February 23, 1998
The American Jewish community has long rejoiced in the miracle of the return of Ethiopian Jews to their homeland after centuries of separation. The Israeli government, with the partnership of the Diaspora communities, has made extraordinary efforts towards this community’s successful absorption into Israeli society. However, this integration effort is not yet complete, particularly in the field of education. The gap between Ethiopian and other Israeli students is growing. Already there are indications of a growing disaffection within the Ethiopian community. Should these trends continue, Israel may have to face more serious social and economic problems within the Ethiopian community in Israel.
The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), in cooperation with other American Jewish organizations, has played a leading role in organizing a coalition for Ethiopian educational integration, both in Israel and the United States, to examine this problem and to develop an effective response. This new coalition has examined various programs that have been successful in raising the educational achievements of Ethiopian children and youths. These consultations have resulted in the formulation of a comprehensive ten-city plan.
Over the past few months, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Anti-Defamation League, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and other leading national and local American Jewish organizations have shared the ten-city plan with high-level Israeli government officials. These officials have expressed their support for the work of the Coalition of Ethiopian Educational Integration. Unfortunately, to date, efforts by the Israeli government have not met the educational needs of Ethiopian Jewish children.
Action Recommendations: In light of the critical situation facing Ethiopian students in Israel, JCPA urges its member agencies to:
- urge the Government of Israel to support the Ten-City Plan, allocate and distribute the necessary funds to address this situation, and implement the recommendations of the coalition. Together, the Israeli government and the coalition must develop a system of review and accountability.
- educate members of the community about this issue, through speakers, background materials, and meetings with Ethiopian Jewish activists in Israel, in order to enhance advocacy efforts with Israeli officials.
- consider ways in which they can play a direct role, including through local initiatives, to advance the Ethiopian absorption effort.