Scholars Travel to Addis Ababa and Tel Aviv to Welcome Ethiopian Jews

January 20, 2012

Rabbi Abie Ingber of Xavier University will travel to Israel and Ethiopia from 28 Jan. to 3 Feb. to help welcome the last group of Falash Mura to their homeland.

The Falash Mura are Ethiopians (mostly from the Gondar region) whose Jewish ancestors converted to Christianity under social pressure, but who have resumed practicing Judaism and seek to emigrate to their homeland.

After arriving, they are processed as Israeli citizens and move to absorption centers. They spend up to two years learning Hebrew, studying Judaism, and acclimating. Eventually, each will receive the majority of funds needed to buy a home.

"We want them to come to Israel and become part of us," said Yosef Hadane, the Ethiopian community's chief rabbi, who helps verify which of the Falash Mura actually have Jewish roots.

The immigration is not without controversy. Some question if the Ethiopians are genuinely returning to their faith, or simply see Israel as a place to escape famine and poverty in Ethiopia.

Rabbi Ingber will be accompanied by Art Shriberg, Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at Xavier. While in Israel for the few days preceding the historic mission, the two will meet with Israeli entrepreneurs and business leaders to develop a summer course initiative for Xavier’s Williams College of Business. Ingber will also meet with leaders in the Druse community to add an interfaith dimension to the usual mix of academic offerings.

“My parents were refugees after the Holocaust,” said Ingber. “I am honored to witness firsthand the historic rescue of the last members of the Ethiopian diaspora community which dates itself to the Queen of Sheba. I teach Hebrew Scriptures and raise up our Xavier students to be schooled in interfaith issues and social justice. Little did I think I would see these diverse elements collide on the African continent. Not only will we see the village in which these Falash Mura live and the schools that teach their children, but we will accompany them on their flight to Tel Aviv and welcome them ‘home’ to Israel.”

Ingber and Shriberg will continue their journey with a visit to an absorption center where they will discuss the resolution of some of the difficulties for these new Ethiopian immigrants.