Falash Mura Set Up Christian Missions In Israel?

Ethiopian Jewish leaders are complaining that some of the Falash Mura, Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity but who themselves have returned to Judaism, have set up missions in Israel to convert Jews and have done so with the backing of several churches. Ha’aretz reports:

    Ethiopian rabbis and spiritual leaders (keisim) called on the government Monday to halt the Ethiopian Falashmura aliyah to Israel, citing concerns that many of the Falashmura are engaged in Christian missionary activity.

    The leaders made the call during a Rehovot conference titled "Defeating the [Christian] mission manifestation in the community," in which hundreds of Ethiopian Jews took part.

    The keisim and rabbis called for establishing new rules for bringing Ethiopian Jews to Israel, maintaining that in recent years many of the Falshamura in Israel have resorted to Christianity and built missions in Jaffa, Jerusalem, and Rehovot, as a result of their difficult financial situation.…

    Conference participants elected a keisim-led committee that will map out the various missions in each city and prepare a list of missionaries, which they will transfer to the Interior Ministry, requesting that they be barred from marrying or being buried in a Jewish cemetery. In addition, the committee will formulate a position paper on potential future Falashmura aliyah.

    "The missionaries persecuted us in Ethiopia, and [we must] not permit them to persecute us in the Holy Land," said the conference participants.

This is a difficult problem. First of all, the Rabbinate already ruled these people must be saved. It did so, however, with the caveat that they formally convert to and practice Orthodox Judaism.  If these charges are true – and they appear to be, at least in part; I have seen documents that support the charges – should all Falash Mura suffer because of the sins of a few?

I don’t know. My first reaction is to say no, they should not, and aliyah should continue. But Ethiopian Jewish leaders are adamantly opposed to this. (Indeed, I spoke with one leader about this problem this morning. He said what he has said for much of the past two years – stop aliyah now.)

The problem, it seems to me, is one of a contract violation. Falash Mura got to come to Israel on the condition they observe Orthodox Judaism. The question is, what should we do when that contract is violated?

I should also add that much of the missionary activity comes from financial distress, and Ethiopian Jewish leaders themselves say this is so. Israel has done a poor job of integrating all Ethiopian Jews. This has relegated many to poverty and despair. Successive Israeli governments bear the responsibility for this, for the pain and suffering it causes, and for the Christian missionizing that grows from it.

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44 Comments

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44 responses to “Falash Mura Set Up Christian Missions In Israel?

  1. Yochanan Lavie

    Russian non-Jews (of Jewish descent) come to Israel and practise Christianity. There have even been isolated incidents of anti-Semtism, and swastika grafitti. American “Messianic” (Jews for Jesus) Jews make aliya, and proselytize. So it’s not only Falash Mura.

    Having said that, anyone who violates the Jewish social contract deserves a swift kick in the ass out of the country, no matter what their color. (But let’s not stigmatize entire communities).

  2. Anonymous

    “(Indeed, I spoke with one leader about this problem this morning. He said what he has said for much of the past two years – stop aliyah now.)”

    Wasn’t there some rabbi who said this a long time ago but no one would listen, and some even turned against him because of this? Oh yea, that was the LUBAVITCHER REBBE.

  3. No, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said NO SUCH THING. He refused to save ETHIOPIAN JEWS. Th eFalsh Mura is a different case. But you’re way to bigoted and ignorant to know the difference, now aren’t you, Chabadnik?

  4. Anonymous

    I agree with Yochanan.
    Even better I think we should start promoting Judaism worldwide to non-monotheists (ie. Christians (except Unitarians) and others).
    And if anyone talks about Bnai Noah, that is just a cop-out.

  5. Anonymous

    How do you know what the Lubavticher Rebbe said or didn’t? Perhaps this another case of his ruach hakodesh where he foresaw the missionary activity that is happening right now?

  6. Process.

    1. Saving lives, pekuach nefesh, trumps everything else.

    2. You would leave Ethiopian Jews to suffer and die in Ethiopia, a place where the survivors were heavily missionized, rather than bringing them to Israel? That is what you say Mendel Schneerson “saw.”

