Mass Bar Mitzvah for Ethiopian Jews

The first mass bar mitzvah for Ethiopian Jews was celebrated at the Western Wall today. The bar mitzvah boys, 90 of them, came from 20 absorption centers around the country. They had been prepared for the rites by rabbis employed by the Jewish Agency and yeshiva student volunteers.

The young emigres each received gifts of phylacteries, prayer shawls, prayer books and yarmulkes. In addition, Rabbi Henry Dar’i and his family presented each bar mitzvah with a suit and watch. Those gifts were in memory of his father, the late Rabbi Yitzhak Dar’i. The family has for several years sponsored bar mitzvah celebrations for boys from disadvantaged families.

Meanwhile, the religious life of Ethiopian Jewish emigres was the subject of debate in the Knesset’s Immigration Committee today. It centered around the alleged statements by Avraham Shapiro and Mordechai Eliahu, the Ashkenazic and Sephardic Chief Rabbis respectively, urging the United Jewish Appeal and American Jews not to contribute to the settlement of Ethiopian Jews in Israel if the immigrants do not receive religious education.

Spokesmen for the two Chief Rabbis hotly denied that they had ever made such statements. When Religious Affairs Minister Yosef Burg of the National Religious Party threatened to walk out of the session because of the affront to the Chief Rabbis, he was sharply reminded by committee chairman Miriam Tasse-Glaser of the Likud Party that the Chief Rabbinate Council was subordinate to the Knesset and that statements by the Chief Rabbis are not immune to criticism.

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