion and who do Jewish things. Therefore, by the latter racialized definition, people who are not recognized as being Jewish first, can do all the Jewish things they want for as long as they can and it will not make them Jewishit can only make them persistent, exhausted, and ultimately frustrated Jewish imitators. Beta Israel, and black Jews in other areas, are discovering that neither who they are nor what they do guarantees their membership or acceptance within a racial context. In 1904, Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch (1880-1955) was given a grant by Baron Edmond de Rothschild and the blessings of the Chief Rabbi of Paris, Zadok Kahn, to go to Africa and investigate persistent rumors of there being black Jews in Ethiopia. He returned to France the following year to report that the people he saw are really Jews. By 1906, Dr. Faitlovitch was trying to convince the rabbis of Europe that the black Jews of Ethiopia were our flesh and blood.[29] This announcement by a prominent Jewish scholar was soon followed by photographs, articles, and speaking engagements. Unlike his predecessors, Dr. Faitlovitch was steadfastly committed to winning recognition for the Beta Israel. For the rest of his life he worked tirelessly on three continents and through two world wars to remedy the plight of black Jews in Ethiopia. Although his methods and actions are open to scrutiny, his sincerity and dedication are not. The first major victory that Faitlovitch won for the Beta Israel came in 1906. He persuaded forty-four eminent rabbis to sign a letter addressed to the Beta Israel that referred to them as our brethren, sons of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacobour flesh and blood. The signers included: Herman Adler (Chief Rabbi of London), Raphael Meir Panigel (Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Jersusalem / Palestine) and Jacob Reines of Russia (head of the Mizrachi movement) and others.[30] For a moment, it looked as if the world Jewish community was going to come to the immediate and unconditional aide of their fellow Jews in Ethiopia. But, the following year a Turkish rabbi named Haim Nahoum made his own journey to Ethiopia and upon his return he reported that It does not seem to me desirable that anything should be done.[31] Thus would begin a cruel pattern of expressions of enthusiastic support and solidarity followed by long periods of inactivity and indifference. Because the Beta Israel were frequently forgotten, they have been repeatedly rediscoveredmost recently again during the dramatic airlift of fifty thousand Ethiopians to Israel in the 1980s. However, individuals like Faitlovitch consistently tried to keep the Ethiopian issue on the agendas of major Jewish organizations. In March of 1914, just prior to the outbreak of World War One, Faitlovitch established the Pro-Falasha Committee as a lobbying group solely dedicated to this cause. They had officers in several European countries and one in New York City.[32] The Alliance Israelite Universelle, which had been an early sponsor, thought the best way to help the Ethiopians was through vocational training. Faitlovitch favored classical academic training. In many ways, their disagreement over the best way to help the Ethiopians parallels the debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois over the best way to help black people in the United StatesWashington favoring vocational and DuBois, liberal artsthough in both cases the differences should not be exaggerated. Where they are similar, however, is that vocational training is an approach usually applied to the masses, while university training is usually directed at an educated elite. Here we begin to see a troubling side to Dr. Faitlovitchs advocacy of the Beta Israel. Dr. Simon Messing, who knew and interviewed Dr. Faitlovitch, explained that many people of that period believed that Africans lacked the intellect to acquire a classical education. So, Faitlovitch demonstrated Falasha mental capacity by a test that was accepted in the ethnocentric Europe of the time: One of his students had been brought to Switzerland where he had learned to speak fluent German![33] After this student, Faitlovitch created about six Ethiopian protgs who often accompanied him on speaking and fund raising tours. He arranged for their educations, attempted to direct their careers, reshaped their religious views, and tried to control their political activities. Dr. Faitlovitch fervently fought for the advancement of Ethiopian Jews, but he defined progress by his ability to make Ethiopian Jews more like European Jews. Tragically, his program began to resemble a Jewish version of the White Mans Burden; i.e. it was the moral duty of European Jews to save and civilize the Jews of Africa. He was determined to rescue the Falashas and to bring them into rabbinic Judaism, the pattern known in Western Europe as Torah im Derkh-Eretz (lit. Bible together with the Way of the Land), which signified strict religious Orthodoxy together with modern behavior in manner, clothing, shelter, fine arts and careers.[34] When the first of Faitlovitchs students, Getye Jeremias, returned to his Ethiopian village dressed in a European jacket and high leather riding boots, he was an envied model of what others should become. He next student, who would become the well-known Professor Taamrat Emmanuel and have an important interaction with the black Jews of Harlem, was literally rescued from a Chrisitan mission that had already converted his parents. Faitlovitch was greatly impressed with the young man who was fluent in Italian, Tigrinya (a local dialect), and his native Amharic. Faitlovitch took him to Paris where he learned French, then to Italy where he studied at the Collegio Rabbinico, and finally to Jerusalem where he was entrusted to the supervision of Herr Goldschmidt. Like Getye before him, Taamrat was installed as the headmaster of one of the village Hebrew schools that Faitlovitch had created back in Ethiopia. Faitlovitch understood that he was making leaders; his students were being trained to lead their people out of darkness.[35] However, Taamrat and some of his peers had their own ideas on how best to use their talents. They had also come to the attention of the Emperor Menilek and his Regent in Addis Ababa, Ras Tafari Makonnenwho would later himself become the Emperor Haile Selassie I.[36] What Faitlovitch did not realize at first and then later strongly discouraged, was that his prized students were not only black Jews, but black Ethiopians as well. As they traveled and read they became aware of how the Western world viewed them and how their own leaders treated them. Faitlovitch opposed the development of any race consciousness or nationalist sentiments other than his brand of religious Zionism. When Taamrat, Yonah Boggale, and Mequria Segay temporarily left their posts in the village Hebrew schools for government positions in Haile Selassies administration, Faitlovitch saw this as a personal betrayal and an abandonment of the missions for which they were trained. They were expected to shed their black identity and their Ethiopian identity; they were to master and emulate what they were taught; and, when enough of them had done this successfully, they would be accepted back into the Jewish fold. By taking these jobs his students were not merely motivated by a personal desire for greater wealth and statusalthough those were, no doubt, factorsbut, more importantly they were also sincere idealists who were swept up in the hope and optimism of creating a new Ethiopia and a new Africa. The significance of Haile Selassies rise to power in 1930 and the struggle for Ethiopian independence against Italian aggression, profoundly affected black people all over the worldparticularly black people in America and the Caribbean. Faitlovitch was less sanguine about these events. He returned to Ethiopia after WWII from Israel, his new home, and in his forceful manner cajoled Yonah to leave his postwhich was dangerous since the Emperor had not agreed to release him. Taamrat retired from his position as Cultural Attach at the Ethiopian Embassy in Paris in 1952, disillusioned by the slow rate of democratization and land reform. He, too, immigrated to Israel but continued to march to the beat of his own drum until his death in 1968. In many ways, Taamrats journey literally and symbolically adumbrated the physical, political, intellectual, and emotional journey of the thousands of black Jews who would follow him. As a poltical activist, Taamrat regarded Faitlovitch as an antiquarian who was stern in his condemnation of Falasha wrong practices and insufficiently respectful of Falahsa pride in their long independence. Taamrat viewed the future of the Falashas as largely bound up with the modernization of Ethiopia. Only modern education of the general population could finally free the Falashas from being victimized by accusations of lycanthropy as were-hyenas. Neither did he think that Rabbinic Orthodoxy should be imposed on them to qualify them as Jews.[37] Taamrat Emmanuels struggle to find a balance between preserving a healthy respect for the traditions of the Beta Israel, while at the same time trying to forge a meaningful relationship with European Jewry, proved to be illusory. Though well intentioned, Faitlovitch and those that followed him made what has become a classic liberal mistake: they setout to remake those they helped in their own image. This often has the consequence of saving the people, but destroying their culture. Complete cultural assimilation unintentionally leads to the cultural annihilation of the dependent group. The Nobel laureate, Chinua Achebe, described in his fictional novel, Things Fall Apart, how the stable social fabric of a pre-colonial Nigerian village began to unravel before the juggernaut of Western conformity. In this context, European Jewry is the juggernaut that black Jewish communities fear, admire, resent, and need. In December of 1930, Taamrat ignored the urging of his handlers at the Pro-Falsha Committee in New York and journeyed uptown to Harlem were he met with Chief Rabbi Matthew and addressed the Commandment Keepers Congregation. Shortly thereafter, dozens of black Jews left the United States to establish a colony in Ethiopia that lasted until the Italian invasion and the death of Rabbi Arnold Ford in 1935.[38] During the years that followed, individuals from both communities would seek each other out whenever possible, but neither has been in a position to significantly help the other. Yet, the cry of Ethiopia continues to loom large in the hearts of black Jews all over the world for we share a common struggle. Emperor Haile Selassie greeting Rabbi Hailu Paris, an Ethiopian-born leader and teacher in our community at a gathering in New York City in which he and Chief Rabbi W. A. Matthew went to meet the Lion of Judah, a direct descendent of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Fair Usage Law

