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February 01, 1985 - Image 30

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-02-01

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Friday, February 1, 1985




Israel Goldstein Autobiography

Continued from Page 2

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba,
but the Falashas claim descent
from Jews who arrived by way of
Egypt in Temple times. Professor
Faitlovitch became convinced that
they were descended from one of
the "Lost Ten Tribes" of Israel. He
found that the Falashas were ex-
posed to the blandishments of
Christian missionaries and he re-
solved to teach them the essentials
of traditional Judaism and to reun-
ite them with the Jewish people.
They themselves were proud of
their ancient Jewish heritage and
wished to remain faithful to it.
There were perhaps 70,000
Falashas at the time, living in con-
ditions of squalor and destitution.
They knew no Hebrew and spoke
Amharic, the Ethiopian vernacu-
lar, but the language used in their
prayers was Ghe'ez, the sacred
tongue of Ethiopia. Centuries of
isolation, marked by hostile reli-
gious pressure, had made them
cling to a way of life prescribed in
the Bible. They were oblivious of
the Talmud and postbiblical (rab-
binic) tradition.
On the initiative of Professor
Faitlovitch, Pro-Falasha Commit-
tees were organized in various
European Jewish communities be-
fore 1914. Then, during World War
I, he came to the United States, and
established an American Pro,
Falasha Committee. Some years la-
ter, while on another visit to the
United States, he sought help for
the establishment of a boarding
school in Addis Ababa, the Ethi-
opian capital, where promising
young Falashas would receive a
Jewish education. A suitable plot
of land for this school had been
donated by Haile Selassie, the
Negus or Emperor of Ethiopia,
who had assumed the title of "Lion
of Judah" upon his ascent to the
It was at this point, in 1930, that
I entered the picture, when I went
to hear a lecture given by Profes-
sor Faitlovitch in New York. His
vivid and moving account of the
Falashas excited my interest and
converted me into an ardent advo-
cate of their cause. At his urging, I
accepted the chairmanship of the
American Pro-Falasha Committee.
We undertook the project of build-
ing and maintaining the school in
Addis Ababa where Falasha boys
would be taught Hebrew, Bible,
and Jewish history, as well as cer-
tain handicrafts. I recall going to
Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue and pur-
chasing a miniature sculptured
lion, which we inscribed as fol-

(Hebrew U.); in Theology (J. Th. S.);
named in his honour Hebrew U.
Synagogue, & Jerusalem Youth
12 Pinsker St., Jerusalem.

Capsuled, ideal-cause-movement-
wise, every itemized group listed here ac-
counts for an activism that registers the
Israel Goldstein name among the most
dedicated in Jewish and human identifica-
tions. He was the activist on the highest
level and his memoirs prompt the recalling
of his many associated tasks. He was and
remains a leader in Zionism, he labored for
civil rights and can be counted as a friend

Dr. Israel Goldstein:
Historic autobiography.

of the blacks and of people of all faiths, with
a role in the National Conference of Chris-
tians and Jews. ,
In this period of striving to relieve the
miseries of the Ethiopian Jews, among his
most impressive records of service to, his
people is his early association with leaders
who sought to establish the links with the
Falashas. Resort to this term was not re-
jected at that time.
Because the Goldstein reminiscence
introduces the background of earliest
interest aroused in the Ethiopian Jews in
this country more than 70 years ago, the
entire Israel Goldstein memoir regarding
the "lost Israeli tribe" and its recovery
merits special attention and complete quo-
tation. Goldstein states on this subject in
Vol. 1 of his memoirs:
An exotic cause that claimed
my allegiance in the early 1930s
was that of the Falashas, known as
the "Back Jews of Ethiopia."
Though shrouded in legend, the
history of these Falasha tribesmen,
then scattered around Lake Tana
in northwestern Ethiopia, had long
been familiar to travelers and
explorers. One who made a study
of them was the French Jewish
orientalist, Professor Joseph
Halevy, who spent some time
among the Falashas in 1868 and
collected a wealth of information.
The Alliance Israelite Universelle
sponsored his mission. Halevy
passed on his commitment to Jac"-
ques Faitlovitch, a pupil of his at
the Sorbonne. The latter dedicated
his life to this remote outpost of
Faitlovitch first went to
Ethiopia as a young man, in 1904.
He spent eighteen months among
the Falashas (a name interpreted
to mean "strangers"), investigat-
ing their religious traditions and
practices. The Ethiopians gener-
ally trace their ancestry to King

To the "Lion of Judah,"
in appreciation of his
helpfulness to the Falashas.
From the American
Pro-Falasha Committee.

