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Tuesday, August 16, 2022
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(Courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest) CEO of Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ Dov Ben-Shimon, and Sheri Goldberg, member of the board of trustees of Greater MetroWest and chair of the Peoplehood Project, joined dozens of other community leaders from Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) on a delegation to accompany 180 Ethiopian olim to Israel on Wednesday, June 1, following a special three-day mission in Ethiopia.

“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 (immigration) flights of Ethiopian Jews to Israel,” said Ben-Shimon. “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. 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,” said Goldberg. “Some have waited over 20 years for this moment. It was truly my honor to share this journey with them.”

During the mission, the leaders met with community members awaiting aliyah in Gondar and Addis Ababa and visited sites of historical significance for Ethiopian Jewry. The leaders were joined by other officials from the Jewish Agency, Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), the WZO, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.

Also accompanying the olim to Israel were Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata, the first Ethiopian-born woman to enter the Knesset; Chairman of the World Zionist Organization and Acting Chairman of the Jewish Agency Yaakov Hagoel; and Jeffrey A. Schoenfeld, chair of JFNA’s Israel and Overseas Committee of JFNA. A second flight of 160 olim arrived in Ben Gurion airport a few days later.

In addition to over $100 million in core funding that Jewish federations raise every year for partner organizations such as the Jewish Agency, which allows them to both carry out their routine work and prepare for extraordinary moments such as these, federations have launched a campaign of over $7 million for the continuation of aliyah from Ethiopia and for humanitarian assistance for the community still awaiting aliyah.

“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, chair of JFNA’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 or Rock of Israel, an initiative approved by the Israeli government allowing 3,000 members of the Jewish community in Ethiopia to make aliyah and reunite with their family members in Israel. Some of the olim have waited over a decade to reunite with their loved ones and fulfill their dreams of aliyah.

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.

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