Menu JTA Search

Black and White Jews from Philadelphia Confer with Envoy over Falashas’ Condition

A group of black and while Jews from the Philadelphia area met with representatives of the Ethiopian Mission to the United Nations in New York last week in an attempt to organize aid for the Falashas, the black Jews of Ethiopia, whose ancient community faces extinction because of poor health and economic conditions. According to the Jewish Exponent, an English-Jewish weekly published here, the group calls itself the Concerned Committee of Black and White Jews of Philadelphia.

Their meeting with Tassew Makonnen, a member of the Ethiopian Mission, was intended to apprise the Ethiopian authorities of their concern for the future of the Falasha community. Mr. Makonnen said he would relay the essence of the meeting to his Government but was vague about what aid could be rendered the Falashas, the Exponent reported. The Falashas number about 25,000 and live in remote regions of Ethiopia. They are a remnant of the quarter million black Jews who flourished there until the end of the 19th Century.

At the meeting, Rabbi Clifford Woods, religious leader of the Hebrew Falasha Congregation of New York, presented a letter he had received from Yona Bogale, leader of the Ethiopian Falasha community, and Dr. Mario Felszer, an Israeli physician who has been working with the Falashas for several years. The letter noted that the Ethiopian Government had allocated about 53,000 acres of fertile land to the Falashas but the land is heavily wooded and requires extensive clearance for which funds are urgently needed.

According to the letter, the Falashas live in mud and thatch houses and subsist on a diet of sorghum and local cereal grains poor in proteins. Infant mortality and the incidence of debilitating diseases is high and educational opportunities are limited. “Prospects for the future (of the Falashas) in their present location do not permit expectation of genuine improvement,” the letter said.

NEXT STORY