09/10/2015

Helping Ethiopian Jews “Complete the Journey”

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Bryan, a young Jewish Federation volunteer, stepped into a room filled with dozens of Jews praying at a Shacharit service. Men wearing tefillin rocked gently back and forth, prayer shawls draped around their shoulders. The sound of voices chanting in Hebrew filled the air. 

But Bryan was not standing in his usual house of prayer. He was in a remote region of Gondar at a Jewish Community Center in Ethiopia run by Jewish Federation’s international partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI).

“It was a surreal experience to meet these Jews, who were halfway around the world, having a service in Hebrew that sounds as familiar as the service at my own synagogue down the street,” said Bryan, who was one of travelers from Jewish Federations’ across the United States accompanying 58 Ethiopian Jews making aliyah to Israel.

Over three decades, Jewish Federations have helped bring nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews home to Israel – an effort that Cleveland’s own President, Steve Hoffman, helped initiate.

Working in close collaboration with our international partners, the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and JAFI, we have also provided critical assistance to Ethiopian Jews living in Israel, helping them assimilate into Israeli life and culture.

Today, the Ethiopian-Israeli community is 130,000 strong, and some of its members have risen to the highest echelons of Israeli society, serving as doctors, lawyers, teachers, businesspeople and elected officials. 

On this final mission, known as “Completing the Journey,” Bryan said, “The excitement came as we landed in Israel. Olim were kneeling down and kissing the ground.  It was a very, very powerful moment to see the full spectrum of the work that the Federation is doing, that the JDC is doing, and that the Jewish Agency is doing.”   

Now that he has returned to the United States, Bryan is compelled to do more.  He is dedicating himself to the work that still remains. “My new mission is to raise awareness and continue the fundraising efforts through Federation, to help support these olim and to help support the country of Israel as we move forward into the next generations of Israeli society.” 

Supporting Ethiopian Jews is made possible because of generous donors like you. Please join us, as we aspire to leave no community member behind, in Cleveland, Israel, and 70 countries around the globe. Donate today.


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