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Israeli Rabbis



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Translation of a letter from Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

Thursday, the 21st day of Iyar (May 29, 2003)
His Excellency The Prime Minister
Mr. Ariel Sharon
Jerusalem, Israel
May Life, Peace and Blessings Be His Forever

Your Excellency,

On the 14th day of Adar A 5763 (February 16, 2003) the government of Israel, which you lead, decided to bring the remnants of our brothers the “children of the Felash Mura” from Ethiopia, where they are living today in to camps, one in Addis Ababa, and the other in Gondar. They are subject to the scourge of hunger and various illnesses, to which I was an eyewitness when I visited amongst them. There is much death, particularly amongst the children, may G-d have mercy.

And I have already examined and investigated their Jewishness for a long period of time, and I wrote a long reasoned legal decision, and in it I stated that they are “yehudim gemurim” (completely Jewish), and I also held that after they immigrate to Israel, it is appropriate to arrange for them a “giyur le’khumrah” (a conversion ceremony as a stringency) in order to eliminate all doubt.

To my sorrow, I have been told that there are those who erred in understanding my opinion that was written with respect to this matter, therefore I am clarifying to Your Excellency, that the children of the Felash Mura who are found in the camps mentioned above, “hem yehudim gemurim be’lo saphake.” (they are completely Jewish without any doubt), and it is a great mitzvah (commandment) to expedite the implementation of the aforesaid government decision, in order to save them from the gates of death. “Ve’yapheh sh’ah akhat kodem (And it would have been better if it had already been done an hour ago) to check and bring to Israel all those who were born to a Jewish mother (who are the great majority there, approximately 90 percent of the residents of the camps mentioned above).

And I pray that Your Excellency will be privileged that by his hand the downtrodden of Israel shall be gathered, and shall come to Zion joyfully. And may the pleasantness of the Lord be upon you, and may he gift you with good judgment, to guide this people in the paths of righteousness and peace until the Messiah comes to Shiloh and unto him will be gathered the nations.

With the blessings of Torah and with gratitude,

Rabbi Shlomo Amar



Former Chief Rabbi

Mordechai Eliyahu
Rishon LeZion Chief Rabbi of Israel
President of the Supreme Rabbinical Court

Blessed Be His Name
24 Adar 5752

To The President of NACOEJ
New York, New York

Peace and Blessing!

In reply to your request which was referred to me, I herewith reply and render my opinion, that it is a great mitzvah to educate and bring close the members of the community who are awaiting aliyah in Ethiopia.

The holy language (Hebrew) the principles of the Torah of Israel, the evening of the Seder that is approaching, holidays and festivals, the observece of the Sabbath - all these, and more, constitute important preparation in anticipation of their return in complete penance to the Nation of Israel in the Land of Israel.

This reply of mine relates to the whole community that is waiting in Addis Ababa, and in as much as possible, to those in their villages. May it be the will of God that you are counted among those who act on behalf of the total ingathering of the exiles from the four corners of the earth to our country. May your efforts be strengthened.

Mordechai Eliyahu
Rishon LeZion Chief Rabbi of Israel



Rabbi Menachem Waldman's Statement Concerning Attacks on the Felash Mora
August 20, 1998

I am a member of the Chief Rabbinate's Committee on Ethiopian Jews, and director of the educational program which has guided the Falash Mora's historic
return to Judaism for the past seven years.

In addition to reports from North American advocates there have been many reports from Israeli Interior Ministry personnel, Jewish Agency Representatives and Addisu Messala (the only Ethiopian member of Knesset) himself dating back to 1992, which evidence
the attacks and burnings of the Felash Mora huts.

The Felash Mora are a separate, distinct group among the Ethiopian population. The gentiles look on them as the Jews' descendants and they carry all the Jews' dishonorable names. The gentiles say to them, "This is not your land, go along with the Jews to Israel, your homeland."

All the Felash Mora who have come to Israel thus far have gone through the process of returning to Judaism in accordance with the requirements of the Chief Rabbinate. In Israel, the vast majority remain observant Jews and virtually all of the children are in the religious school system.

Many of the Falash Mora in Ethiopia have already returned to Judaism on their own, to the extent they are able (e.g. through observance of Shabbat and Pesach). I have seen this phenomenon with my own eyes. I am sure that the vast majority would undoubtedly return to the full practice of Orthodox Judaism, including ritual return through immersion in at mikveh, if they were able.

Unfortunately the assistance programs which enabled more than 7,000 Falash Mora to return to Judaism in Ethiopia have been discontinued. The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) has completely terminated its programs in Addis Ababa despite the fact that more than 8,000 members of the Beta Israel community fled there because of pressure from their non-Jewish neighbors.

If any other community in the world manifested the same desire to return to Judaism as do the Felash Mora , it would be a cause for communal rejoicing. Only in Ethiopia have these people been abandoned by both the major Diaspora Jewish relief organization, i.e., the Joint (JDC), and by the State of Israel.

What the Felash Mora want is to Return to Judaism the old fashioned way, through Mikveh and mitzvot. G-d and history will not judge us kindly if we reject their pleas.


Rabbi David H. Shloush is Chief Rabbi of Netanya and Director of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's Committee for the Spiritual Absorption of Ethiopian Jews.

