Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Frisch Africa Encounter Update: Presentation on Ethiopian Jewry

Sophomores learned about Ethiopian Jewry this week
during The Frisch Africa Encounter

Jewish Heart for Africa is now Innovation: Africa

Preparations for The Frisch Africa Encounter are well underway, with students taking over my office to plan their Green-a-thon fundraiser and the activities for the night of December 18. The students have decided to sell coffee in eco-friendly cups in order to raise money for Innovation: Africa (formerly known as Jewish Heart for Africa), an organization that uses sustainable Israeli technologies to improve life in Africa.

As we're running our interdisciplinary project on Africa, Innovation: Africa was busy at the UN. Founder of the organization Sivan Ya'ari spoke at the UN on December 5:

Innovation: Africa at the UN on December 5

Integration of Ethiopian Jewry into Israeli Society

Sophomores this past week learned a song in Hebrew class about Ethiopian Jews and their quest to come to Israel. That lesson was to prepare students for a presentation from my sister Smadar Goldstein, an online education provider who runs her company JETS from Israel. She was visiting New Jersey this past week and was able to give her presentation about Ethiopian Jewry in person (last year, she presented the information via a webinar). 

Students learned that Ethiopian Jews had been exiled with the Kingdom of Israel and hadn't known about events in Jewish history such as the destruction of the First Temple, Purim, Chanukah and the creation of the Talmud. When the Ethiopian Jews were brought to Israel, many wept when they discovered the temple had been destroyed! Students also heard from an appealing and endearing couple, Asher and Esther Fredman, and the challenges they faced as an interracial couple. The presentation discussed many of the challenges Ethiopian Jews have faced in Israel as well as the successes they have enjoyed. For example, everyone in Israel now celebrates SIGD Day, an Ethiopian holiday. 

Here are a few pictures from the Ethiopian presentation:

When students return to Hebrew class this week, they'll discuss the issue of Sudanese refugees in Israel. The sophomores will see the complexity of this very contemporary problem: on the one hand, we want to help the refugees from Sudan because we've been persecuted and driven out of so many lands ourselves and so can identify with their plight. On the other hand, we want to make sure Israel is the haven for Jews it needs to be, since Jews all over the world are safer because Israel exists. In this part of The Frisch Africa Encounter, sophomores will hopefully learn about some of the thorny problems confronting Israel today. 

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