Ethiopian Jews Demonstrate Outside Offices of Chief Rabbinical Council

Ethiopian Jewish immigrants demonstrated outside the offices of the Chief Rabbinical Council today and yesterday, charging that the Council was not honoring an agreement to facilitate marriages within the Ethiopian community.

Leaders of the community will meet with Premier Shimon Peres Sunday to air their complaints. Peres was instrumental in getting the Chief Rabbinate to agree to sanction marriages of Ethiopian couples who could prove they are Jewish. Otherwise they would have to undergo ritual immersion, a religious conversion rite.

The Chief Rabbis originally demanded that all members of the Ethiopian emigre community perform the ritual and would not allow them to marry if they refused. The Ethiopians, all devout practitioners of Judaism, denounced this as an insult which cast doubt on their authenticity as Jews.

The agreement was expected to end the conflict which has marred the absorption of the Ethiopian Jews since their arrival in Israel last year. The community leaders now say it has not been honored. Absorption Minister Yaacov Tsur, who visited the demonstrators today, said he agreed with them that the Chief Rabbinical Council was dragging its feet.

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