This gift was taken to Ethiopia
by Professor Faitlovitch, who, to-
gether with his former pupil, the
new principal of the school, Taam-
rat Emanuel, attended Haile Selas-
sie's coronation in November 1930.
Soon after the coronation
ceremony, Taamrat Emanuel ac-
companied Professor Faitlovitch
to New York, thus becoming the
first of his people to arrive in the
Unites States. I had suggested the
advisability of bringing him, in
order to increase the effectiveness

of my fund-raising campaign.
Taamrat Emanuel himself repre-
sented the best argument in favor
of the work to which Dr. Fait-
lovitch had dedicated himself.
Thanks to his mentor, he had ac-
quired some degree of European
culture and a modicum of Hebrew
learning, which he in turn
endeavored to instill in pupils
attending the school in Addis
Ababa. He thus exemplified what
could be achieved for the Falashas
under proper guidance and train-
A women's division of the
Pro-Falasha Committee was estab-
lished, comprising representatives
of the Orthodox, Conservative, and
Reform wings of American Jewry.
Mrs. David E. Goldfarb was chair-
lady and Mrs. Samuel Speigel and
Mrs. Herbert S. Goldstein served
as her deputies. Dr. Cyrus Adler,
one of the first to encourage Fait-
lovitch, and Professor Mordecai
M. Kaplan were among those who
took a keen interest in our work.
The Italian occupation of Ethiopia
(1936-1941) and World War II were
a temporary handicap to these
At a latei stage, Professor
Norman Bentwich rallied support
in Great Britain and visited
Ethiopia, where he spent some
time among the Falashas. He was a
tower of strength to Professor Fait-
When the war ended, Profes-
sor Faitlovitch settled in Tel Aviv
and strove to gain wider support
for this cause until his death in
1955. Fourteen years later, I was
able to see the effects of worldwide
Jewish apathy toward the
Falashas and their perilous situa-
tion, when I visited Ethiopia in
There follow additional data-
providing facts about the Ethiopian Jews.

Dr. Nahum Sokolow

Chapter 12 in Volume II is devoted to the
subject. Dr. Goldstein describes a mission
he fulfilled to the Ethiopian Jews.
The importance in the long quotation
about the Ethiopian Jews lies in the reve-
lations about early concerns about them in
this country and in England.
There is a personal interest in the
matter. This reviewer was associated with
the pro-Falasha efforts from the very be-
ginning. I knew and befriended Pfof. Fait-
lovitch and guided him in his efforts in this
community. Falasha was not viewed at the
time as an insulting term.

Dr. Goldstein was a frequent Detroit
visitor, on missions for the Keren Keyemet
l'Yisrael Jewish National Fund — and
other Zionist causes. There are two special
references to Detroit in his memoirs. One
was the national convention in Detroit in
1932 of the Zionist Organization of
America, when he was defeated for the
presidency by Rabbi Solomon Goldman. He
was elected to that post two years later. It
was during the administrations of these
two presidents that Detroiter Simon
Shetzer served as national executive secre-
tary of the ZOA, when the national office
was located in Washington.
The second major event recalled by Dr.
Goldstein was the national convention of
the Jewish National Fund, held at the
Book Cadillac in Detroit in 1942. The ses-
sions were addressed, in addition to Dr.
Goldstein, by Senators Alden Barkley of
Kentucky and Homer Ferguson of Michi-
gan; Dr. Nahum Goldman, president of the
World Zionist Organization and the World
Jewish Congress; and Morris Rothenberg,
ZOA president. The Goldstein memoirs
contain important excerpts from his ad-
dress at that JNF convention banquet, at
which Dr. Goldstein was the honoree.
Another important matter related in
the Goldstein reminiscences is the interest
he took in Iran (ancient Persia) and its
Jewish population, especially on the occa-
sion of the 2,500th anniversary of King
Cyrus' accession to the throne of Persia.
There are lengthy evaluations of the visits
by Israel Goldstein and his wife Bert, the
lengthy conference with the Shah
Mohammed Riza Pahlavi and the friendli-
ness that was expressed on behalf of Ira-
nian Jewry. In the study.of Iranian Jewish
history, these recollections will serve a
valuable purpose.
Of major interest in the Goldstein re-
miniscences are the steps he had taken in
the establishment of Brandeis University
some 40 years ago. He joined in the acquisi-
tion of the university's medical school,
which was in financial difficulties.
Inspired by the late Joseph
Schlossberg, the prominent labor leader,
Goldstein conducted negotiations which
led to the acquisition of the struggling
Middlesex College. Meeting with Albert
Einstein and other notables, he was given
encouragement for the establishment of a
Jewish-sponsored university.
Dr. Goldstein's initiative resulted in
the founding of Brandeis University. He
takes justified pride in his achievement
and has authored a book on the subject of
Brandeis U., his role in its creation, the
background that led to the effort and the
people who were involved in the great task.
Dr. Goldstein's proposal to name the
university in honor of Louis D. Brandeis
had the endorsement of Albert Einstein,
who declined the honor for himself.
From the record emerges the signifi-
cant historical fact that Dr. Goldstein was
actually the founder of Brandeis U. The
volume he had written on the subject de-
serves revived circulation. It would take
many pages to relate the story of this
achievement and there is need for credit-
ing it to the noted leader in reviewing his
Bert — Mrs. Israel Goldstein — shares
many of the reminisced activities of Dr.
Goldstein and that is valuable in these
memoirs, Mrs. Goldstein having attained
leadership in many forms in her own right,
and always as her husband's constant
associate in all his devotions.
The Goldstein memoirs are an
enrichment of Jewish history and of the
Israel and Zionist record. The two-volume
memoir is a collective gem. The documen-
tations are superb. They will surely fulfill
a great need in retaining the records they


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