Estranged People

Social Status

There is a long history of prejudice against the Jewish people of Ethiopia.

For the two millennium they lived in the Gonder area of Ethiopia, their livelihood was primarily based on farming, blacksmithing, pottery and weaving.

Although these skills provided much needed products to their non–jewish neighbors, these trades were looked down upon. There were also many crazy stories such as the Jews having evil eyes that caused bad things to happen to people. Jews in Ethiopia were labeled with several derogatory terms – inculcating the population with a culture of discrimination.

Governing bodies have also participated in the oppression of the Jews there. At various periods of time, and under different governments, they were not allowed to own land, hold certain jobs or obtain an education.

The new government has changed these discriminatory laws, but it cannot force the change of heart of a people long biased against the Jews. My very first day in Ethiopia a man was talking very excitedly to the leader of the synagogue about his child being called the derogatory term for Jews in school by another child. He wanted the leader to write a letter to the school demanding that they do not allow this term to be used by the children. Although the Jewish children are now allowed an education, they still have to struggle against the prejudice of their culture, as do their parents in the streets.

Jobs are hard to obtain for all Ethiopians, but even harder for the Jews because of this prejudice. It is also hard for the Beta Israel who have just migrated in the past years to the city (in hopes of making Aliyah) to practice their skills in their one room huts, or to obtain jobs for which they have no training.

This is one of the reasons that we have this web site, to help these people with a livelihood of their skill, while they await their Aliyah to Israel. The Beta Abraham, who have been in the city several hundred years (
see About the Estranged), have had more training and education opportunities than those who just recently moved to the city. However, they still live in poverty conditions and struggle against the prejudice.

In fact, many keep their Jewish identity a secret in order to not inhibit their opportunities. An American friend of mine who works in Ethiopia says that when they do identify themselves to her ( a known Jew) , they whisper that they are a part of the community (meaning the Jewish community). There are some who have become more bold about their Jewish faith– this web site was originally the idea of one of these men who desired to help his people to have better living and working conditions.

A Unique Opportunity

this entry is written by the webmaster (Gordon)
since Teresa has been very busy with other matters during the High Holy Days...

A central tenet amongst those of the Jewish faith is compassion. The Torah and the Prophets often mention the duty of the righteous to provide and protect the widow, the poor, the orphan, and the stranger. As life unfolds in front of us, we often find that there are more needy people around us than there are resources for relief.

And yet, it is evident that there are those whose standard of living is so far below ours, even pennies would help. During this feast season, the sukkah that we dwell in is a reminder of our dependency on G-d and the fragility of our dwelling against the immensity of creation.

I am blessed to be a part of this small effort to give you the opportunity to support the Ethiopian Jews. It is significant that we are not really giving them a handout, but “affirming their dignity” by purchasing handcrafted goods from them. We can give them a sense of honor and self worth as they provide for their families. Teresa, myself and others associated with Estranged People are all serving in our various capacities as an offering to Adonai- none of us is drawing a salary or taking payment for our services. 100% of the price of the items you purchase is sent to the Jews of Ethiopia, there are no middle men or skimming of the monies.

I hope you see this website, as I do- a unique opportunity to provide some relief to those who have been persecuted for their beliefs and find themselves waiting for over a decade for Aliyah. My wife and I thoroughly enjoy the colorful, whimsical tapestry work of the pillows and tallit bag that we purchased.

Baruch Hashem!