JERUSALEM (Dec. 18)
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi, has converted 40 Falashas, Black Jews from Ethiopia, during the past two years, it was disclosed today. Rabbi Yosef performed the conversions apparently to satisfy other rabbis who maintain that the Falashas are not Jews but of Hamitic–Black African–stock. Rabbi Yosef himself is known to believe that the Falashas are descendents of the Israelite tribe of Dan who wandered into Ethiopia thousands of years ago.
There are at most about 50,000 Falashas, some 250 of them living in Israel. Leaders of the community predicted here that the Falashas would die out within the next 20 years unless they emigrated en masse to Israel. Israeli immigration authorities have been equivocal about Falasha immigration because their status as Jews is open to question. The Falashas claim to be Jews and many adhere vaguely to Jewish laws and customs although they also retain distinctly Christian and heathen practices.
Asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today whether he would permit the Falasha women converts to marry a Cohen, Rabbi Yosef replied that this was a complicated halachic problem, indicating that he believed the Falashas are or may be Jews according to halacha, religious law, According to the Jewish law, converts are not permitted to marry Cohanim descendents of the priestly caste.