July 1, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Israeli Government Admits to Sterilizing Ethiopian Jews …

February 21, 2012 According to recent Forbes and Haaretz articles, the Israeli government has been pursuing a long term plan of sterilization of immigrant Ethiopian Jews. The Depo-Prevara injections were enforced upon women in transit camps in Ethiopia. One might ask: why? At this point, no absolutely clear answer can be given. There are, of course, speculations about racial motives; that is, with the Israeli ruling class being mainly of Ashkenazi back ground, while the Ethiopian Jews are not. The outrage eventually led to the Israeli government suspending injections unless the women understood the ramifications. The shots have led to a drop in the Ethiopian Jewish birth-rate byabout 20%. According to the UK Independent: The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive. as well as noting: Sharona Eliahu Chai, a lawyer for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), said: Findings from investigations into the use of Depo Provera are extremely worrisome, raising concerns of harmful health policies with racist implications in violation of medical ethics. The Ministry of Healths director-general was right to act quickly and put forth new guidelines. The Ethiopian Jewish community of course has its past shrouded in mystery. Different theories abound as to its origins. However, despite dispute about their ability to legally come to Israel, it was decided that those Ethiopian Jews who agreed to undergo a conversion to Orthdoox Talmudic Judaism would be allowed entry. The Ethiopian Jewish community has left in large numbers from Ethiopia, especially since the culture was hostile to them (for example, prior to the over-throw of the old imperial system, they could not own property).

