On June 25th, an Ethiopian refugee, Sintayehu Garedew, American photographer Sam Litvin, and American Rapper Kosha Dillz aka Rami Matan Even-Esh held an event via Zoom. It was to raise awareness of the Jewish community called Beta-Avraham who inhabit the North Shewa mountains and town of Kechene near Addis Ababa. The nearly 80,000 people live in cramped and dangerous conditions and the fundraiser aims to raise funds for masks and protective equipment for the elderly and workers in the community affected by the strict lockdown of the Ethiopian government in response to COVID.
About 50 minutes into the chat, as rapper Kosha Dillz was talking about the need for people to fund these small communities directly, a few new faces began to appear in the Zoom which was not meant to be open to anyone else and was being streamed via Eventbrite platform. The icons of these new participants were at first quiet but as more appeared with graphics that did not resemble the usual type of attendants.
Within minutes of arriving, they began to yell obscenities in English and Spanish, taking over the screen, posting lewd images and posting “Heil Hitler” into the chat.
They found the link which was posted publicly on the event’s GoFundMe page half hour before the meeting. As a result, the meeting was adjourned and restarted with another link.
The meeting resumed with playing a music video by Demeke Engida, an Ethiopian Kechene Jew who emigrated to Israel and then a brief description of the antisemitic attack, how it doesn’t matter if you’re a black Jew, or a poor Jew or a Jew fleeing from terror, the antisemites will pursue us and haunt us, and it is up to us to watch out for each-other, and to help each-other. Afterwards, Even Esh reflected on what happened “I try to laugh it up but it does bother me that that kind of happens and it is just, normal for us.” He went on to say “the way we we’re going to beat this thing called bigotry is by sticking up not for our own group of people but we stick up for others.”
It was at the start of the talk that Sintayehu described how being silent for hundreds of years did not stop the attacks from hateful bigots. He described how once his neighbors burned down the home of his grandfather, blaming death of a child on the family. He described how he and the young people created the first official out of hiding synagogue in Ethiopia to show pride and to become visible. With visibility, attacks do not stop, but the world at least sees that they are acts of hate that will not be met with silence.
The meeting ended with Kosha Dillz and Sintayehu Garedew expressing their dedication to helping Jews of Kechene and a music video by Kosha Dillz “Span-Hebrish”, a homage that video and language can be used for more than hate, but expression of love and humanity.
To stand with the community, you can join the crowdfunder for the community at www.GoFundMe.com/f/KecheneJews