Rockland Federation Campaign Chair and past President Bob Silverman was part of a small cadre of leaders who traveled to Ethiopia and Israel last month on The Jewish Federations of North America’s “Completing the Journey” mission to bring Ethiopian Jews (Falas Mura) home to Israel. The mission kicked off the final year of Jewish Federation efforts that have spanned more than three decades of aliyah, which have successfully brought around 80,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. At the start of 2013, just 2,000 Falas Mura remained in Ethiopia awaiting aliyah to Israel, according to the Israeli government.
The mission began in Gondar, where the group witnessed the trying conditions of Ethiopian life, and observed the unique commitment of the Falas Mura to live Jewishly, through prayer and community life. They visited schools, clinics and community centers run by Jewish Federation partner agencies, The Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and met with experts like JDC Medical Director Dr. Rick Hodes and volunteers from the Jewish Service Corps, who framed many of the issues surrounding Ethiopian-Israeli aliyah.
In Addis Ababa, mission participants accompanied the Ethiopian Jews on their last steps in Ethiopia, then traveled by plane together with the Falas Mura to Israel.
Finally, the group shared in the Olims’ (new immigrants’) first steps in Israel, and learned about the absorption process and resources available to aid Ethiopian-Jewish immigrants as they integrate into Israeli society. The mission concluded with a dinner with representatives from Almaya, Coor’at and the Atzmaut project, organizations and initiatives that provide resources and services to help these immigrants thrive in their new home.
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