Ethiopian Jewry

The entire world must share the blame for not doing enough to rescue the Jews of Europe in the thirties and the forties. As Jews, we are determined that we will not allow that to happen again with the plight of the Ethiopian Jews.

At the Union of American Hebrew Congregations Biennial in 1979, the General Assembly adopted a resolution that stated:

The plight of Ethiopian Jews is deplorable. They suffer deprivation, hunger, and disease and are at the mercy of bands of terrorists. They have not been permitted to fulfill their dreams of aliyah.

As Jews who have spoken out on behalf of our homeless and endangered brothers and sisters elsewhere, we feel impelled to voice our deep concern that fellow Jews may not be able to exercise their aspirations for aliyah and their rights under the Law of Return.

By 1979, only 325 Ethiopian Jews had been absorbed under the Law of Return. Since that time, several thousand more Ethiopian Jews have found freedom and their dream of aliyah fulfilled. We commend the State of Israel and other agencies and groups for their hundred-fold increase in rescue efforts.

Yet at the same time, we continue to be distressed at the desperate situation that faces those Jews who remain in Ethiopia and those who languish in the refugee camps. For them, aliyah is still a far-off dream; for them, the practice of discrimination continues on official and unofficial levels; for them, the study of Hebrew is prohibited; for them hunger, malnutrition, and disease are constant and bitter companions; for them, unsuccessful attempts at emigration mean imprisonment and torture; for them--those 20,000 Jews--injustice reigns and the annihilation of their religious and cultural community seems certain.

In a resolution adopted by the Commission on Social Action in April l983, it was noted that "our highest priority as Jews is to save lives." The mitzvah of Pidyon Shevuyim--the Redemption of the Captives--motivates the Jew to the highest order of action. To fulfill this mitzvah, to act for the preservation of these 20,000 Jewish souls and their distinctive culture, we dedicate ourselves to the fullest of our abilities to the following course of action.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Union of American Hebrew Congregations:

  1. Calls upon the governments of the United States and Canada to aid Ethiopian Jewry by negotiating with the countries in which they reside to permit them to immigrate to the lands of their own choosing, by providing a significant number of visas and grants for travel and maintenance, and by supporting efforts to obtain permission for medical aid teams to remain in Ethiopia and other countries for unrestricted periods of time;
  2. Calls upon our congressional representatives to cosponsor and pass H. Con. R. 107, which parallels the already passed S. Con. R. 55 and expresses the concern of the House about the plight of Ethiopian Jewry, and vote for emergency relief for Ethiopia and other drought-stricken areas of Africa;
  3. Commends the present government of Israel for its recent rescue efforts on behalf of Ethiopian Jewry and encourages it to continue these efforts and continue to search for possibilities of increasing them.
  4. Calls upon the State of Israel to continue to develop appropriate plans--sensitive to Ethiopian Jews' particular cultural identity--for the absorption of Ethiopian Jewry;
  5. Commends the American Association for Ethiopian Jewry for its efforts on behalf of Ethiopian Jewry; and
  6. Commits the UAHC and its national affiliates to make the rescue of Ethiopian Jewry among their highest priorities by taking the following actions:
    1. Work directly with the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC), the American Association for Ethiopian Jewry (AAEJ), and all other concerned organizations to bring speakers and information to the member congregations for the purpose of hastening the rescue effort;
    2. Monitor the rescue efforts, through the Religious Action Center staff, and issue periodic reports to the president of the UAHC and the Joint Commission on Social Action, and to the extent possible, to the member congregations;
    3. Educate about Ethiopian Jewry by providing background material and educational units for our congregations; and
    4. Support programs that will establish ties among American and Ethiopian Jewish communities in order to promote awareness among American Jews and meaningful support for Ethiopian Jews.