To launch its program to rescue and restore the ancient Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel, the Genesis 123 Foundation is hosting a webinar with Yityish “Titi” Aynaw, the first Ethiopian Israeli to win the title Miss Israel. The event will take place on Wednesday, February 17 at 9:00 pm Israel time (2:00pm Eastern, 11:00am Pacific time).
Announcing the program, Genesis 123 Foundation President, Jonathan Feldstein stated, “The return of the Ethiopian Jewish community to Israel is no more significant prophetically than the return of millions of other Jews from the corners of the earth. However, being black Jews from Africa, their return is unique on many levels and brings Jews and Christians together in common purpose. We are excited to host this event, and privileged to launch a program to raise funds for supporting Ethiopian Jews.”
“Titi” Aynaw is an inspiring role model on multiple levels. She arrived in Israel as an orphaned child, and started school with little foundation in Hebrew or Israeli culture. She completed her military service as a commander, not just overseeing other soldiers, but always instilling a positive attitude and ethics. Improbably, within ten years, she became the first Ethiopian Israeli to be crowned Miss Israel, which put her on the map among Israelis who celebrated her success, and was the beginning of a successful modeling career.
One of the unique aspects of the Genesis 123 Foundation’s program is bringing together Jews and Christians in support of this mission. With great needs among Ethiopian Jews strained greatly in the pandemic of past year, and thousands more coming home in recent months, the grassroots nature and ability for anyone to participate at any level is critical. There’s been great support from a wide range of rabbis, pastors, and organizations of all backgrounds, and around the world. With each contributing relatively small amounts, together, the total will add up to a large sum and make a big difference.
Underscoring this, Pastor Blake Lorenz of Encounter Ministries in Orlando, FL commented, “God has given us a love for the Jewish people and for Israel. We also believe in helping Ethiopian Jews return to Israel. We are expressing our love for God’s people and fulfilling God’s prophetic word that before the Messiah comes, God will gather the lost tribes back to Israel.”
Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple in Atlanta, the site of a 1958 bombing because of the community’s struggle against segregation and for racial equality added, “We are excited about this opportunity at The Temple both for its opportunity to bring Christians and Jews together and because we care deeply about welcoming Ethiopian Israelis home to Israel and giving them every opportunity to be successful.”
Highlighting the diversity of the enthusiastic response to the campaign, and bringing together Jews and Christians with a common Latino heritage, Rabbi Peter Tarlow of the Center for Latino-Jewish Relations noted, “Just as millions of Latinos suffered at the hands of the Inquisition, so too have the Jews of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Jews’ return to Israel after millennia of exile is one of the great miracles of the modern world. The CLJR salutes this reunification and historic opportunity to bring peoples together and are proud to participate in this modern miracle.”
Rabbi David Wolpe, of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, shared a message from a Jewish perspective that’s relevant to all, “Our brothers and sisters among Ethiopian Jewry remind us of the many ways our tradition can express itself. To support them is not only a mitzvah and help for them, but enables us to sustain a piece of ourselves.
The rescue and restoration of Ethiopian Jews is not just inspiring in the west. Pastor Nicholas Otieno in Nairobi, Kenya offered, “We see prophetic hand of God in the return of the Jewish people from Ethiopia and wish to support that, to be part of God’s plan. However, as lovers of Israel in Africa, engaging with other brothers and sisters who are part of God’s people is extra meaningful and builds a closer bond between us.”
“Not all Ethiopian Israelis have had the success and acclaim that Aynaw has. There are many challenges. One of the goals of our program is to raise up and empower children, to give them the tools and self-confidence to succeed in anything they do. “Titi” Aynaw is one of the increasing number of great models of success among the Ethiopian Jewish community, literally and figuratively,” Feldstein concluded.
Bishop Glenn Plummer of COGIC Israel added a significant historical perspective, “The rescue of Ethiopian Jews is the first time that black Africans were brought out of oppression into freedom, not the opposite. Israel should be celebrated. Ethiopian Jews are a great connection between us.”
The program will be broadcast to the Genesis 123 Foundation Facebook page and YouTube channel. There are limited opportunities for media to join the Zoom meeting and be part of the Q&A. Please contact Gen123Fdn@gmail.com for information and to register for the Zoom conversation.