Local Jewish leaders accompany Ethiopian olim to Israel
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Local Jewish leaders accompany Ethiopian olim to Israel

Maxim Dinshtein for The Jewish Agency for Israel

Dov Ben-Shimon, the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ’s CEO,  and Sheri Goldberg, a member of the federation’s board of trustees, traveled to Ethiopia for a three-day special mission; from Ethiopia, they joined the Jewish Agency’s first aliyah flight from that country to Israel in 15 years. Ms. Goldberg, also chairs federation’s Peoplehood Project. Together they joined dozens of other community leaders from Jewish Federations of North America on a delegation to accompany 180 Ethiopia olim to Israel.

“I’m so deeply proud to be here as we work with our colleagues from the Jewish Agency for Israel for the renewal of aliyah flights of Ethiopian Jews to Israel,” Mr. Ben-Shimon said. “It’s why we have a Jewish state. And it’s why our own Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ is so deeply committed to this work.”

“Today was a Zionist dream come true,” Ms. Goldberg said. “I am beyond grateful for the privilege of accompanying children, parents and grandparents leaving the only life they knew behind to fearlessly fulfil the Zionist dream held by generations of Ethiopian Jews. Some have waited over 20 years for this moment. It was truly my honor to share this journey with them.”

Sheri Goldberg and Dov Ben-Shimon

When they were in Ethiopia, Mr. Ben-Shimon and Ms. Goldberg met with community members in Gondar and Addis Ababa who were waiting to make aliyah, and they visited sites of historical significance to Ethiopian Jewry. They were joined by other officials from the Jewish Agency for Israel, Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund, the World Zionist Organization, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Israel’s minister of aliyah and integration, Pnina Tamano-Shata, the first Ethiopian-born woman to enter the Knesset; Yaakov Hagoel, chair of the World Zionist Organization and acting chair of the Jewish Agency; and Jeffrey A. Schoenfeld, chair of the Israel and overseas committee of the Jewish Federations of North America all were on the flight. A second flight of 160 olim arrived in Ben Gurion airport on Thursday.

Jewish federations raise more than $100 million every year for partner organizations such as the Jewish Agency, which allows the organizations to carry out their routine work and also to prepare for extraordinary moments. Federations have launched a campaign to raise more than $7 million for aliyah from Ethiopia and for humanitarian assistance for the community still awaiting their flights to Israel.

“Jewish Federations are proud of our decades-long work side by side with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Israeli government to help over 97,000 Ethiopian Jews realize their dream of making aliyah and to support their absorption into Israeli society,” said Mark Wilf of Livingston, who chairs Jewish Federations of North America’s board of trustees. “This sacred effort is the highest expression of the dedication of Jewish Federations to help Jews wherever they live, and we will continue to work with our partners to support the first steps in Israel of Ethiopian olim and to assist those still waiting to make aliyah.”

The two flights mark the resumption of Operation Zur Israel — in English, that’s Rock of Israel — an Israeli government-approved initiative that allows members of the Jewish community in Ethiopia to make aliyah and reunite with their family members in Israel.

Jewish Federations are awaiting final approval from the Government of Israel to enable those still remaining in Ethiopia to make aliyah and reunite with their families in Israel, as thousands still remain behind. For more information, go to www.jfedgmw.org.

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