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The Invisible Jews and The Famine in Ethiopia.

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A rocket landed in a school. Children are killed as are parents. If this was in Sderot, this would be on all the Jewish channels, on all Jewish instagram accounts on even news networks. There would be discussion of who is right or wrong. But it is not in Sderot and so there is silence.

There is a famine that has killed thousands and likely to kill millions. It threatens 6000 Jews. If this was in Ukraine, there would be an airlift. Israeli tents would be setup, Israeli planes would be flying people to Ben Gurion and facebook would be lit up with stories of how Jews save Jews. But this isn’t Ukraine, this is Ethiopia, and there is just a single article in the Hebrew version of Ynet that doesn’t even describe the Jews in peril.

The Jews of US are not demanding help, the synagogues are not collecting money, Jewish Federation is not holding fundraisers. The fact that the ancestors of these Jews went south the same distance that other ancestors went north, has made them invisible. The fact that Jews who went to Europe became white through intermarriage made them visible, while the Jews of Africa who became dark for the same reason, have become invisible.

How is this possible? How is it possible that two populations who retained their roots, maintained records, suffered and overcame bitter antisemitism have drifted so far apart?

How is it that Jews speak of the need to help eachother, and others, will send cadaver dogs to South America, but will not send a single plane to Ethiopia? I’m not going to say that Israeli leadership is racist. I have lived in Israel long enough to know the difference between petty individual racism of Israel that exists everywhere and the systemic racism that we see in America and other European nations. People will say that they do not have “evil intent”. It’s just unconscious bias. But Jeffrey Robinson in the Netflix Special Who We Are reminds us that to the person experiencing the racism, there is no distinction. To the 6000 Jews in Tigray experiencing the war and the famine, there is no distinction between the intentional and non intentional racism.

American liberal Jews love to speak of Tikun Olam. Some have helped in Ethiopia only to leave briskly when the Ethiopians didn’t do as the polite Americans demanded. The American Jewish press will proudly show their help and be silent when they don’t. If a Jewish family starves in Africa and no one writes about it, did they really make a sound? Did they really exist?

They did. Torah often shows that our choices to not help each other end in terrible tragedy to our own people. It was the 1924 Exclusion act that was passed with overwhelming Jewish support that prevented Jews from coming to US in 1939. It was the Communist Jewish ideologies that religion and ethnicity are unimportant that lead to the repressions of Jews by USSR and later their support for the Arab armies against Israel.

Our actions have effect on all of us. Lack of our actions also have effect on all of us. Choosing not to help the weakest of us says the most about us. It is imperative that Jewish people recognize the plight of the Jews of Ethiopia. It is time that Jews of America and Israel act towards all Jews in the same manner, whether they are from Morocco or France, Ukraine or Ethiopia. Because their survival depends on it, and so does ours.

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