culture/multiculturalism · Israel · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism

Black in Israel

In an LA Times story, “Ethiopian Israeli filmmaker pulls no punches” as he discusses Zrubavel, a film that looks at the Ethiopian Jewish experience in Israel.

And in other news: “‘What does it matter that we’re black?’ ask Ethiopian students” (Haaretz)

“Rabbi Amar: Can’t compromise in Ethiopian students affair” (YNET)

UPDATE 9/1/09: “Schools to accept Ethiopian students”.

10 thoughts on “Black in Israel

  1. Hey Aliza, i don't care if they are black or purple or green, the Ethiopians just aint Jewish. Maybe once upon a time someone in their lineage was Jewish, but these people, uh, uh. I live near them, know them. When they first arrived the rabbinate demanded that they undergo a modified conversion–and not even all rabbis agreed that that would solve but but then anti orthodox political elements got involved and many of them refused even that. They did undergo persecution and I feel sad for that, but so did many other peoples and they have some sort of tradition that resembles the Torah–but so do many other tribes, but they aren't Jews. The strictly orthodox, won't intermarry with them or allow them into their schools unless they have undergone valid conversion and skin color isn't the issue. Also there are intermingled among them descendents of the Falas Mura who converted to Christianity a century ago. I am sad that they were brought to Israel where they will no doubt intermarry with Jews and cause untold confusion which only a contemporary Ezra the Scribe will be able to unravel. BTW these same comments hold true for lilly white Russian immigrants an estimated 70 percent of whom are not Halachic Jews. I see that you have a tendancy to fall prey to the highly emotionalized media pitch on behalf of invalid converts. The halacha sets the bottom line. The minute we deviate from it, we are out of orthodoxy. I think you could relate to this regarding say, someone who was purvering food with inadequate kashrus. Why not apply the same standard to conversion. I enjoy your blog very much but I feel sad when I see you allow yourself, unwittingly I assume to provide a forum for unscrupulous people who challenge the halachi basis for conversion. Good luck and Happy New Year.


  2. I am well aware of the complications regarding the issues surrounding the Jewishness of the Ethiopian and Russian immigrants to Israel. But to say that “they just aint Jewish” and lump them all into one sum isn't correct either. Many Ethiopian and Russian immigrants have had proper conversions. And you can't tell that just by looking at them.


  3. @Carol Ungar –

    As Rav Moshe Feinstein (zatzal) said, “One should also know that even if in practical application of the law they are not Jews, nevertheless since they think they are Jews and sacrifice their lives for their Judaism, we are obligated to save them.”

    Sad that we would need a psak halacha to remind us.


  4. You are right,some of them are Jews but others arent. The same issue with Anusim. I know a cuban rabbi who claims to be decendant of Anusim who had to undergo conversion because he could not proof that he was Jewish. He and his family always said that they were born Jewish but in reality they were not. He is still says that he was born Jewish because his family was Anusim but he is in reality a convert. I dont think his family or some of his relatives underwent conversion and although they still claim to be Jewish, they are not Jews. I agree with Carol, if they want to be Jewish convert, I had to convert and my last name is Dubin. My father's grandpa was Jewish, hence I had to convert. I feel that some people just want the easy way out, Halacha is Halacha. Those Ethiopians who did not convert should convert to remove any doubt, they have the right to convert and they should do it to avoid any problems. Good Luck to all of them. By the way, where can I see that film Aliza? It seems very interesting. Shana Tova to all of you!


  5. Funny, I've know Ethiopian Jews who didn't convert to Christianity and who are very much Jewish. Last time I checked, the megillah mentions the Ethiopian Jewish community as a group marked for destruction if Hamen had succeeded. According to Carol, that didn't matter, because “they just ain't Jewish.”

    There are different opinions on the subject.


  6. “Anonymous” you said “I feel that some people just want the easy way out, Halacha is Halacha. Those Ethiopians who did not convert should convert to remove any doubt, they have the right to convert and they should do it to avoid any problems.”

    By your logic, someone who cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt they are Jewish should convert.

    My mother was a Bas Kohen. Since I don't have proof that her great-great-great-great grandmother was Jewish, should I convert? Or am I given he benefit of the doubt because my skin is white?

    People say we have no proof that the Ethiopians didn't intermarry, or that they did stay Jewish. Well they can say the same about us. Maybe they should demand that should a European-descended Jewish girl wants to marry one of their sons, she should convert “to avoid any problems.”


  7. Rebecca, I think we're seeing in Israel that the answer to your question is “yes.” People there who know they're Jewish but don't have the right papers have to convert like everyone else or go to great lengths to find some sort of proof of their maternal Jewish ancestry. In many cases, this is too much for a couple and I see more stories now about these people going to other countries to get married.


  8. Aliza,
    I know, and I think it is sick!!!!

    My step-sister, a sabra who served in the army (and was literally the poster child for Israel- there is a poster that was distributed through America in the early 90's of a Israel/blond girl and an Ethiopian immigrant boy sittings in front of the AHAVA sculpture in Israel-she was that girl), had to jump through hoops to get married in Israel. Even her mother's GET, issued by the Israeli Rabbanit was not enough proof. Since step-mom (who has lived in Israel over 30 years) is originally from Albany, where I live, we had to get our Modern Orthodox Rabbi to issue a letter on his shul stationary saying he knew the family and they are Jewish (he knows step-mom sister)


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