    Please. You’re in a cult. Wake up.

  7. Neo-Conservaguy

    “I should also add that much of the missionary activity comes from financial distress, and Ethiopian Jewish leaders themselves say this is so. Israel has done a poor job of integrating all Ethiopian Jews. This has relegated many to poverty and despair. Successive Israeli governments bear the responsibility for this, for the pain and suffering it causes, and for the Christian missionizing that grows from it.”

    I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head with that comment. Integration of later-stage ethnic immigrants does not seem to have gone well, perhaps in part due to general Israeli economic growth issues.

  8. Yochanan Lavie

    Poor Russian Jews are also vulnerable to missionizing. This phenomenon is not unique to Israel- poor Jewish emigres to the USA and UK were also preyed upon by missionaries (no pun intended, for once) during the late 19th-early 20th century.
    Those who single out Ethiopians as especially “bad” Jews in this regard have another agenda.

  9. Shmarya-

    You say that “Saving lives, pekuach nefesh, trumps everything else.”

    In the past 58 years, Israel has opened its arms to the Bahais, Christian Arabs, South Lebanon Army veterans, Vietnamese boat refugees, and most recently- refugees from Darfur.

    At what cost will this unquestioned kindness continue? Aren’t you worried about demographics? Don’t you support maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel?

    Personally, I feel that these missionaries are biting the hand that brought them to Israel. These ingrates ought to be deported.

  10. Josh

    “…If these charges are true – and they appear to be, at least in part; I have seen documents that support the charges – should all Falash Mura suffer because of the sins of a few?

    Hmmm. Double standard? Regarding the Chabad people you say that all are condemned due to one or even a few… Here, with the falsha mura, who are questionably Jewish, you become very concerned about the suffering a of many because of the few. How about the MANY young innocent Israeli unquestionable Jews who these missionaries of yours are sucking away from authentic Judaism and worse yet, taking them into christianity. All this for the sake of your holy mission which reeks of egotism. If you were genuinely concerned about saving Ethiopian Jewy, and truly had no other ulterior motives you wouldn’t be on such crusade against Chabad and Chareidim, but obviously you are far from the Tzadik you portray yourself to be.

  11. Anonymous

    I think the rebbe knew what he was doing when he took the stance that ethiopians should not be brought to Israel. The rebbe’s life was devoted to following halacha correctly, and I believe the rebbe had ruach hakodesh regarding this if he went against the major poskim of his time. Its the only explanation that makes sense, instead Shmarya’s absurd claim that “oh he was just racist, thats it. He just hated blacks.” The rebbe was right on this issue; the ethiopians coming to Israel have meant so many problems, both for the Jews in Israel and for the ethiopian communities themselves. The majority refuse to go through the process of conversion (which is especially necessary seeing that their dna doesn’t match up with any jewish dna, and therefore they most likely didn’t descend from Jews). Now we see this ethiopian cause has led to missionizing, losing jewish souls to christianity. I don’t think the rebbe, whose whole life was devoted to torah, just decided this one time to break halacha because he was racist; I think he foresaw all of this and knew that by not lending his support to this cause, he could at the very least minimize the damage that would be caused.

  12. Josh –

    The vast majority of Chabad believes the Rebbe to this day answers their questions and gives them blessings. That alone is enough reason to condemn all of Chabad – except for any individuals who protest that insanity.

  13. As for thinking the Rebbe had “ruach hakodesh,” etc.,, I’d point out that:

    1. According to rov poskim Ethiopian Jews had to be saved. It’s a very simple halakha. And the Rebbe’s response to it only shows how truly foolish the man was.

    2. The Rebbe’s alleged “ruach hakodesh” didn’t do much for 6 million Jews, now did it?

  14. Ben Qor'ha (Baldwin)

    ruach haqodesh? prophecy? the later one was left “for fools and minors” we are told. we can now add “for megalomans” too. Their output however is NK (nisht kosha).

