Yesterday, the Israeli government voted to admit an additional 3,000 Ethiopian olim to Israel, beginning a new and important round in the historic ingathering of the Jewish people to the Jewish state. And last evening, Jews around the world lit the first candle of Hanukkah. These two important events are closely related.
Ethiopian Aliyah has long been an issue at the forefront of the Jewish Federations' agenda. Over the past three decades, Jewish Federations have played a central role in the resettlement of 92,000 Ethiopian Jews and their families through our partnership and support of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Ethiopian Jews were subject to religious persecution for centuries. Many of those still waiting to move to Israel are descended from those who were forcibly converted to Christianity over the years. The situation in Ethiopia has gained urgency due to the recent violent escalation of the civil war which broke out last year. Thousands have already died, and more than two million people have been displaced from their homes.
Yesterday’s government action is expected to be the first step in several to bring the remaining community of Ethiopians, who have been separated from their families for years, home to Israel and reunite them with their loved ones.
To support this historic effort, in addition to the $69 million in collective campaign funds that Jewish Federations are expected to provide the Jewish Agency this year, we will now also seek to raise an additional $5 million to prepare, transport, and help resettle these new olim on their arrival in Israel.
Next month, we will hold a briefing to share more about this special effort. You can also find more information in the press release Federations issued alongside our Jewish Agency partners, following the cabinet decision.
Chanukah is a story of Jewish resilience and determination - to preserve our faith, our institutions and our people in the face of tyranny and against overwhelming odds. The prayer we say when we light the Chanukah candles thanks G-d for bringing miracles to our people both in ancient times and today. Once again, on this Chanukah, we have a chance to participate in the miracle of Jewish resilience, renewal, and reunification.
May this Chanukah and this most recent wave of aliyah serve to remind us that we are making our history even as we are remembering our history.
Mark Wilf, Chair, Board of Trustees
Julie Platt, National Campaign Chair
Jeff Schoenfeld, Israel & Overseas Chair