Fair Usage Law

June 20, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Ethiopian Jews in Israel – My Jewish Learning

Ancient traditions in a new Jewish State. By Atira Winchester The Jews of Ethiopiaknown as the Beta Israelhave experienced a long history of famine, religious oppression, and civil war. But in the 20th century the community went through some major changes as it was transplanted into Israel. In 1974, following a coup detat, Ethiopia came under the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Under Mariams regime, anti-Semitism rose, and physical conditions worsened for the Beta Israel, with starvation across the country. In May 1977, Israeli President Menachem Begin started selling arms to Mariams government, hoping to secure freedom for Ethiopias Jews. Later that year, Israel took 200 Jews out of Ethiopia on a plane that had emptied its arms cargo for Mariams use. Mariam agreed to the airliftgiven his reliance on Israels arms, he could hardly refuse. Between 1977 and 1984, a total of 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came to Israel in a number of small airlifts, all authorized, albeit grudgingly, by the Ethiopian government. Large-scale aliya started in 1984 with Operation Moses, a mission that brought 8,000 Jews to Israel in just a few months. The operation, which began in November, 1984, ended prematurely in January 1985 when news of the airlift reached Ethiopias Arab allies. In March 1985, another 650 Jews were rescued in Operation Joshua, but approximately 15,000 Beta Israel still remained in Ethiopia, many of them elderly, sick, or weak. Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization. Please consider making a donation today. Atira Winchester is a journalist who worked for many years as an editor for The Jerusalem Post. She currently lives in London, England where she works as a freelance writer, specializing in arts, culture and contemporary Israeli life. The Jews of Ethiopiaknown as the Beta Israelhave experienced a long history of famine, religious oppression, and civil war. But in the 20th century the community went through some major changes as it was transplanted into Israel. In 1974, following a coup detat, Ethiopia came under the Marxist-Leninist dictatorship of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. Under Mariams regime, anti-Semitism rose, and physical conditions worsened for the Beta Israel, with starvation across the country. In May 1977, Israeli President Menachem Begin started selling arms to Mariams government, hoping to secure freedom for Ethiopias Jews. Later that year, Israel took 200 Jews out of Ethiopia on a plane that had emptied its arms cargo for Mariams use. Mariam agreed to the airliftgiven his reliance on Israels arms, he could hardly refuse. Between 1977 and 1984, a total of 8,000 Ethiopian Jews came to Israel in a number of small airlifts, all authorized, albeit grudgingly, by the Ethiopian government. Large-scale aliya started in 1984 with Operation Moses, a mission that brought 8,000 Jews to Israel in just a few months. The operation, which began in November, 1984, ended prematurely in January 1985 when news of the airlift reached Ethiopias Arab allies. In March 1985, another 650 Jews were rescued in Operation Joshua, but approximately 15,000 Beta Israel still remained in Ethiopia, many of them elderly, sick, or weak. The final and most dramatic large-scale operation was Operation Solomon. 14,325 Beta Israel were airlifted to Israel in 36 hours on May 24 -25, 1991 amid political turmoil that forced Mariam to flee the country. By the end of 1991, only a handful of Beta Israel remained in Ethiopia, although many thousands of Falasha Mura, whose Jewish identity has been disputed, still remain today. While the operations that brought about Beta Israels exodus were dramatic and swift, integration into Israeli society has been painstakingly slow. Even today, the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel is still grappling with problems: they are marginalized socially, religiously, geographically, and professionally. When they first arrived, housing was often provided in mobile homes located in Israels peripheral areas. Housing conditions were regularly squalid, inadequately heated in the winter or cooled in the summer. Ethiopians were isolated and disempowered, with children far from decent schools. Life in an industrialized, modern society baffled many of the older community members, and adjusting to simple things like electricity was often difficult. Israelis were not always quick to help make the transition easier. For example, Yehuda Dominitz, then Director General of the Jewish Agencys Department of Immigration and Absorption, declared in 1980 that, [taking] a Falasha out of his village, its like taking a fish out of waterIm not in favor of bringing them [to Israel].

Fair Usage Law

June 16, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Ethiopia Virtual Jewish Tour | Jewish Virtual Library