  15. Yochanan Lavie

    The all-but forgotten Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer poskined in the early 20th century that the Beta Israel are Jews. He arranged for a handful to receive rabbinical training at his yeshiva in Germany. These individuals became leaders of the Ethiopian community and kept the fire of Yiddishkeit burning during the dark years that their fairer-skinned bretheren abandoned them.

    At Hildesheimer’s yeshiva, the Ethiopians received Orthodox training, as well as secular subjects (he believed in both). Hildesheimer was a great man, a moderate religious Zionist, a modern Orthodox pioneer, and a friend to Beta Israel. Why do we not learn about him anymore.

    The Rebbe was a great, but flawed individual. I honor his memory (but not what has been done to it by his followers), but he was wrong about the Ethiopians. He was a human being, not a god. Moshe Feinstein, Ovadia Yosef, Azriel Hildesheimer, and others have ruled that Beta Israel are Jewish and are worthy of rescue from extinction. The Rebbe was almost a Daat Yachid in thinking they were not. I don’t think he was a racist; I think he honestly doubted their authenticity. Fine.

    However, now racists glom on to what he ruled to denegrate the “shvartzes.” What’s next: Bnei Israel (Indian) are not Jewish? Yeminites? Anyone who doesn’t look like Caspar? 50-60 years ago, Jews as a whole weren’t considered “white.” It’s time for the pot to stop calling the kettle black.

  16. Anonymous

    yochanan,

    As was pointed out here, by a copy of Reb Moshe’s letter, Reb Moshe was not for bringing them to Israel at any cost. On the contrary, he said that in order that they be able to come they must undergo conversion missofek.

    It is worthy to note that you at least speak with respect about the Rebbe, while the dogs on this blog do not offer the minimum courtesy. While they differ with position they should at least have respect for a man whose position was always for the best of the klal and even on this case we see how his prophetic vision had something to say.., where we have missioonaries ….

  17. Wrong. Rav Moshe ruled they had to be saved. He preferred that they be taken to a neutral country, quickly converted there mi-sofek, and brought to Israel. This was not possible, therefore, they were brought to Israel directly. Rav Moshe continued to support rescue. Why? Because that is the halakha.

  18. Anonymous

    No you are lying. Put the copy of the letter you put in the past. Reb Moshe says that they must undergo conversion missofek so that they should not add in assimilation.

  19. 1. The letter is always up on the documents page.

    2. I am not lying. Rav Moshe aided aliya even after it was clear EJs were being brought directly to Israel.

    3. You seem to have great difficulty actually understanding how the halakhuc process works. L’chatchilla, Rav Moshe wanted the brief stopover in a neutral country with a giur l’humra. But that was not possible and, following halakha, the only remaining choice was to bring them directly to Israel. Rav Moshe supported that b’dieved, because the saving of lives was and still remains the most important factor.

  20. Anonymous

    I ask you shmarya, if moshe feinstein could know what we know today (ie that most wouldnt officially convert, and that missionizing would become a consequence of their immigration), do you think he would have ruled the ethiopians sofek jews and helped them come to Israel? I don’t think he would have.

  21. Really?

    1. The Falash Mura, not the EJs, do the missionizing.

    2. Rav Moshe would have ruled based on the halakha, which is pekuach nefesh trumps everything else (except for 3 specific cases for individuals). In other words, they had to be rescued. You see, halakha is not something one uses to support one’s own pre-ordained desires. Rav Moshe knew that. You do not.

  22. Anonymous

    No I’m asking that if he knew they were not jews, or that they wouldn’t convert, would he have brought them to ISrael?

  23. You have two groups. 1) The ethiopian Jews/Beta Israel/Falashas saved in 1984, 85 and 91. 2) The Falah Mura, resecued in small groups later. Thge Falash Mura are descendents of Jews who converted to Christianity, for the most part, under duress.

    Rav Moshe ruled about the first group, the Beta Israel/Falashas/Ethiopian Jews.

