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December 01, 1989 - Image 46

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-01

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Ethiopian Jews
And Jewish

The Beta Yisrael, or
Ethiopian Jews, may have
different customs but they are,
nonetheless, Jews.


Special to The Jewish News

osef HaLevy, a French
Jew, described his first
encounter with the
Beta Yisrael, the Jews of
Ethiopia, in 1868. He was
sent to Africa by the Alliance
Israelite Universelle to seek
out the Jews who were said to
live there. When he found
them, he announced to them
in their own language that he
too, was a Jew.
"What? You a Falasha!"
they replied. "A white
Falasha! You are laughing at
In recent years, the Jewish
world has become aware of
these so-called "black" Jews
from Ethiopia. If nothing

Ethiopian Jews studied Torah that
was written in Ge'ez, a Semitic
tongue close to Hebrew.

Rabbi Alexander Linchner,
founder of Boys Town Jerusalem,
presents a prayer book to an
Ethiopian boy who celebrated his
Bar Mitzvah. His proud mother
looks on.



else, it would have been hard
to miss the headlines in late
1984 about Operation Moses,
which brought many of them
from Ethiopia to Israel.
Still, there are Jews who
ask, "If they're Jews, how did
they get to be so black?"
Racism? No, I think it is
ethnocentrism. Jewish ethno-
centrism. Not the variety
that says Jews are superior to
non-Jews but, rather, the
limiting notion that in order
to be Jewish, one must con-
form to certain patterns of
thought, behavior or ap-
pearance. More accurately, it
might be called Ashkenazic
Jewish ethnocentrism, al-
- though Sephardic Jews likely
have their own version.
Other Jews — the Yeme-
nites, for example — can be

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