UJC brass urging Israel not to end immigration of Falash Mura

The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella of the North American Jewish federation system, is pressing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to end the immigration to Israel of Ethiopian Falash Mura, according to the Jerusalem Post.

It is estimated that between 9,000 and 15,000 Falash Mura — Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity under force during the 1800s — could be eligible to make aliyah to Israel. To date, though, only 3,000 have been approved to do so under Israel’s Right of Return law, which grants automatic citizenship to Israel to all Jews.

A section of the 2009 Economic Arrangements Bill could end that immigration altogether.

The UJC is urging the government not to follow through with that section of the bill, according to the JPost:

In a letter signed by UJC President and CEO Howard Rieger and the organization’s chairman Joe Kanfer, the UJC urges the prime minister to uphold a decision from last September for Israel’s Interior Ministry to check the eligibility for aliya of some 3000 Falash Mura waiting in Ethiopia for permission to immigrate.

"UJC/Jewish Federations of North America has long supported efforts to definitively resolve the immigration status of Falash Mura remaining in Ethiopia," wrote Rieger and Kanfer in the letter. "For that reason, the UJC applauded the 2008 cabinet decision, urging that adjudication and immigration of those found eligible should be completed in as short a time as possible. … We urge the Knesset to affirm that policy and to support these efforts."

In a response to the letter, a spokesman for Netanyahu said the government was still committed to aliya from Ethiopia.

"All I can say is that there will be no negative impact on aliya from Ethiopia," he said.
 

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