Once they were kings. A half million strong, they matched their faith with fervor and out-matched the Moslem and Christian tribesmen around them to rule the mountain highlands around Lake Tana. They called themselves Beta Israelthe house of Israeland used the Torah to guide their prayers and memories of the heights of Jerusalem as they lived in their thatched huts in Ethiopia. But their neighbors called them Falashasthe alien ones, the invaders. And even three hundred years of rule, even the black features that matched those of all the people around them did not make the Jews of Ethiopia secure governors of their destiny in Africa (Falashas: The Forgotten Jews, Baltimore Jewish Times, 9 November 1979). For centuries, the world Jewish community was not even aware of the existence of the Jewish community of Ethiopia in the northern province of Gondar. The miracle of Operation Solomon is only now being fully understood; an ancient Jewish community has been brought back from the edge of government-imposed exile and starvation. But once they were kings. . . – History – Modern Contact – The Mengistu Threat – Operations Moses & Joshua – Operation Solomon – Authentic Jews – Jewish Apathy & its Defeat – Operation Dove’s Wings – Recent Developments Christianity spread through the Axum dynasty of Ethiopia in the 4th century CE. By the 7th century, however, Islam had surpassed Christianity and had separated Ethiopia from its Christian African neighbors. Prior to this, the Beta Israel had enjoyed relative independence through the Middle Ages. Their reign was threatened in the 13th century CE under the Solomonic Empire, and intermittent fighting continuing for the next three centuries with other tribes. In 1624, the Beta Israel fought what would be their last battle for independent autonomy against Portuguese-backed Ethiopians. A graphic eyewitness account described the battle: Falasha men and women fought to the death from the steep heights of their fortress… they threw themselves over the precipice or cut each other’s throats rather than be taken prisonerit was a Falasha Masada. [The rebel leaders] burned all of the Falasha’s written history and all of their religious books, it was an attempt to eradicate forever the Judaic memory of Ethiopia (Righteous Jews Honored by Falasha Supporters, AAEJ Press Release, 1981). Those Jews captured alive were sold into slavery, forced to be baptized, and denied the right to own land. The independence of the Beta Israel was torn from them just as it was from their Israeli brethren at Masada centuries before. The first modern contact with the now oppressed community came in 1769, when Scottish explorer James Bruce stumbled upon them while searching for the source of the Nile River. His estimates at the time placed the Beta Israel population at 100,000, already greatly decreased from an estimate from centuries before of a half-million. Little additional contact was made with the community, but in 1935 their stability was greatly threatened as the Italian army marched into Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s ruler, Emperor Haile Selassie fled his country and actually took refuge in Jerusalem for a short time. Selassie returned to power in 1941, but the situation for the Beta Israel improved little. In 1947, Ethiopia abstained on the United Nations Partition Plan for the British Mandate of Palestine, which reestablished the State of Israel. By 1955, the non-governmental Jewish Agency of Israel had already begun construction of schools and a teacher’s seminary for the Beta Israel in Ethiopia. In 1956, Ethiopia and Israel established consular relations, which were improved in 1961 when the two countries established full diplomatic ties. Positive relations between Israel and Ethiopia existed until 1973, when, in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, Ethiopia (and 28 African nations) broke diplomatic relations with Israel under the threat of an Arab oil embargo. Months later, Emperor Selassie’s regime ended in a coup d’etat. Selassie was replaced by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose Marxist-Leninist dictatorship increased the threat to the Beta Israel. During the weeks surrounding Mariam’s coup, an estimated 2,500 Jews were killed and 7,000 became homeless. Soon Mariam instituted a policy of villagization, relocating millions of peasant farmers onto state-run cooperatives which greatly harmed the Beta Israel by forcing them to share their villagesthough they were denied the right to own the landwith non-Jewish farmers, resulting in increased levels of anti-Semitism throughout the Gondar Province. According to the Ethiopian government, over 30% of the population had been moved from privately owned farms to cooperatives as of 1989. After taking office in 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin was eager to facilitate the rescue of Ethiopia’s Jews, and so Israel entered into a period of selling arms to the Mariam government in hopes that Ethiopia would allow Jews to leave for Israel. In 1977, Begin asked President Mengistu to allow 200 Ethiopian Jews to leave for Israel aboard an Israeli military jet that had emptied its military cargo and was returning to Israel. Mariam agreed, and that may have been the precursor to the mass exodus of Operation Moses. In the early 1980’s, Ethiopia forbade the practice of Judaism and the teaching of Hebrew. Numerous members of the Beta Israel were imprisoned on fabricated charges of being Zionist spies, and Jewish religious leaders, Kesim,(sing. Kes) were harassed and monitored by the government. The situation remained exceedingly bleak through the early 1980’s. Forced conscription at age 12 took many Jewish boys away from their parents, some never to be heard from again. Additionally, with the constant threat of war, famine, and horrendous health conditions (Ethiopia has one of the world’s worst infant mortality rates and doctor to patient ratios), the Beta Israel’s position became more precarious as time progressed. The government began to slightly soften its treatment of the Jews, however, during the mid-1980’s when terrible famines wreaked havoc on the economy. Ethiopia was forced to ask Western nations for famine relief, including the United States of America and Israel, allowing them both to exert a modicum of pressure for the release of the Beta Israel. Over 8,000 Beta Israel came to Israel between 1977 and 1984. But these efforts pale in comparison with the modern exodus that took place during 1984’s Operation Moses. Under a news blackout for security reasons, Operation Moses began on November 18, 1984, and ended six weeks later on January 5, 1985. In that time, just over 7,000 Jews were rescued and brought to Israel. But the mission was not without problems. Because of news leaks (blamed primarily on a December 6 article in the Washington Jewish Week and full page advertisements placed by the United Jewish Appeal), the mission ended prematurely as Arab nations pressured the Sudanese government to prevent any more Jews from using Sudan to go to Israel. Almost 15,000 Jews were left behind in Ethiopia. Thus, by the end of Operation Moses in January 1985, almost two-thirds of the Beta Israel remained in Ethiopia. They were comprised almost entirely of women, young children, and the sick, since only the strongest members of the community were encouraged to make the harrowing trek to Sudan where the airlift would actually occur. In addition, many young boys were encouraged to make the dangerous trek to freedom due to the low age of conscription, often as young as age twelve. As Babu Yakov, a Beta Israel leader, summed up, Those who could not flee are elderly, sick, and infants. Those least capable of defending themselves are now facing their enemies alone. In 1985, then Vice President George Bush arranged a CIA-sponsored follow-up mission to Operation Moses. Operation Joshua brought an additional 500 Beta Israel from Sudan to Israel. But in the following five years, a virtual stalemate occurred in the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry. All efforts on behalf of the Beta Israel fell on the closed ears of the Mariam dictatorship. Meanwhile, those Jews who did escape during Operation Moses were separated from their loved ones while attempting to adjust to Israeli society. The new arrivals spent between six months and two years in absorption centers learning Hebrew, being retrained for Israel’s industrial society, and learning how to live in a modern society (most Ethiopian villages had no running water or electricity). Suicide, all but unheard of in their tukuls in Ethiopia, even claimed a few of the new arrivals due to the anxiety of separation and departure. Over 1,600 orphans of circumstance lived day to day separated from their families, not knowing the fate of their parents, brothers, sisters, and loved ones. The grim prospect of thousands of Jewish children growing up separated from their parents in Israel almost became a reality. Little could be done to persuade the Mariam government to increase the trickle of Jews leaving Ethiopia in the years between Operations Joshua and Solomon. But in November 1990, Ethiopia and Israel reached an agreement that would allow Ethiopian Jews to move to Israel under the context of family reunification. It soon became clear, however, that Mengistu was willing to allow Ethiopian Jews to leave outside of the guise of reunification. November and December, 1990, showed increased numbers of Ethiopians leaving for Israel. The Ethiopian Jews were finally ready to come home. In early 1991, Eritrean and Tigrean rebels began a concerted attack on Mengistu forces, meeting with surprising success for the first