Black Jews, Jews, and Other Heroes: How Grassroots Activism Led to the Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews

Gefen  2007

 

One of the greatest miracles of the past twenty years is the exodus of the Jews of Ethiopia and their return to their biblical home, to Israel.

These books, each in its own way, pay tribute to that remarkable exodus and to the new homeland of Ethiopian Jewry.

Black Jews, Jews, and Other Heroes is about an unsung grassroots group that bucked the system and put the issue of Ethiopian Jews on the agenda in the Jewish community and in the government of Israel.

There is little doubt that without the American Association for Ethiopian Jews, the Jews of Ethiopia would still be oppressed in Africa. The small group pushed and pushed against all odds and heavy bureaucracies and managed to move mountains and save thousands upon thousands of lives. None of these movers and shakers were professionals, they were all caring lay leaders. Their quest was made all the more difficult because these future immigrants to Israel did not fit the mold. Ethiopian Jews were black and were neither European nor educated.

But this little group succeeded. And in the end, when their mission was accomplished, they disbanded. The success of the organization is visible on Israeli streets and in Israel’s towns and cities.

The Ethiopian Jews of Israel is a coffee table book. It is a picture book filled with remarkable shots of beautiful men, women, and children—Ethiopian Jewish Israelis living their lives. There are over fifty interviews and portraits of Ethiopian Jews covering all walks of life. The reader sees the faces and reads the tales of old, young, religious, traditional, civilian and soldier Ethiopian Israelis. The photos and biographies have a warmth and a vitality about them. There is even a picture of a Kes, an Ethiopian Jewish religious leader, sitting next to an Ethiopian rabbi dressed like a hassid.

The redemption of captives and the ingathering of the exiles is part and parcel of the new Jewish reality in the Jewish state. These two books highlight and emphasize the great miracle of our time and remind us of the responsibility that the State of Israel has for all Jews in distress everywhere in the world.

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