Shalom Chaverim (Dear Friends),
Last week, we received remarkable news that Jewish Federations have partnered with the Jewish Agency and Government of Israel to bring roughly 3,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel this year. This represents a continuation of a commitment to Ethiopian Jewry that began with Operations Moses and Sheba (1984-1985) that rescued Ethiopian Jews from Sudanese refugee camps and more recently Operation Solomon (1991) that was a response to civil unrest within Ethiopia, airlifting over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The current population of 160,000 Ethiopian Israelis represent approximately 2% of the total Israeli population, many of whom live in our Federation’s sister city, Kiryat Malakhi.
It is significant that such an undertaking, what will become the fourth Aliyah for Ethiopian Jewry, has its beginning coincide with Shavuot—a holiday that, for me, renews our connection to Torah and reminds us, as is suggested in this week’s parsha Naso, that Torah is the foundation for our service to community, klal Yisrael.
As a parent of Ethiopian children, I am proud of Federation’s affirmation of Ethiopian Jewry as klal Yisrael. While it is true that Ethiopian Israelis face unique challenges of status in Israel and that my own children could tell you stories that suggest we have more work to do in pursuit of diversity and inclusion, it is also true that they have been the beneficiaries of an obligation to justice that has been woven throughout our history into the tapestry that is Jewish peoplehood.
We are commanded, “Justice, justice you shall pursue…” (Deuteronomy 16:20).
Thank you for building a more just world. Your gift of tzedakah allows us to fulfill our communal obligation to Jewish peoplehood and the future of Jewish life in Orange County, Israel and around the world.
May we all go from strength to strength,
Erik Ludwig, PhD
President & CEO
Jewish Federation of Orange County
1 Federation Way, Suite 210, Irvine, CA 92603-0174