time since the civil war began in 1975. With the rebel armies advancing each day, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam fled his country in early May. Rebels claimed control of the capital Addis Ababa shortly thereafter, and the situation of the Beta Israel took top priority in Israel. The Likud government of Yitzhak Shamir authorized a special permit for the Israeli airline, El Al, to fly on the Jewish Sabbath. On Friday, May 24, and continuing non-stop for 36 hours, a total of 34 El Al jumbo jets and Hercules C-130sseats removed to accommodate the maximum number of Ethiopiansbegan a new chapter in the struggle for the freedom of Ethiopian Jewry. Operation Solomon, named for the king from whom one of the theories suggest that the Beta Israel draw their lineage, ended almost as quickly as it began. Timing was crucial, since any delay by Israel could have allowed the rebels to hold the Jews as bargaining chips with Israel or the United States. A total of 14,324 Ethiopian Jews were rescued and resettled in Israel, a modern exodus of the grandest design. Operation Solomon rescued nearly double the number of Jews as were saved during Operation Moses and Joshua, and it did so in a mere fraction of the time. More than 36,000 Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel and despite both economic and social hardships, their community has an integral part in Israeli society. In 1999, Avraham Yitzhak became the first Ethiopian immigrant to earn an MD degree from an Israeli medical school. In 2011, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs appointed Rachamim Elazar as Israel’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, making him the first Israeli of Ethiopian descent to ever serve as an ambassador for the State of Israel. There are still many problems within the Ethiopian community in Israel – poverty, lack of education, etc – but large strides are being made every day. Because much of the Beta Israel’s history is passed orally from generation to generation, we may never truly know their origins. Four main theories exist concerning the beginnings of the Beta Israel community: 1) The Beta Israel may be the lost Israelite tribe of Dan. 2) They may be descendants of Menelik I, son of King Solomon and Queen Sheba. 3) They may be descendants of Ethiopian Christians and pagans who converted to Judaism centuries ago. 4) They may be descendants of Jews who fled Israel for Egypt after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and settled in Ethiopia. Without regard as to which theory may actually be correct (and each theory has its support), the authenticity of the Jewishness of the community became an issue. As early as the 16th century, Egypt’s Chief Rabbi David ben Solomon ibn Avi Zimra (Radbaz) declared that in Halachic (Jewish legal) issues, the Beta Israel were indeed Jews. In 1855, Daniel ben Hamdya, a member of the Beta Israel, was the first Ethiopian Jew to visit Israel, meeting with a council of rabbis in Jerusalem concerning the authenticity of the Beta Israel. By 1864, almost all leading Jewish authorities, most notably Rabbi Azriel Hildsheimer of Eisenstadt, Germany, accepted the Beta Israel as true Jews. In 1908 the chief rabbis of forty-five countries had heeded Rabbi Hildsheimer’s call and officially recognized the Beta Israel as fellow Jews. In reaffirming the Radbaz’s position centuries before, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, Israel’s Chief Sephardic Rabbi, stated in 1972, I have come to the conclusion that Falashas are Jews who must be saved from absorption and assimilation. We are obliged to speed up their immigration to Israel and educate them in the spirit of the holy Torah, making them partners in the building of the Holy Land. In 1975, Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren wrote to the Beta Israel telling them, You are our brothers, you are our blood and our flesh. You are true Jews. Later that same year the Israeli Interministerial Commission officially recognized the Beta Israel as Jews under Israel’s Law of Return, a law designed to aid in Jewish immigration to Israel. The Beta Israel were ready to come home. Indeed, the Beta Israel were strictly observant in pre-Talmudic Jewish traditions. The women went to the mikvah, or ritual bath, just as observant Jewish women do to this day, and they continue to carry out ancient festivals, such as Seged, that have been passed down through the generations of Beta Israel. The Kesim, or religious leaders, are as widely revered and respected as the great rabbis in each community, passing the Jewish customs through storytelling and maintaining the few Jewish books and Torahs some communities were fortunate enough to have written in the liturgical language of Ge’ez. The struggle to free the Beta Israel was not fought solely against the Ethiopian government. Much like some timid Jewish leaders during the Holocaust, some recent Jews sought to prevent a shanda fur de goyim (an embarrassment in front of the non-Jews) by not stirring up waves over Ethiopian Jewry. The history of the Beta Israel’s rescue is at times open to debate regarding the heroes of the Ethiopian Jewry movement. As with many struggles to free oppressed Jewry around the world, many advocated and vocalized opposition to those responsible for the lack of action on their behalf. Others, however, argued for a more quiet diplomacy, void of the public demonstrations and arrests that marked the struggle for Soviet Jewry. Though over 8,000 Beta Israel managed to flee to Israel during his tenure, it was an Israeli official in charge of the Ethiopian Jews’ absorption who may best symbolize the insensitivity that an extreme minority of people once held. Yehuda Dominitz who served as Director General of the Jewish Agency’s Department of Immigration and Absorption, declared in 1980 that, [taking] a Falasha (sic) out of his village, it’s like taking a fish out of water…I’m not in favor of bringing them [to Israel]. Dominitz also refused to allow his agency to rent buses so Ethiopian Jews in Israel could travel to Jerusalem to observe their ancient holiday of Seged (Dominitz eventually relented, but had the buses take the Beta Israel to Haifa instead of Jerusalem). Malkah Raymist, a writer for the World Zionist Organization, wrote in 1956 in The Jewish Horizon (of the Hapoel Hamizrachi of America Movement) that, the reasons [for not bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel] are simple and weighty. On one hand, they are well off where they are, while their development and mental outlook is that of children; they could fall an easy prey of exploitation, if brought here without any preparation. On the other hand, being a backward element, they would be and it would take several years before they could be educated towards a minimum of progressive thinking. In an American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) press release, the AAEJ quoted its founder, Dr. Graenum Berger, as criticizing those who sought any delay in the rescue of the Beta Israel. Berger declared, Not when Jews are dying…these revelations show once again that the policy of influencing factions of the government of Israel always have been against the immigration of the Ethiopian Jews. And, the same people who controlled their immigration then are controlling it now. These are the same people who gave instructions to the Israeli Embassy in Ethiopia (1956-1973) not to issue immigration visas to any Jew from Ethiopia. Berger himself came under criticism for his outspoken remarks concerning the Israeli efforts to rescue the Beta Israel, showing that nobody was immune from the rhetoric surrounding the issue. In December 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to bring to the Jewish State the few thousands Jews remaining in the Falash Mura community in Ethiopia. Nicknamed Operation Dove’s Wings, the plan sought to fly a few hundred each month to Israel. The first flight brough 240 new Ethiopian immigrants. In July 2012, the government decided to increase the rate of aliyah from Ethiopia to 160 per month over the proceeding 10 months. In August 2013, the final two flights of Operation Dove’s Wings arrived in Israel with 450 immigrants. In a ceremony held at Ben-Gurion Airport, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said: “We are closing a 3,000-year-old circle.” To mark the occasion, Prime Minister Netanyahu released a statement saying, “I am proud that as Prime Minister, beginning in my first term, I upheld the Zionist and Jewish imperative of bringing to Israel our brothers and sisters from Ethiopia. I see this as a moral obligation.” More than 135,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, 92,000 of whom have been brought into the country. The Israeli government approved the entry of the last group of Ethiopian Jews in November 2015, aiming to finish what was started by Operation Moses 30 years prior. This announcement comes two years after Israeli government officials claimed that no Jews remained in Ethiopia. There have been several supposedly last groups of Ethiopian Jews that have made aliyah to Israel, with the most recent group of 450 arriving in Israel in 2013. It is estimated that this proposal approved the entry into Israel of approximately 9,100 Ethiopian Jews, most of whom were at the time living in refugee camps in Adis Ababa and Gondar. Sources: Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ). Written by the staff of PRIMER – Promoting Research in the Middle East Region; Israel Hayom (August 29, 2013); Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Israel approves ‘last’ round of Ethiopian immigration, Al Arabiya (November 15, 2015)

