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Yona Bogale Dead at 79

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Yona Bogale, the Ethiopian Jewish scholar and leader, died in Israel last week, it was reported here by the American Association for Ethiopian Jews. He was 79 years old. Those who witnessed the funeral in the Givat Shaul Cemetery in Jerusalem described it as an “incredible” scene. Busloads of Ethiopian Jews followed the body as it was transported from Bogale’s home in Petach Tikvah to Jerusalem where he had requested to be buried.

About 4,000 mourners came to pay their respects to the great patriarch of the Ethiopian Jews. Among them were the Speaker of the Knesset, Shlomo Hillel, who delivered one of the main eulogies. Another one was delivered by Prisoner of Zion Gedaliah Uria, who survived terrible torture from the Ethiopian secret police for continuing to teach Hebrew and Jewish subjects against the government’s wishes.

Bogale left Ethiopia as a youngster with Prof. Jacques Faitlovitch, a French social scientist who spent many years working to help the Ethiopian Jews. Faitlovitch took Bogale to Palestine to study Hebrew and other Jewish subjects, and then to Germany for study at an Orthodox school in Frankfort-Am-Main. He later studied in both Switzerland and France. Ultimately, Bogale spoke nine languages fluently.

When he returned to Ethiopia in 1932, he taught at the school Faitlovitch opened and eventually became principal. In addition, after World War II, Bogale was hired by the Ethiopian government to work in the Ministries of Finance and Education.

In the 1950’s, he supervised more than 20 Jewish schools opened in villages in Ethiopia by the Jewish Agency and he remained involved with Jewish education in his homeland until 1979, when he and his wife, Tayitu, were brought to Israel by the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ).

On Nov. 15, 1979, Bogale went to Montreal where he addressed the General Assembly of the Council of the Jewish Federations, appealing to 2,500 North American Jewish leaders. He had become convinced that immigration to Israel was the only way his people could be saved.

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