Israel’s Rabbinical Chief Council Recognizes Ethiopians As Jews

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Ethiopians and supporters take part in a protest against police violence and discrimination following the death of 19-year-old Ethiopian, Solomon Tekah who was shot and killed few days ago in Kiryat Haim by an off-duty police officer, in Tel Aviv, July 8, 2019. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90

JERUSALEM (VINnews) — The Chief Rabbinate Council, a body of senior rabbis in the Israeli chief rabbinate, decided recently to reinforce the recognition of members of Ethiopia’s Beta Israel community as Jewish, after an earlier decision on the matter failed to stop some officials from continuing to question their lineage.

In the past, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ruled in the 1970’s that members of Ethiopia’s Beta Yisrael community were Jewish, paving the way for their eventual immigration to Israel. Life in Israel, however, has not always been easy for them, since many authorities refused to accept the landmark decision by Rabbi Yosef and demanded that they undergo a form of conversion to be recognized as Jews. The Ethiopians steadfastly refused to undergo the procedure, claiming that they were Jewish already.

Moreover the Ethiopian community claims to suffer from racial discrimination and recently widespread protests broke out after an unarmed Ethiopian youth was killed by a policeman for threatening him. The community saw this as a racially motivated act.

Most Ethiopians suffer from inferior educational opportunities and most of the 140,000-strong community do not continue to higher education and work in menial, low-paying jobs leaving them at the lowest levels of income and prosperity.

In 2018, a kosher winery faced angry backlash after it emerged that it was not allowing Ethiopian workers to touch the wine because of fears they were not Jewish, which would make the wine not kosher.

Rabbi Yehuda Deri, who had pushed to reinforce Yosef’s ruling, hailed it as “a historic decision which will be remembered for generations in Israel, especially among the Ethiopian community,” according to the Haaretz daily.

Itim, a religious pluralism rights group, also praised the decision saying in a statement that discrimination against those of Ethiopian descent in recent years had to do with among other things, “the casting of doubt by the religious establishment on their being part of the Jewish people.”

Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, a liberal religious group, also welcomed the development calling it “significant progress by the rabbinate on the way to correcting its attitude with the Jewish of Ethiopian descent.”

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22 COMMENTS

    • Meanwhile, in the real world, you have the Tzitz Eliezer, R. Moshe Feinstein, R. Shach, the Minchas Yitzchak, and quite a few other poskim who say that their Jewish identity is at least questionable. But Yingale, who has his own so-called “Torah,” can simply dismiss all of them as “voices in someone’s head.”

      • It’s funny how you don’t understand the very sources you quote. That there is a possibility of intermarriage and a break in chazaka nobody disagrees. triumphinwhitehouse “knows” they are “pure” Bantu. Such knowledge can only be voices in his head. Non of the sources you quote have the same take on the matter.

  1. Ashkenazi rabbanonim to this day say they are PURE africans with no hint of zera yisroel therefore their wine is nesech. Rav ovadia is a tzadik but a daas yohid.no litvish rav would do kiddushim for these pure bantu africans.

    • Has there been a psak halacha by Ashkenazi “rabbanonim” that Hungarian chasidim are anything other than PURE hungarians? Would a litvish rav do kiddushim for these pure shtreimel hunks?
      P.S. If it is OK to refer to “pure bantu africans” it should be OK to refer to “pure shtreimel hunks”. So please permit this comment.

  2. There are some holier than thou reactionaries on this site, who not only don’t consider the Ethiopians as Jews (even in spite of this most recent Rabbinical ruling), but make obnoxious remarks, about their ethnicity, calling them horrible names, which I won’t repeat.

    Not too long ago, an IDF soldier in uniform was beaten up badly, by a brutal Israeli cop. Oh, I forgot to mention that the solider was an Ethiopian, proudly serving his country in the Israel Defense Forces. It made no difference to that piece of garbage cop, who was suspended, and brought up on charges of police brutality.

    • Correct reb moshe the ultimate posek for ashkrnazim ruled them as goyim. To this day reb moshe opinion is the arbitrator and why flatbush eruv isnt universal. So for an ashkenazi hashgacha to use bantu labor in making wine is a huge problem rendering it like (abyssinian) church wine.

  3. The Beta Israel community Of Ethiopia have been practioners of Judaism since time immemorial. Their Torah is written in Ge’ez the ancient language of Kush. They practice all Jewish law according to Torah and were not aware of either Talmud or of Chanukah, as they left Judah BEFORE the Maccabee War. Many were forcibly converted and maltreated by xtians over the ages. They did not know that any Jews were ‘white’. Many now serve in the IDF. Do many charedi bigots serve?

  4. I don’t understand TriumphinWhiteHouse’s point? Is he questioning Rabbi Ovadia’s opinions, because he is a Sephardic Jew, and not an Ashkenazi one? Does his opinions count less, because he doesn’t come from Europe? Kindly clarify?

    • The point is that for Ashkenazim, at least, R. Ovadia’s psak is not relevant, since it contradicts the opinions of their poskim. As for Sephardim, that will depend on who (other than R. Ovadia) each group’s posek is, and whether he agrees with R. Ovadia or not. In short, it’s not quite so cut-and-dried as this article tries to make it.

      • thank you for having someone understand basic reading comprehension. Reb Ovadia paskens many things that Ashkenazim don’t do and this is one of them, to Ashkenazim these are pure African goyim.

    • In halacha there are different determining factors, and there are different views among sefardi and ashkenazi poskim. There are many things that ashkenazi and sefaradi yidden do completely differently… In this case the majority of poskim hold that Ethiopians need to do giyur.

  5. I do not understand what’s going on here.
    R Moishe and most ashkenazi poskim paskened they are not jewish without using any nasty terms against them. As the matter of fact R Moishe writes that the halocho of saving them is the same as that of a jew, because they suffered like Jews. See the tshuva. But for us Ashkenazim,they are not jewish. Period. And,no,they kept Toire shbaal pe only, which if they are jewish,makes them something like Karaims, which is basicly kfire. I do not understand where does chareidi bashing comes here exactly.

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