IMPACT-Ethiopian Israelis

Chanukah Miracles Come Early for Ethiopian Jews

Ethiopian Jews Make Aliyah 12-3-2020

Yesterday, 316 Jews lifted off from their native country of Ethiopia to arrive in their new home in Israel. The Israeli Government recently approved bringing 2,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel and this first planeload launches Operation Tzur Yisrael with another 100 arriving today. While the government approves the operation, it is the work of the Jewish Agency for Israel, one of our overseas partner agencies, that facilitates the preparation, the travel and the k’litah (absorption process into Israeli society). It is our Community Campaign that makes this possible

Just two years ago in Israel, Federation’s Chief Development Officer Brian Eglash and I were given the honor and responsibility of addressing the Aliyah Committee of the Knesset representing the Federation system encouraging the government to expedite this aliyah (immigration). I get goosebumps staring at these pictures capturing the arrival on Israeli soil. 

You make history happen by giving to and by encouraging others to support our collective efforts. I invite you to join our Federation for our first ever Virtual Super Sunday on Sunday, December 13th. You can help out right from the comfort of your home. Learn more and register to make calls at https://jewishpgh.org/event/super-sunday/.

Next Thursday night begins Chanukah, a holiday about miracles and reclaiming Jewish identity. How perfect for it to be in the same week as this airlift from Ethiopia! Take two minutes to watch a video from Ben Gurion Airport capturing the arrival yesterday and hearing from Isaac Herzog (the Chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel) explicitly expressing his gratitude to the Federation system.

Shabbat Shalom. Happy Chanukah. Go Steelers. And PLEASE wear your mask!

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Ethiopian Jews Make Aliyah With Your Help

Ethiopian Jews Make Aliyah 12-3-2020

Today is an exciting today for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Just a few hours ago, 316 Ethiopian Jews made Aliyah to Israel, fulfilling their lifetime dream to return home.

Our historic international partner, the Jewish Agency, will now provide these new olim (immigrants) a home for the next year or two in absorption centers around the country where they will learn Hebrew and get acclimated to life in Israel. Your Community Campaign donations help support JAFI as they bring more than 2,000 Ethiopians to Israel in this wave of immigration, settling them in their new lives.

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Major Gift Will Support Ethiopian National Project

Major Gift to Ethiopian National Project ENP

The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) honored over 600 students of Ethiopian heritage for their dedication and commitment to leadership and community advocacy at a national summit in Jerusalem on June 19. Government officials from various ministries attended the national summit as did Ethiopian-Israeli students from all over the country. The national summit took place just weeks prior to the fatal police shooting of an 18 year old Ethiopian-Israeli, Solomon Tekah. While the investigation of the shooting is still pending, the eighteen year old’s death resulted in demonstrations around the country protesting police bias and institutional and societal racial discrimination against the Ethiopian-Israeli community.

The national summit was a celebration of the achievements of the participating Ethiopian Israeli youth as well as an affirmation that they are the country’s future leaders, despite the numerous setbacks the community oftentimes faces. Primarily brought to Israel in two intricate military operations—1984’s Operation Moses, and 1991’s Operation Solomon – the Ethiopian Israeli community has struggled since arriving to Israel from both an economic and social perspective.

The national summit was made possible through a gift of over $600,000 from a private donor. The three-year grant will support the ENP through the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Federation announced today.

The grant will help Ethiopian Israeli youth to bridge the academic achievement gap present in Israeli society today and to foster a sense of pride in their cultural heritage.

“The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh has long supported the ENP, and an anonymous donor family decided to give this extraordinary gift with the Federation’s help—supporting the next generation of Ethiopian Israelis and helping them to fully integrate into Israeli society.”

Brian Eglash, Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer for the Jewish Federation

The grant also enabled over 200 Israelis of Ethiopian origin, including students from Pittsburgh’s Partnership2Gether region of Karmiel and Misgav, to participate in the School Performance and Community Empowerment (SPACE) program. Recent studies showed that the SPACE program significantly increased the educational achievements of participating children—so much so that participating children achieve higher scores on their matriculation exams than the national average. High matriculation exam scores are crucial for admission to leading universities in Israel.

At the June 19 summit in Jerusalem, the ENP honored some program participants who submitted projects on the themes of Excellence, Advocacy, Cultural Integration, Aspirations and Legacy. Several of the participating students initiated meetings with local police officers in an effort to build trust and to reduce antagonism on both sides; this took place several months before the most recent police shooting.

The grant also established the “Bridges” program, a national extracurricular English immersion program taking place in nine different cities throughout Israel, including in Pittsburgh’s sister city, Karmiel. The “Bridges” program includes a “Bridges to Pittsburgh” component that will bring two participating Ethiopian-Israeli teens to the Jewish Community Center of Pittsburgh’s Emma Kaufmann Camp (EKC) as campers for three weeks.

“We are thrilled to welcome these Israeli campers to EKC. Many of their Pittsburgh peers at camp have very little knowledge of the story of Ethiopian Jewry and the tremendous sacrifices they made in order to reach Israel. This amazing gift will help the Ethiopian Israeli teens to improve their English, which is crucial to their future success; at the same time, it will help to strengthen connections between Jewish teens from Pittsburgh and Israel.”

Kim Salzman, Director of Israel and Overseas Programs for the Jewish Federation

The grant also established a permanent endowment that offers medical scholarships to Ethiopian-Israelis, at the Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation. Israelis of Ethiopian descent are under-represented in the medical field in Israel. This year, the endowment helped to support two medical students and one dental student.

“We are eternally grateful to this family for investing in the Ethiopian community in Israel and have no doubt their generosity will have a profound impact and leave a legacy for years to come,” said Roni Akele, Director of the ENP.

The Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh has had a long-time relationship with the ENP and played a role in the planning of its inception. In 1999, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh made the first and largest seed funding grant of any Jewish Federation towards the establishment of the ENP initiative.

“Our hope is the other Federations, Foundations and philanthropists as well as the Israeli government, will invest more in this vital endeavor because we truly need to finish the job. Recent events in Israel only make the need to invest in this community all the more apparent,” said Eglash.

ENP is a partnership between the Jewish Federations of North America, the Israeli government, representatives of Ethiopian Jewish community organizations, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Keren Hayesod-UIA.

Major Gift to Ethiopian National Project ENP
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