Daniel Goldschmidt – How a Few Volunteers Make a Large Difference
Computers For Needy Ethiopian Students
“how a few volunteers make a large difference”
The Forgotten People Fund, a strictly volunteer organisation in Netanya, Israel was founded in 1998 by two couples: Anne and David Silverman from England and Aida and Rabbi Yosef z”l Miller from America. Operated by only about a dozen people, it has been instrumental in providing the financial means for many Ethiopian Jewish immigrants to progress culturally and economically. Providing computers to needy but deserving university and occupational school students is one of FPF’s many programs. The following four students were recently provided with new computers.
Wubet smiles as he holds his new HP computer just presented to him. He is 29 and his name translates to Charm, Wubet is the youngest of six brothers who immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia when he was twelve years old, accompanied by his five older brothers, three younger sisters and his aged parents. He graduated from high school when he was 19 with a full matriculation, spent the required three years in the Israel Defense Force where he worked in a warehouse, and now is employed by one of Israel’s major cellular providers. His desire is to be a cellular and computer technician. In order to accomplish this he needs to graduate from a two year computer college program.
Pictured with Wubet are Wendy and Jeff Starrfield, retired social workers who made aliyah over 40 years ago and serve on the FPF board. The Starrfields have dedicated the use of their acquired knowledge and skills to aid members of the Ethiopian community.
Rivka, which is Hebrew for Rebecca, is really thrilled to receive her new computer after her current computer crashed and she was not financially able to replace it. She was born in Israel in 1991 and is the third daughter born to a family of six daughters. Her father immigrated to Israel through Sudan in 1984, but her mother being pregnant was not able to make the perilous journey and did not arrive until 1990. Rivka’s mother had to move several times and was often unable to communicate with her husband in Israel. Rivka served her two years in the IDF as a para-professional social worker. After her service she worked with autistic children. She is in her third year of a three and a half year program in occupational therapy and is currently doing her practicum at Laniado Hospital in Netanya. Her goal is to focus on the rehabilitation people suffering from post-stroke and other neurological conditions
Lior, whose Hebrew name means light, is called Branno, which means the same in Amharic, by his grandmother. He is really excited to receive his new computer. He is the younger of two sons and has three sisters. His two older
sisters were born in Ethiopia. His father is a janitor and his mother is a homemaker. He served in the IDF for his required three years as a driver. His parents immigrated to Israel in1984, having taken part in the treacherous trek to Sudan in which many died. Lior is currently studying computer programming at Ruppin Academic Center near Netanya.
Esti which is short for her Hebrew name, Esther and whose Ethiopian name,
Troyia, means good, is ecstatic to receive her new computer. She immigrated to Israel at age four and is now 25. She has six sisters, and one brother who is the oldest sibling. Her mother is disabled and hfr father is a janitor at a supermarket. Esti served in the IDF for her required two years in communications. She is now a first year student at Rupin Academic Center, studying ecunomics and business administration . She has requested a much needed scholarship from FPF but is awaiting availibility.
Even though all of these students are very motivated and capable they had no means to purchase a computer, which is required for their education. They and their families are part of the approximately 130,000 Ethiopians Jews who are living today in Israel, of whom 18,000 live in Netanya.
These African Israelis originally from Ethiopia, were essentially destitute when first contacted by the outside world. In Ethiopia, which is a very poor and rural country, they lived in small mountainous villages. Their historical background is believed to date back to Second Temple times, and they are considered to be remnants of the Tribe of Dan, one of the ten lost Hebrew tribes. In fact, they themselves believed until the19th century that they were the last survivors of Judaism. Their hope to come to Israel was based on the prophecy of Isaiah, who predicted the return at a future date of the ten lost tribes including from Kush, which is where modern Ethiopia is. They always dreamed of a return to Jerusalem. They suffered great hardships at the hands of Christian kings who oppressed them and forced them to convert to Christianity or lose their land. Therefore before immigrating to Israel most were tenant farmers who culturally were still in the biblical age of over 2000 years ago. In 1973 the Chief Sephardic Rabbi certified that they were Jewish and thus their immigration to Israel began. Due to refusal by the Ethiopian government to permit open migration Operation Moses began in 1984. The Jews had to surreptitiously walk by night through Sudan, hiding from the locals who would rob and even kill those found during the day. While about 8000 were successful, about 4000 were lost on the trek due to hunger, illness and murder! Their dream of returning to Jerusalem sustained them and when they finally were able to make contact with the Mossad they were flown to Israel.
In 1991 Operation Solomon brought 14,325 more Ethiopian Jews to Israel, an event considered one of the high points in Israel history. Due to the Ethiopians having overthrown the previous dictatorship the Israeli government was able to arrange with the transport openly from Addis Ababa. It should be noted that the Ethiopian Jews, Beta Israel (the House of Israel) among themselves, were the first African blacks to ever be brought into a Western country as full citizens!
It is difficult to even imagine the problems these Ethiopian immigrants encountered as to cultural shock facing the modern age, after having lived in an ancient rural society. Fortunately, they possess the Jewish ethics of thirsting for education and inspiring their children to become educated and contributing to Israeli society. Wubet and Esti illustrate this beautifully: from a rural African village to higher education and a modern profession!
However me must not understate the difficulty of the older generation to speak modern Hebrew and acquire urban skills. Every-day basic living needs becomes a hardship. Those are the reasons a small non-profit and very dedicated association, with professional one-on-one capabilities, like the Forgotten Peoples Fund (FPF), can be so instrumental in helping members of the Ethiopian community.
FPF is a hands-on charity for needy residents of the city of Netanya of Ethiopian origin. Since it is completely volunteer 99% of its donations are used to fund the multiple programs it supports. Providing computers to needy students is a very important program of FPF. In fact they gave out 15 in 2015, which was increased to 25 in 2016. However, the primary focus of the organisation is their emergency fund, which, upon request by the Netanya municipal social workers, provides basic living needs such as food vouchers, appliance repairs and purchase, obtaining furniture, and basic household maintenance. Other important programs are scholarships, which were provided for 24 students last year, summer camps for 217 children, and several others more minor yet important needs.
If you desire to help by donating please send to the following:
The Forgotten People Fund is a charity registered in Israel #58-022-322-8
In Britain cheques should be made payable to:
British Friends of FPF registered charity 1078671 and posted to:
Paula Freeman, Little Orchard, 35A Rosslyn Crescent
Luton, Bedfordshire LU3 2AT
In United States checks should payable to:
The Good People Fund (EIN #26-1887249)
Please specify: Forgotten People Fund
send to: Naomi Eisnberger The Good People Fund
384 Wyoming Avenue
Millburn, NJ 07041-2127
Please check out its on-line sites: