WASHINGTON – A delegation of 60 Jewish Federations of North America leaders together with Jewish Agency for Israel executives are expected to travel to Israel and Ethiopia on Monday. While there, they will learn about sites of historic significance to Ethiopian Jewry, meet with families awaiting immigration, accompany 215 immigrants on their journey to Israel and visit Jewish Federation-supported initiatives for new immigrants in Israel.
In addition to more than $100 million in core funding they raise every year, Jewish Federations have launched a campaign of $9m. for the continuation of immigration from Ethiopia and for humanitarian assistance for the community still awaiting to immigrate.
“We have a strong commitment to aliyah, and specifically to aliyah from Ethiopia. The ability to reunite people with their families in Israel is very important for us, and I am excited to go with a group from the Jewish Federation system and bring olim to Israel. It is exciting to see this piece of work come to fruition.”Eric Fingerhut, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America
The flight of 215 immigrants is part of Operation Zur Israel, an initiative approved by the Israeli government allowing 3,000 members of the Jewish community in Ethiopia to make aliyah (immigrate) and reunite with their family members in Israel. Some of the olim (immigrants) have waited over a decade to reunite with their loved ones and fulfill their dreams of aliyah.
“This is really a long-term commitment of the Jewish Federation,” Eric Fingerhut, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, told The Jerusalem Post.
“We have a strong commitment to aliyah, and specifically to aliyah from Ethiopia,” he said. “The ability to reunite people with their families in Israel is very important for us, and I am excited to go with a group from the Jewish Federation system and bring olim to Israel. It is exciting to see this piece of work come to fruition.”
Jewish Federations' past work with the Jewish Agency and Israel
Historically, Jewish Federations have worked side by side with The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government to help nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews realize their dreams of making aliyah and to support their absorption into Israeli society.
Fingerhut said one of the strengths of the federations system is to stay involved in aliyah efforts “and sustain it over years and even decades while still addressing other challenges around the world like security, response to the War in Ukraine, and other projects.”
He went on to say that there has been an ongoing discussion about which communities should be eligible for aliyah, and that it took a lot of time for the debate in Israel to result in a government decision.
“Once a decision has been made, we worked with the Jewish Agency to follow this decision. The fact that a decision is made is just the first step. The $9 million is a small piece of the cost. We knew that there is a decision for 3,000 people to come, and we know there is a war there and there is a threat to the community as they are waiting to make Aliyah so we committed some $4 million for security needs while they are waiting to make aliyah,” he said.
Fingerhut is expected to spend two days in Ethiopia, where he will meet members of the local community who are waiting to make aliyah, and then return to Israel with 215 of them.