Estranged People

New Charitable Partnership

I am happy announce that Ethiopia Judaica is now partnering with ESCO, described below. Any donations received through this site will go directly to assisting with their projects, which directly affect the Bete Israel people that this site was started to help.

The products that we sell here will still benefit individuals and their families of the Bete Israel community. A small purchase here can have a big impact in Ethiopia. For example, the sale of a $25 tapestry provides rent for a family for one month!  

El-Shaddai Charity Organization (ESCO) is a registered non-government and non-profit organization established to implement social projects that benefit the impoverished community in Ethiopia. The living standard of most people is beyond imagination. As was mentioned in previous blog articles, Ethiopia Judaica's mission is to assist those Ethiopians of Jewish descent. Many of their leaders and rabbis left for Israel in the first and second Exodus (1984 & 1991), so it is wonderful to have a trusted partner in Ethiopia to share our work with.
The biggest threat to the Ethiopian Jews is disease. In the Gondar region, most diseases are caused or complicated by the scarcity of clean, safe drinking water. People of all ages can get very sick from water borne diseases, but children under 5 years old are at the highest risk of death.

Scarcity of clean water also causes other hardships. Women do not have the chance to go to school because they are the collectors of water for their family and they spend much of the day walking to distant rivers and springs. Time and energy spent hauling water from great distances could be used much more productively farming or creating products such as what you see on this website. The availability of clean and safe water could bring more life opportunities to these people.

ESCO has made it a priority to provide clean, safe, water to people in rural Ethiopia; they have already implemented five water projects. Sponsoring water projects is saving the lives of people while also improving the quality of their lives! Apart from this project ESCO also provides free training programs to Ethiopian Jews. There are different fields of short term training that can change the life of these people in a positive manner. Many girls dropout of school, and are forced into prostitution just to survive or support their family. They risk unwanted pregnancies and many are exposed to HIV/AIDS. ESCO's programs provide the Ethiopian Jews with life skills, technical and vocational training. This means that they can make healthy, moral decisions and achieve employment in the fast growing private and social sectors of the economy.

Please consider making a donation to either of these ESCO projects with the donate button. Please include a message specifying which project you want to support through the PayPal page.

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.