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Chief Rabbi of Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish Community Calls for the Establishment of a Yeshiva to Train

Expressing concern at the lack of religious leadership for his people, the Chief Rabbi of Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community called Tuesday for the establishment of yeshiva to train Ethiopian students as rabbis and religious leaders in the Jewish State.

The prospective leaders must be versed in both the Ethiopian and mainstream traditions, said Rabbi Yosefe Hadane at a luncheon meeting at the offices of the American Jewish Committee here. “Only through education that includes both cultures can Ethiopians adjust completely to their new lives while retaining their ancient heritage.”

Hadane’s visit here is designed to gain support for the proposed yeshiva, Center for Ethiopian Heritage in Jerusalem. Four men are already studying with Hadane, and he said another twenty students are waiting to begin. Tuesday’s luncheon was co-sponsored by the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry.

Hadane was born in Ambober, in the Gondar province of Ethiopia. He made aliya in 1972 and studies for seven years in Tel Aviv at the Kollel Torah ve Hora’ah. He was ordained by Sephardic Chief Rabbi. Ovadi Yosef, and now is the appointed spiritual leader of the some 15,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel.

He said the integration of Ethiopian Jews in Israeli society is “going well. “Of course there are problems,” but he insisted that these are not unlike problems encountered by newly arrived immigrants to Israel since the formation of the state.

“Ethiopian Jew were cut off from world Jewry for thousands of years. But they never forget Jerusalem. They lived for the day when they would be permitted to return there. Yet they Knew very little about the Western Hebrew tradition or that of Israel, so when they arrived there was what one might call spiritual shock. Nevertheless, their desire to be part of the congregation of Israel remains and grows stronger each day,” Hadane asserted.

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