Fair Usage Law

June 10, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Friends of Ethiopian Jews

Friends of Ethiopian Jews, Inc. (FEJ) supports grassroots Ethiopian-Israeli organizations working to create full integration and successful absorption in Israel for the Ethiopian Jewish community. FEJ was founded in 1998 by members of theAmerican Association for Ethiopian Jews(AAEJ) and other veteran activists dedicated to assisting the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel. Through supporting programs and projects led by Ethiopian-Israelis themselves, FEJ strives to empower the community, to help improve opportunities for Ethiopian-Israelis and to help create a just society in Israel overall. FEJ supports organizations that are effective, well-managed grassroots groups, which are achieving measurable, successful results. Today, FEJ helps sixEthiopian-Israeli groups, and welcomes donations on behalf of these outstanding organizations: Friends by Nature Community EmpowermentFriends by Nature (FBN)Community Empowerment is a non-profit Israeli organization that was established in 2005 by a diverse group of Ethiopian-Israelis and veteran Israelis, secular and religious..Read More Olim Beyahad Or Bandelay Woodelay (in Amharic), or Rising Together (in English) integrates members of the Ethiopian Israeli community as a normative and important part of Israeli life in the areas of employment, residence, education, and social life. ..Read More Tech-Career Computer Training for Ethiopian-Israelis For over 25 years, Ethiopian-Israelis have been attempting to break out of the harsh socio-economic reality in which they live and integrate into Israeli society. According to the latest ..Read More Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ) The Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews (IAEJ),directed and run by Ethiopians, is a unique advocacy organization and formidable voice for, and defender of, the Ethiopian community in..Read More Tebeka Advocacy for Equality & Justice for Ethiopian-Israeli.TEBEKA, (Amharic for Advocate of Justice), is the legal aid organization serving Israels 120,000-member Ethiopian-Israeli community. It was founded in 2000 by Itzik Dessie, the first ..Read More