Protest against untruthful things that were said by the Joint (JDC) and by Minister of Absorption Yuli Edelstein

26 Cheshvan 5759
November 15, 1998

TO: Members of the Ministers' Committee for Diaspora Affairs
headed by Mr. Natan Sharanski, Minister of Commerce and Industry

RE: The Falash-Mura community still in the cities of Addis-Ababa and Gondar

Shalom:

A pressrelease distributed by the Joint (JDC) on November4, 1998, stated that the reason Falash-Mura in Ethiopia wanted to leave their villages and come to Israel was: To take the opportunity to join other Ethiopian Jews in Israel and achieve a higher standard of living.

In the same statement the Joint added that: according to the Ministry of the Interior, many of the Falash Mura community attend church services in Israel immediately after making aliyah.

On Israel radio, on Friday, November 13th, 1998, Mr Yuli Edelstein, the Minister of Absorption said: "All of the Falash-Mura community members are totally Christian and should not be brought to Israel."

As the head of the Committee for the Spiritual Absorption of the Ethiopian Jews, founded by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and as a rabbi who had been very active with the issues of their Judaism and their status as Jews since their first arrival in Israel in 1980, I validated their Judaism and their right to enter Israel according to Halacha.

Today I am active in authenticating the Judaism of the Jews from Russia from the Halachic point of view, to integrate them into the Jewish people, because of the numerous mixed marriages that have taken place between Jews and Christians in the former Soviet Union. This is a challenge, and it is my duty to respond to it since we live in times of ingathering from the four corners of the world, to our homeland, as written in the Torah: "If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy G-d, gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee, and the Lord the G-d will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed." Duteronomy (30,4-5).

Therefore I see it as my duty to express my protest against the untruthful things that were said by the Jewish Organization, the Joint, and by a minister in the State of Israel as follows:

According to highly reliable testimonies that can be proven in facts, that the great majority of the Falash-Mura community that came to Israel keep the Torah and mitzvot.

They have synagogues and rabbis and kesotch (Ethiopian Jewish religious leaders) that guide them. There are amongst them some that do not observe their religion according to the Halacha, as in any other community in Israel, but it is a rule: Israel who transgresses is still Israel.

I will emphasize that out of 4,000 men, women and children of the Felash-Mura community who have recently come to Israel, 400 are pupils in Yeshivot and Ulpanot, all join the army with dedication and loyalty to our ideals, and it is not a secret that all the Ethiopian Jews are excellent combat soldiers in the IDF.

It is possible that exceptions, due to lack of livelihood, were tempted by the missionaries' propaganda, to visit the church in return for gifts and other benefits. It is also possible that a few people deceived the aliyah department, as also happened in aliyot from other countries and also in other communities in Israel. That is why Jewish organizations are active against the cancerous missionary activity in Israel, where unfortunately, proselytizing is permitted.

However, it is not permissible to punish all the Jews of the Falash-Mura community because of a tiny minority who create a false impression by lying and deceiving, as written: "because of the sins of one man, will You be angry at the whole community?" (Exodus 15,22).

The Falash-Mura communities in Addis-Ababa and Gondar are of the seed of Israel. Their desire is to return to Judaism and keep the mitzvot. According to Halacha (Jewish law) they are Jews. They live now in extremely harsh conditions. Some of them have died because of lack of food and assistance. It is a great mitzvah to bring them to Israel and save their souls: "Any one who saves one soul of Israel, it is as though he saved a whole world."

Sincerely,

Rabbi David H. Shloush
Chief Rabbi of Netanya and
Director of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's Committee for the Spiritual Absorption of Ethiopian Jews

 

Testimony of the Rabbinical Court (Beit Din), established by The Chief Rabbinate of Israel to determine the religious status of the recent immigrants from Ethiopia.
(Declares JDC (Joint) report slanderous)

22 Heshvan 5759 11 November 1998

To Whom It May Concern:

We have heard evil rumors about an honorable community - the new immigrants from Ethiopia who are called Felesmura.

It is falsely alleged that they turn to all types of foreign worship in Israel and they are not part of the Jewish people. This was written, for example, in the Report of the JDC (Joint) dated 4 November 1998.

We, the undersigned, are charged with responsibility for this community for the past two years. We work amongst the community every week, conducting separate meetings with each individual family.

WE TESTIFY THAT THE TOTAL OPPOSITE IS TRUE: This community undertakes great efforts to be fully integrated into our people and greatly desires to make up for anything they may lack in Jewish studies.

Additionally, hundreds of the community's boys are studying in our best Yeshivas (religious schools) and have excelled there, according to the heads of the Yeshivas. The girls also study in religious boarding schools (ulpanot).

In the caravan site where the newcomers live (Chatzrot Yassaf) there are synagogues and a mikva (ritual bath). Prayers are conducted three times every weekday as well as on Shabbat and Jewish Holidays.

On the holiday of Succoth (Tabernacles) three hundred (300!!!) sets of the four species (lulav and etrog) were brought to the caravan site; each family itself paid the full price for every set.

We urgently plead: do not pay any attention to the slanderous campaign against these good people. The campaign comes from a defiled source. The real problem is only that their skin is somewhat darker.

Therefore we hope that all who listen to us will exert their efforts to integrate these people into our state. Only blessing will flow from this endeavor.

May blessing flow from Him who is the source of all blessing.

We hereby affix our signatures:

(This is an English translation of the signed Hebrew original)

Rabbi Baruch Edelstein
Rabbi Yeshayahu Meitles
Rabbi Nissim Cohen

 

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