    Some Beta Israel converted, some did not. Most who did not refused to after terrible handling by the Rabbinate and especially by haredim. (Rav Moshe worked to stop this ill treatment of the Ethiopian Jews by rabbis, by the way.) The problem with conversions was manufactured largely by rabbis who did not want to have black Jews.

    The result of the rotten behavior by haredim and the Rabbinate was Rav Ovadia Yosef’s ruling (repeated many times) that Ethiopian Jews did NOT need to convert, because they are fully Jewish. This is the normnative Sefardic position today, the one that the Sefardic Chief Rabbi and head of the Rabbinate’s court, Shlomo Amar, follows.

    Anyway, Rav Moshe endorsed rescue even when it was clear EJs were going straight to Israel, and not to a brief stop over in Rome, and when it was also clear they may not do the conversion l’sofek Rav Moshe wanted. Why? Again, because the din is a sofek Jew (one whose Jewish ancestry is questionable) is treated EXACTLY LIKE A JEW WITH REGARD TO SAVING LIFE.

  24. Anonymous

    Still, even though they have been ruled Jews, their dna points to the fact that they didn’t descend from jews. Therefore, in actuality, they aren’t jews. And if they refuse to convert, that seems to me to be a problem. Maybe al pi halacha, if Rav ovadia says they are jewish then that is what they are treated as, but the fact remains that they most likely are descended from jews, and anyone who intermarries with them is marrying out of the jewish people.

  25. Your ignorance of both halakha and history is astounding.

    1. All the DNA proves is that EJs descend either from converts or from the Northern Tribes, depending ont who those tribes really were and who Zipah and Bilha were.

    2. Once a community or a person has the hazaka of being Jewish, they are Jewish. That’s the din. That is why Rav Moshe worried about mamzerut derived from rabbinic understanding of that halakha. If you read Rav Ovadia Yosef’s teshuva, you’ll note that Rav Ovadia points this out.

  26. avrohom

    shmarya,

    you are lying. Seethe documentwhere Reb Mshse(despite saying that one must save them even before they convert, nevertheless) writes that WE SHOULD NOT BRING TO ISRAEL PRIOR TOTHEIR CONVERSION BECAUSE THEY MIGHT CAUSE CHASHASHHITBOLELOOT! because they might cause intermarriage they SHOULD NOT BE BROUGHT TO ISRAEL PRIOR TO THEIR CONVERSION. Your statements are not credible whenthey contradict a clear writing by Reb Moshe.

    Youbichlal are am hooretz and do notknow alef beyt about halacha and shulchanoruch and have the chutzpah to mouth off about halocho and criticize other poskim. get off it you am hooretz midoraysso umiderabbonon!

    Pikuach nfesh may not violate giluy aryot and hitboleleut.

  27. We’ve had this out before. Process:

    1. The halakha as accepted by Rav Moshe is that a sofek Jew is treated exactly as a Jew for life saving.

    2. Therefore, no matter what Rav Moshe wanted with regard to conversions to remove that sofek, etc., Ethiopian Jews still needed to be rescued.

    3. When Rav Moshe’s desire to have EJs brought to Rome for a day, converted there and then brought to Israel proved impossible, he still supported rescue. Why? because of 1 and 2 above.

    4. Illicit relationships cannot be entered into to save a life. That means that one cannot save his own or another life by sleeping with his sister or his mother. It does NOT mean that you don’t save someone who *might* one day do so. Similarly, because one day a Jew *may* intermarry, does not mean you do not rescue that Jew from danger.

    5. In this case, if EJs were definately not Jewish, you would still need to save them, as Rav Moshe himself noted. Why? Because they were suffering and dying as Jews.

    6. Further, Rav Ovadia Yosef and dozens of other poskim hold that EJs are 100% Jewish without any question. Therefore, even if Rav Moshe held that EJs were non-Jews (but he did NOT hold this), one would still need to consider them sofek Jews and then save them.