Fair Usage Law

June 10, 2016   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Ethiopian Jews in Israel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ethiopian Jews in Israel refers to the immigrants and descendants of the immigrants of the Beta Israel communities of Ethiopia, who now reside in Israel.[2][3][4] Most of the community made aliyah from Ethiopia to Israel in two waves of mass immigration assisted by the Israeli government: Operation Moses (1984) and Operation Solomon (1991).[5][6] Today Israel is home to the largest Beta Israel community in the world with about 125,500 citizens of Ethiopian descent in 2011,[1] who are mainly assembled in the smaller urban areas of central Israel.[7] The first Ethiopian Jews who settled in Palestine in the modern times came in 1934 along with the Yemenite Jews from Italian Eritrea. Between the years 1963 and 1975 a relatively small group of Beta Israel emigrated to Israel. The Beta Israel immigrants in that period were mainly very few men who have studied and came to Israel on a tourist visa and then remained in the country illegally. Several of their supporters in Israel, who recognized their “Jewishness” decided to assist them. These supporters began organizing in associations, among others under the direction of Ovadia Hazzi, an Eritrean born Yemeni Jew and former sergeant in the Israeli army. Several of those illegal immigrants managed to get a regularization with the Israeli authorities through the assistance of these support associations. Some agreed to “convert” to Judaism, which helped them regulated their personal status and remain in Israel. People who get their regularization often brought their families to Israel as well. In 1973, Ovadia Hazzi officially raised the question of the “Jewishness” of the Beta Israel to the Israeli Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The rabbi, who cited a rabbinic ruling from the 16th century David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra and asserted that the Beta Israel are descended from the lost tribe of Dan, and eventually acknowledged their “Jewishness” in February 1973. This ruling was initially rejected by the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who eventually changed his opinion on the matter in 1974. In April 1975, the Israeli government of Yitzhak Rabin officially accepted the Beta Israel as Jews, for the purpose of the Law of Return (An Israeli act which grants all the Jews in the world the right to immigrate to Israel). Later on, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin obtained clear rulings from Chief Sephardi Rabbi Ovadia Yosef that they were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel did however initially require them to undergo pro forma Jewish conversions, to remove any doubt as to their Jewish status. Ethiopian Beta Israel are gradually becoming part of the mainstream Israeli society in religious life, military service (with nearly all males doing national service), education, and politics. Similarly to other groups of immigrant Jews, who made aliyah to Israel, the Ethiopian Beta Israel have faced obstacles in their integration to Israeli society. The Ethiopian Beta Israel community’s internal challenges have been complicated by the racism of Israeli society and the official establishment.[11] One study found that some social and cultural traditions have been treated as problems that need to be overcome.[12] Individual Ethiopian Beta Israel had lived in Eretz Yisrael prior to the establishment of the state. A youth group arrived in Israel in the 1950s to undergo training in Hebrew education and returned to Ethiopia to educate young Beta Israeli community members there. Also, Ethiopian Beta Israel had been trickling into Israel prior to the 1970s. The numbers of such Ethiopian immigrants grew after the Israeli government officially recognized them in 1973 as Jews, entitled to Israeli citizenship.[13]

Fair Usage Law

August 7, 2015   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Jewish Virtual Library – Timeline of Ethiopian Jewish History

4th Century CE Christianity is introduced into the Axum dynasty in Ethiopia. 7th Century With the spread of Islam, Ethiopia is isolated from most of the Christian world. The Beta Israel enjoy a period of independence before the power struggles of the middle ages. 9th Century The earliest apparent reference to the Beta Israel appears in the diary of Eldad Hadani, a merchant and traveler claiming to have been a citizen of an autonomous Jewish state in eastern Africa inhabited by the tribes of Dan, Naftali, Gad, and Asher. 13th Century The Solominic dynasty (which claims decent from Solomon and Sheba) assumes control. During the next 300 years (1320-1620), intermittent wars are fought between the Christian kings of Ethiopia and those of the Beta Israel, which finally result in the Beta Israel’s loss of independence. 16th Century Rabbi David B. Zimra, known as the Radbaz, issues a legal response in Cairo declaring that “those who come from the land Cush (Ethiopia) are without a doubt the Tribe of Dan…” He confirms that Ethiopian Jews are fully Jewish. 1622 Christians conquer the Ethiopian Jewish Kingdom following 300 years of warfare. The vanquished Jews are sold as slaves, forced to baptize, and denied the right to own land. 1769 Scottish explorer James Bruce awakens the western world to the existence of the Ethiopian Jews in his travels to discover the source of the Nile. He estimates the Jewish population at 100,000. 1855 Daniel Ben Hamdya, an Ethiopian Jew, independently travels to Jerusalem to meet with rabbis. 1864 Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer, the Rabbi of Eisenstadt, Germany, publishes a manifesto in the Jewish press calling for the spiritual rescue of Ethiopian Jewry. 1867 Professor Joseph Halevy is the first European Jew to visit the Beta Israel, subsequently becoming an advocate for the community.

