NEW YORK (JTA) — The Jewish Federations of North America is launching a $5.5 million fundraising campaign for Ethiopian immigration to Israel.
The campaign comes at the behest of the Israeli government, which agreed last November to bring up to 7,846 additional Ethiopians to Israel. Like Israel’s commitment, the federation’s campaign comes with an eye toward concluding mass Ethiopian aliyah; it’s called “Completing the Journey.”
“It is our privilege and our obligation to help complete this historic aliyah,” Kathy Manning, chairwoman of the Jewish Federations’ board of trustees, said in a statement announcing the campaign. “The government of Israel says it intends to complete the rescue of the ancient Ethiopian Jewish community and has asked the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Agency for Israel to join this historic effort.”
The last federation fundraising drive for Ethiopian aliyah, launched in 2005 with a target of $100 million over five years, fell short of its goal.
Mass immigration from Ethiopia has been marked by stops and starts due to concerns in Israel about budget and whether the Ethiopians petitioning for aliyah are legitimately linked to Jews. The petitioners under debate are Falash Mura — Ethiopians who claim links to descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity generations ago and who now are returning to Jewish practice.
Falash Mura immigration resumed earlier this month, with the first two planeloads of 335 immigrants arriving last week.