ethiopian aliyah 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The likely appointment of a new CEO to head one of the Ethiopian community’s
flagship organizations for absorption and education has been sharply criticized
by some community leaders, with one group seriously threatening to take legal
action if the appointment comes to fruition, The Jerusalem Post has
‘Bring me the Jews of Ethiopia’ Bill to integrate Ethiopian Jews in civil service approved
Roni Akele, currently director of the non-profit Fidel
Association for Education and Social Integration of Ethiopian Jews, was touted
Monday evening at a board meeting of the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) to
take over as director of the multi-million-shekel initiative set up in 2002 to
tackle the needs of the 110,000-strong Ethiopian immigrant community
However, over the past few weeks, elements within the community
have voiced anger over Akele’s potential appointment, suggesting he had not
followed the prestigious organization’s protocols and even had manipulated
members of the decision-making body.
A statement from the ENP’s legal
counsel immediately denounced the claims, which are being spearheaded by
Isaachar Mekonen, a representative of the Ethiopian Jewish Community
Organizations and chairman of the Zionists Israel Organization – Officers Forum,
along with several other key leaders.
According to Mekonen, who has
secured the services of a Tel Aviv law firm to fight the appointment, Akele was
still serving on the ENP’s board when he submitted his candidacy for the coveted
position, manipulated the decision-making committee by placing associates there,
and utilized a certain degree of nepotism to become the central candidate for
“It is clear that if Mr. Akele is appointed as CEO, he will be
in an inherent conflict of interest from the beginning – a situation in which
Mr. Akele has pretenses to act as CEO in charge of millions of shekels received
from public funds and donations – conducting business with dozens of his
relatives,” wrote Mekonen’s lawyers in a letter to the board dated February
“The ENP is an organization that is vital to the Ethiopian community
and appointing a candidate who sits on the board and chooses his own people for
the decision-making committee is unethical,” he explained to the Post
Mekonen said he planned to seek a legal injunction against
Akele’s appointment as soon as it was made official.
In response to
Mekonen’s claims, the ENP’s lawyers wrote: “In light of his candidacy, Roni
Akele did not participate in board meetings of the ENP or the project’s council
even before the selection committee was established.” The lawyers also said that
the selection committee was satisfied with its decision to appoint Akele and
firmly believed he was the best person for the job.
“I have not heard
about the claims against me,” responded Akele. “Once I decided to apply for the
position, I resigned from the board, and everything that has happened since then
has been in keeping with the correct procedures.”
He suggested that the
grievances against him were personal and not connected to his ability to take
over the position.
The ENP was inaugurated in 2002 and started operations
in 2005 with funds raised primarily by the Jewish Federations of North America
and a matching amount from the Israeli government reaching more than NIS 10
million a year.
Today, roughly 84 Jewish federations from across the
globe contribute financially to the ENP. It also receives support from
representatives of the Ethiopian Jewish Community Organizations, the Jewish
Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Israel
and Keren Hayesod-UIA, as well as dozens of local authorities in Israel.