Fair Usage Law

August 7, 2015   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed

Falasha Black Jews of Ethiopia – Tripod.com

Origins of Abyssinian Jews The early days of the Beta ‘Esra’el (House of Israel) community in Abyssinia remain a mystery. There is no doubt that the roots of Judaism were influential in this part of Africa at a very early date –perhaps even as far back as the First Temple period. Since there are no factual data from those times, and given the Ethiopian Jews’ racial resemblance to native Ethiopians, various theories have been proposed concerning the origins of the community, based on superficial research of their traditions, customs and roots. Many aspects of Ethiopian culture still show traces of Judaic influence. The Abyssinian Church is considered very close to ancient Judaism, with customs such as circumcision, a form of Sabbath observance, dietary laws similar to those found in the Tora, and other practices preserved in its doctrine. We know that before the spread of Christianity in the 4th century CE, the Mosaic faith was practiced in Abyssinia, alongside the idol worship which still remains widespread. See Moses — was the lawgiver of Israel an Ethiopian? According to Ethiopia national legend, the founder of the royal dynasty, whose last monarch was Negus (Emperor) Haile Selassie –the symbolic and titular “Lion of Judah” –was the son of the Queen of Sheba (Makida, according to the legend) and King Solomon. See Solomon’s Temple. The son, Menelik, as an educated adult, returned to his father in Jerusalem, and then resettled in Ethiopia together with many members of the Israelite tribes, including priests and Levites. He also smuggled the Ark of the Covenant and the Tablets of the Law out from Jerusalem, and brought them to Aksum, capital of ancient Abyssinia. The Jews of Ethiopia do not generally accept this legend, and take it to be mere fabrication. However, this old tradition only strengthens what we know from other sources –that there was an early Jewish influence in Abyssinia . For Biblical ties, see http://robt.shepherd.tripod.com/spiritual-africa.html A 9th-century tradition, based on the story of Eldad ha-Dani (the Danite), maintains that during the rift between Rehoboam, son of Solomon, and Jeroboam, son of Nebat –leaders of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel respectively –the tribe of Dan chose not to be drawn into tribal disputes. To avoid the impending civil war they resettled in Egypt. Once there, the Danites continued southwards up the Nile to the historic Land of Cush (today in Sudan and Ethiopia) and found it to be rich in resources. Eldad ha-Dani himself was probably from this area. According to his report, members of the tribes of Naftali, Gad and Asher lived there together with the Danites, and he himself could trace his ancestry back to Dan, son of Jacob. This tradition, which may have a certain Biblical basis, is also found in other medieval sources. Rabbi Obadiah of Bertinoro came across two Abyssinian Jewish prisoners of war in Egypt in the late 15th century and wrote that they claimed to be descended from the tribe of Dan. Rabbi David ben-Zimra (RaDBaZ) ruled in his 16th century responsa that the Jews of Ethiopia were unquestionably Danites who had settled in Abyssinia, possibly even before the Second Temple period. The tradition appears to have been widely held by the Jews of Abyssinia and the surrounding areas until recently, though this is no longer the case today. At the time when the Ten Tribes were exiled to Assyria (during the reign of King Hosea, son of Elah of Israel, approximately one century before the First Temple was destroyed and Judah was exiled), the Prophet Isaiah prophesied the End of Days, when the dispersed people of Israel and Judah would be gathered in from their place of exile. Cush is one of the places mentioned. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord will set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, that shall remain from Assyria and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And He will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah from the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:11-12) The return of the people living “beyond the rivers of Abyssinia” to “the place of the name of the Lord of Hosts” is prophesied in detail in Isaiah 18:7 and Zephania 3:10. These sources are sufficient to demonstrate Jewish presence in Ethiopia towards the end of the First Temple period. After the destruction of the First Temple, the Jewish community in Egypt expanded. Findings discovered at the beginning of this century in Yev (Elephantine) in southern Egypt on the Nile, near Aswan (the area of Biblical Pathros) indicate there were Jewish communities near the Sudanese border dating at least to the Return to Zion in the Persian period. The Jews of Yev, like those of Abyssinia, built a temple and performed sacrifices, but did not reject the sanctity of Jerusalem and its Temple. Similarly, Onias’ Temple, in Lower Egypt, dates from the Second Temple period. Other similarities in traditions and special customs support the evidence of a link between the ancient Egyptian Jews and those of Ethiopia.

Fair Usage Law

August 7, 2015   Posted in: Ethiopian Jews  Comments Closed


Fair Use Disclaimer

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Under the 'fair use' rule of copyright law, an author may make limited use of another author's work without asking permission. Fair use is based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism. The fair use privilege is perhaps the most significant limitation on a copyright owner's exclusive rights.

Fair use as described at 17 U.S.C. Section 107:

"Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phono-records or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

  • (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for or nonprofit educational purposes,
  • (2) the nature of the copyrighted work,
  • (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and
  • (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work."