Friday, September 19, 2008

Gondar Must Be Freed!

I received this email today, forwarded from the governing body of American Conservative Judaism:
USCJ Executive Committee Passes Resolution on Falash Mura

At the September 7, 2008 meeting of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s Executive Committee, the resolution below was passed in support of having the government of Israel allow the remaining Falah Mura in Ethiopia to immigrate to Israel:

Ethiopian Jews (Falash Mura)

WHEREAS: In 2003 the Government of Israel made a commitment to bring the remaining Ethiopian Jews (Falash Mura) from Ethiopia to Israel; and

WHEREAS: The Government of Israel has now indicated it has will no longer process the remaining 8700 in Gondar; and

WHEREAS: Those Falash Mura remaining in Ethiopia who are of maternal lineage have been declared to be Jews by successive Chief Rabbis of Israel, and

WHEREAS: They are considered to be Jews by leaders of the three main streams of American Jewry (Conservative, Reform and Orthodox) and will hereafter be referred to as Jews in this document, and

WHEREAS: They are demonstrating their ardent desire to live observant Jewish lives by attending local synagogue services; availing themselves of the limited facilities, ritual objects and opportunities available in their isolated, rural area (including an unheated mikvah, shared tefillin, observance of kashrut, Shabbat and holidays); and attending classes, as available, to increase their knowledge and ability to observe Jewish religious customs, and

WHEREAS: These Jews are openly and proudly Zionist despite the real possibility of local anti-Zionist violence, which (although not approved of by the national government) has taken place in the region in the past, and

WHEREAS: This action by the Israeli Government has resulted in the UJC halting the funding of food distribution with children, pregnant women ,nursing mothers and others starving, the 8700 living in hovels with no opportunity for providing for themselves in addition to being prevented from reuniting with their families in Israel.

The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) hereby calls upon the Government of Israel to adhere to its commitment and process these 8700 remaining Ethiopian Jews(Falash Mura) for aliyah immediately in order that the UJC resume funding so that food is provided and schools remain open until the Ethiopians Jews who are approved are brought to Israel.

The USCJ further calls upon the Federations and Jews throughout North America to work with the Israeli government to ensure that these 8700 Ethiopian Jews have adequate food, schools, medical supplies and treatment until they are brought to Israel.

The USCJ further calls upon its brother and sister North American organizations and communities to mobilize resources so that adequate funding for the humanitarian needs of the 8700 is made available.

Dr. Raymond B. Goldstein, International President

Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, Executive Vice President, CEO

Dr. Saul Shapiro, VP- Israel

Richard Skolnik, VP- Community Relations

Dr. Marilyn Lishnoff Wind, VP- Youth and Education

Dr. Wind, incidentally, is past president of my home congregation.

While it is cool that these Jews hail from a place called Gondar, it is most certainly not okay that Israel is keeping them out. Israel has, since its founding, taken upon itself as a primary obligation the promise to take in Jews anywhere, anytime, for any reason. It is abdicating that promise in the case of these Ethiopian Jews, and that is unconscionable.

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