We write to you from the tarmac at the airport in Addis Ababa, about to embark to Israel with 209 Ethiopian soon-to-be-olim who have waited many long years to realize their dream of making aliyah. We are here with a delegation of dozens of senior leaders from across North America who have come to witness the aliyah and absorption needs first-hand. Our system has already pledged a total of $9 million to make it possible for this group of olim to journey, like the Israelites of old, to the Promised Land, and to provide essential food and medicine to those waiting to make aliyah.
It has been an emotional few days in Ethiopia. In Gondar, we joined hundreds of members of the community in a soul-penetrating rendition of Hatikva. Some have recited this hymn every day for more than twenty years, yet somehow their hope has not been lost that one day, they too will breathe the air of “Eretz Israel.” Many of us shed tears over the painful stories of loss and family separation. Yet we all walked away with our heads held high, so inspired by the deep-seated love for Israel that the community members possess.
We know that their challenges are manifold. They come from cultures and lifestyles so different from what they will find when they arrive in Israel. Yet thanks to our partner The Jewish Agency for Israel, they will arrive to absorption centers and will receive training and educational support to ease their integration into Israeli society. Many will joyfully be reunited with beloved family members whom they have not seen for years.
Jewish Federations of North America President & CEO Eric Fingerhut, along with Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel Major General (Res.) Doron Almog, are both here to take part in the mission. Eric called it a “tremendous privilege to know that for decades our Federation system has played an instrumental role in the aliyah journey of these men, women and children, as well as in supporting their first steps in Israel.” We are so proud to support these vital programs with our Federation dollars. And we will be with the olim every step of the way.
We pledge to take the experiences and stories from this past week to our communities and to continue to raise funds to support this sacred project of Ethiopian aliyah and absorption. As Federation leaders, it is not only our privilege but our duty to help these olim realize their dreams and begin their new paths as contributing members of Israeli society.
Please join us today via livestream at 11:30 am ET to celebrate this incredible milestone as these new olim arrive in Israel.
Lauren Danneman is Co-Chair of Jewish Federation's National Young Leadership Cabinet. Carolyn Gitlin is Chair of Jewish Federation's National Women’s Philanthropy.