  28. Anonymous

    So shmarya, I have one question then. With all that was known about the rebbe’s and chabad’s views and attitudes towards ethiopian Jews, one question remains; why didn’t any of the gedolim condemn the rebbe for this, or at the very least show disapproval? Why are you the only one who seems to take it this far. To my knowledge, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Moshen Feinstein, and every other great rabbi of the last fifty years have not condemned the rebbe’s position on ethiopian jews. What is missing here? Why are you the only one who feels qualified and jusitifed to speak out against the rebbe when all this is common knowledge?

  29. The Rebbe’s position was not made public until three years ago.

  30. Anonymous

    shmarya,

    we went through it and you still do not get it:

    While it is true that Reb Moshe holds that one must save them even misofek, maybe they are jews, yet and yet he writes clearly:

    “eyn lehaviom lerets yisroel ELOH IM KEYN YAAVRU GERUS, SLEOY LEHARBOS CHASHASH HISBOLELUT….”, that they should not be brought to erets yisroel UNLESS they undergo conversion’ lest they cause concerns of assimilation! These are HIS words. What you claim someone told you or whatevder does not count to discount what HE HIMSELF WRITES!

  31. Neo-Conservaguy

    What R. Feinstein Z”T didn’t seem to understand is that the Beta Israel wouldn’t be easily accepted into Israeli society without regard to conversion. The impediments haven’t been halachic status, but rather cultural and racial bigotry. Other dark skinned immigrant Jews faced the same issues, but usually had larger populations within which they could establish their own communities.

  32. While it is true that Reb Moshe holds that one must save them even misofek, maybe they are jews, yet and yet he writes clearly:

    “eyn lehaviom lerets yisroel ELOH IM KEYN YAAVRU GERUS, SLEOY LEHARBOS CHASHASH HISBOLELUT….”, that they should not be brought to erets yisroel UNLESS they undergo conversion’ lest they cause concerns of assimilation!

    And that was impossible. Therefore, because a sofek Jew is treated exactly as a Jew for life saving, no matter what Rav Moshe wanted with regard to conversions to remove that sofek, etc., Ethiopian Jews still needed to be rescued.

    That is the halakha.

  33. avrohom

    “that is the halacha”‘

    SO SAYS HAPOSEK HAMEFURSSOM HAMEHADER BEKIYUM HALACHA HARAV HAGAON SHEMEREL R.

    but Reb who said that they should not be brought to israel becauseof of concerns of assimilation did not hold like the above mentioned possek and held that concernsof assimilation override even the concerns of pikuach nefesh.

  34. Anonymous

    Well shmarya, if its true that the rebbe’s true position has only been known for 3 years, I still have to ask, why is it that you are the only one who feels he has a right to condemn him? Do any other knowledgeable rabbis speak out against this?

  35. Avrohom –

    Again, you need to understand the halakha. Rav Moshe supported aliya even after the Rome option was gone becasue the halakha is that pekuach nefesh is the most important thing. All poskim I have ever seen hold this way. The Tzitz Eliezer, Rav Ovadia Yosef, The Rabbinate (in every incarnation it has had), dozens of Israeli poskim, all American poskim during WW2, etc.

    The problem here is that your education comes from Chabad, and Chaabd does not teach poskim. Many Chabad rabbis get smicha without ever learning Shu”t, and all halakha is seen as running through Mendel Schneerson and his predescessors.

    Only one prominent Orthodox rabbi opposed collecting money on Shabbos to save Jews from Hitler – only one. And he did so by saying that Jews must be holy and that, when we return to God in complete teshuva, God will save us from Hitler and bring the messiah. That rabbi was Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn.

    Those Shabbos collections saved hundreds of lives. The position of Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn has no source in halakha,

  36. As for why other rabbis haven’t made a stink about the Rebbe’s personal failure here, I can only repeat that the inforamtion was not public until 3 years ago, Chabad at first denied it, and the rescues of Ethiopian Jews (as opposed to Falsh Mura) are long over. But you’ll have to ask them.

  37. Anonymous

    shmarya,

    you are an amhooretz par excellance! I know all about pikuach nefesh and that one shoulddo everything even for a sofek that it may save one life.

