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Federation-Funded Partnership Gives Thousands of Ethiopian Jews Hope and a Promising Future

Imagine being able to bear witness to a modern-day miracle, raise awareness of Ethiopian Aliyah and gain a deeper appreciation for the work of Federation’s overseas partners that help Ethiopian olim (Immigrants to Israel) integrate into Israeli society.

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Palm Beach Gardens resident Lisa Seymour, an elementary school librarian and member of the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA)’s National Young Leadership Cabinet, was able to do just that in 2013. Seymour, one of 43 mission participants from across North America, journeyed from Ethiopia to Israel. Seymour, as a representative of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, walked toward Sudan and followed a route that émigrés had taken by foot on their way to Israel seeking the freedom to practice Judaism and a better life.

Federation-funded programs play a large part in the successful resettlement of Ethiopian Jews in Israel.

The fact is that Jewish Federations, the government of Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) have campaigned to resettle 90,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel for the past 30 years. The group visited the Federation-supported institutions in Ethiopia that played a central role throughout the Ethiopian Aliyah, from a school to a health clinic, as well as food assistance and community centers.

In Israel, the group visited an immigration absorption center in Ashkelon. There, they met new Ethiopian olim, listened to their stories and learned about Federation-funded human services that help them successfully integrate into Israeli society. Services include: The JDC’s Parents & Children Together (PACT) program, a city-wide Ethiopian-Israeli intervention program that gives more than 1,000 children and their families a firm foundation to succeed within Israeli society through preschool, literacy-development and enrichment programs. The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County has specifically supported Ethiopian-Israeli initiatives effecting Ethiopian children from birth to bagrut (high school matriculation) in the city of Ramla for the past 12 years.

“We saw – in person – how our local generosity has been helping the Ethiopian Jews prepare for life in their new home in Israel,” Lisa Seymour said.

“It was amazing to see how poor, rural people, many of them illiterate, have been able to leave their mud huts with thatched roofs, outdoor cooking and no utilities. In Gondar, they’ve been learning to read and write, speak Hebrew and use cell-phones. They’ve gotten health care and learned about nutrition, along with many other things needed for their new lives. We can’t prepare them 100 percent for life in Israel, but we can make a great difference toward their transition.”

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