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April 05, 1985 - Image 77

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-04-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT. JEWISH NEWS

adoaMadad

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problems. We have to integrate
them without creating ghettos,"
said Boston-born Rosen who spent
most of his adult life working in
areas of social planning and com-
munity organization before com-
ing to Israel. in 1967 and since
then.
During the early years of the
state, new immigrants were sent
to transit camps consisting of
tents and, later, of huts and
shacks. These became instant
slums and ghettos. "We are de-
termined to avoid the mistakes of
the past," both Arnon and Rosen
said. Now, the absorption centers
provide housing facilities and
residential, social and cultural
facilities.
After their period of absorption,
the Ethiopian Jews are sent to
towns where they can be "mutu-
ally self-supportive, but no so
much that the areas to which they
are assigned become ghettos,"
Rosen said. This requires advance
planning with local authorities so
that there is some parity between
the Ethiopian Jews and the local
inhabitants.
But this is a problem because
Israel suffers from a housing shor-
tage, making it difficult at times

"Saying yes to one
group means saying
no to another, a
classic cause of social
tensions."

to find the proper mix and often
requiring holding back housing
units from other immigrants.
"Saying yes to one group means
saying no to another, a classic
cause of social tensions." Rosen
observed. "We have to find ways of
equalizing integration of all ohm
and Israelis without saying no to
anyone. And this stretches not
only budgets but also imagination
and socialand community plan-
ning."
Settling Ethiopian Jewish
families is another problem, he
pointed out. It's hard to find their
relatives in Israel who made
aliyah ahead of newcomers or
those who follow them. The
Ethiopians have six to 10 common
surnames, the equivalent of Jones
or Smith. "There ae no records to
check by, like those who came
here from the Holocaust," Rosen
said. "Family relations are very
important to them. Their concept
of family is extended kinship fam-
ily and putting these families to-
gether is vital but very difficult."

Budgetary constraints also pose
challenges. Rosen estimated that
it costs between $6,000 and
$9,000 to absorb and integrate
each Ethiopian. It takes from 12
to 18 months for them to develop a
marketable skill so that they can
start earning an income. But ab-
sorption must go on.
To accomplish this, Rosen
noted, other human needs have
been cut back. "We've had to stop
building settlements on the new

borders with Egypt and stopped
building new settlements in the
Galilee," he said. "Again, saying
yes to one need means saying no to
another."
Absorption, he observed, is only
one side of the process. The other
side is acceptance. Tensions be-
tween the Ethiopian Jews and
others have flared up frequently.
In Beersheba, the Chabad
Chasidic movement's Uziel
School refuses to register Ethio-
pian Jewish children for the com-
ing school year. A third of the
pupils are presently Ethiopian
immigrants and the Chabad
movement has announced that it
will check their Jewish status be-
fore deciding if they will be able to
continue their studies next year.
Ethiopian immigrants have
also been rebuffed in other ways
by the Orthodox. Some of the
Ethiopians were chased away
from the Western Wall where
they had come to pray and told
that they were not Jewish. They
have complained about the de-
mand by the Chief Rabbinate
Council that they undergo sym-
bolic "conversion" rites, intimat-
ing that their authenticity as
Jews is the question.
In some towns, they have been
told that they are not welcome be-
cause the locals fear they will
compete for jobs or because there
is large-scale unemployment.
Peres, in affirming the Jewish-
ness of the Ethiopian immigrants,
pointed out that the challenge to
their Jewishness is part of the
controversial Who is a Jew issue.
But there are welcome mats out
for the Beta Yisrael, and this is
the norm rather than the excep-
tion. One prominent example is in
Jerusalem where arrangements
are being made to recognize the
traditional elders of the Ethiopian
community, called Kessim in
Amharic, as rabbis.
Machon Meir is the institution
that is providing religious in-
struction to a number of Kessim.
The institute, described by direc-
tor Rabbi Dov Begun as Zionist-
oriented, has been offering
courses in Hebrew to three of the
Kessim for the past three months.
Plans are under way for another
10 to begin a one-year program,
which would also include Jewish
history, religious thought and the
Bible. The Kessim were respected
leaders in Ethiopia but now find
themselves without a legal posi-
tion and penniless.
The institute also hopes to
begin a program for 30 to 50
younger members of the Ethio-
pian community, who will, Begun
hopes, form the core of the future
spiritual leadership of the Ethio-
pian Jews. Begun said at the same
time, the institute would respect
the tradition of the Ethiopians.
In spite of some transitory diffi-
culties, Rosen is certain that the
Ethiopian Jews will make it.
"Their commitment to Judaism is
unbelievable," he said. "They
have been persecuted for hun-
dreds of years for being Jews but
they have stuck it out. Ethiopian
Jews rejoice when they come here.
They just cry. They are an amaz-
ing group of people. They have the
patience of Job."

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Friday, April 5, 1985

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