    And all Rabbis you mentioned will rule that you should violate shabbos in an event of sofek pikuach nefesh. But here we are talking about a situation where the “Saving” will bring more assimilation (not that they wanted to save them to a place where there was no chashash of more assimilation due to their immigration like the usa, as we now see it unfortunately. Threfore Reb Moshe clearly wrote that they should not be brought to israel prior to their conversion. Check out the letter and learn a little bit more torah and poskim andstop bad mouthing all observant jewswith your foul mouth with the aid of other haters of judaism and maybe you will understand a littl bit of what isbeing said to you.

  38. Rav Moshe told me to save them. He knew the Rome option would be impossible – I told him so – and he gave me a bracha to save them nonetheless.

    What Chabad bigots like you don’t understand is that there is a process to halakha. Rav Moshe followed that process. Menachem Mendel Schneerson and his father-in-law did not, and Jews died because of that.

    Again, halakha 101: We don’t do things or not do things because of what *might* take place in the future. Kal Vachomer, with pekuakh nefesh.

  39. Anonymous

    you are am hooretz 101! Rav MOshe writes in the letter that w should worry about possible and (specially probable!) assimilation. Soffk avodah zarah and giluy arayot especially when they are *probable* is a great concern even in hilchos pikuach nefesh.

  40. No, you are confused. Possible intermarriage is not a reason to abondon a person to suffering and death. The fact that you do not understand even this simple halakhic fact shows clearly how prroly you learn(ed). It also reflects poorly on your teachers – Chabad racisits, all of them.

    And, one more thing. Hardly any Ethiopian Jews marry non-Ethiopians. You’re talking about an intermarriage rate of mayber 1%, probably less.

    Rav Moshe endoresed rescue even after Rome was no longer an option. Why can’t you understand that?

  41. Anonymous

    shmarya,

    you are a piggy liar. Rav Moshe never wrote anything that endorses their coming to israel without a conversion lechumrah. He writes clearly “eyn laaloss…eloh im keyn…”. That you do not care about intermarriage is not news. You hate all judaism. You write about anyone who is respected in learning and deeds without compunction. You are a dog. But where did you get the idea that entitles you to give opinions on halacha where you have no idea whatsoever?

  42. Anonymous

    shmarya,

    you are confused and an ignoramus. Put in your head, to READ what Rav Moshe writes:

    “eyn lehaviom looretz eloh im keyn” they undergo gerus. WE SHOULD NOT BRING THEM PRIOR TO CONVERSION FOR THE CONCERNS ON INTERMARRIAGE. These are HIS words. your claims that he said othewise are not credible facing his cler writing!

    Your question abut the meaning of cocerns of intermarriage: Take it up with REb mOshe. He wrote it not Chabad!

    Your questions about the legitimiacy of the Halacha: Take it up with Ra MOshe; not with chabad.

    In short: you are am hoorets and extremely confused.

    Rav Moshe’s writings are here for all to read.

  43. Again, you simply do not understand halakha.

    1.Poskim answer sha’alot. hey do not always write those answers and they do not write answers to questions they are not asked.

    2. As anyone familiar with Rav Moshe will tell you, he only paskined when asked. I asked, got an answer, explained to Rav Moshe that Rome was not going to happen because it was not feasible, and was told to do the rescue and was given a bracha. Why would the later part of this exchange be in writing? No posek would write down a pesak given orally. It just is not done, especially when the pesak is a simple one, as it was here.

    3. Over the years I have had contact with close talmidim of Rav Moshe. All have told me Rav Moshe supported rescue and continued to do so after Rome was no longer an option. Why? because the halakha is exactly as I explained several times above.

  44. In other words, ma’ase rav counts. Rav Moshe supported rescue, send supplies to absorption centers in Israel, told rabbis to support it and did other positive things. At the same time, he never issued any type of condemnation related to conversions, Rome, or anything else – except to send messengers to beit dins in Israel telling them to treat Ethiopian Jews with kindness, to draw them close and to help them.

    TYhose are the facts.

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