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U.S. Urged to Prod Soviets on Plight of Ethiopian Jews

A former Ethiopian Jew urged the United States Wednesday to use the “good atmosphere” in U.S.-Soviet relations following the Moscow summit to prod the Soviets into pressuring Ethiopia to allow the remaining 8,000 to 20,000 Jews there to emigrate to Israel.

Solomon M., whose last name remains a secret so as not to jeopardize the fate of his brother and uncle in jail in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, as well as two other siblings, told a few dozen congressional aides and Jewish activists on Capitol Hill that he still is not “absolutely free.”

“I go to work, I go to school. Physically, I am there,” said Solomon, who is studying at the University of California at Los Angeles. “But I am not always there mentally.”

An estimated 16,000 Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel, said William Recant, director of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews. But 1,500 of the children have parents who are still in Ethiopia.

There are 60 to 70 Ethiopian Jews still in the Sudan, Recant said. About 7,000 Jews were rescued from refugee camps there during the U.S.-Israeli secret airlifts in 1984 and 1985.

Recant said that Ethiopian Jews are in danger of losing their Jewish identity because of the government’s “villagization program,” which combines small villages into larger ones, forcing assimilation by the Jews.

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