Event celebrates and honors Tidewater’s commitment to Jewish rescue and renewal

by | Sep 14, 2012 | Other News

Thursday, Sept. 27, 6–8 pm

In conjunction with the Jewish New Year, the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater is beginning its 2013 Annual Campaign to raise awareness and much needed funds to strengthen and perpetuate Jewish life in Hampton Roads, in Israel and throughout the world.

To celebrate the start of the Campaign, the UJFT will host a special event at the Sandler Family Campus. Although the event is a fundraiser, the entire community is welcome, and there is no charge to attend.

The event marks the opening of the compelling photography exhibit From Gondar to Jerusalem: The Remarkable Rescue of Ethiopia’s Jews. Showing on the second floor of the Campus in the Leon Gallery, the exhibit captures final moments in the journey of Ethiopian Jews as they leave their country and enter their new home in Israel.

Two special guests will share their stories of rescue and renewal during the evening. Travelling from his home in Israel to speak directly to the community is Micha Feldman, an architect of the remarkable airlifts Operation Moses and Operation Solomon. The daring, secret airlifts in 1984 and 1991 rescued more than 22,000 Ethiopian Jews living in constant danger and persecution out of a war-torn country and into Israel. Some people in the community have met Feldman before; in past years, “Abba Micha,” as he is known, has spoken with Tidewater residents when they visited Israel.

Feldman made a strong impact on David Cardon when the two met during a 2009 trip. Upon returning from the Tom Hofheimer Young Leadership Mission to Israel, following the completion of the UJFT Hineni Leadership Program, Cardon felt compelled to share his experience.

“Micha Feldman’s story was so inspiring,” Cardon wrote. “It made me really understand the current struggles Jews have all over the world and how important the Jewish organizations we support have been to help those Jews in need.”

In addition to his continued work as an advocate for Ethiopian Jews through the Israeli organization Selah, Feldman is the author of On Wings of Eagles: The Secret Operation of the Ethiopian Exodus. Recently released in an English translation, the book combines over a decade of Feldman’s diary entries with stories of Ethiopian Jews, providing insight into the dramatic, dangerous and politically entangled history of rescuing thousands of Jews and bringing them “home.” Guests can buy Feldman’s book at the event and he will sign copies. (The book was reviewed in the Sept. 3 issue of Jewish News.)

The second special guest speaker of the evening is Maly Gaday Jackson. 1n 1983, at seven-years-old, Maly, her mother, and her two-year-old sister left Bajenah, their small Ethiopian village of Jewish farmers located near Gondar, on a treacherous journey to freedom. They walked in the dark of night across the desert, enduring snakes, robbers, scorpions, illness and uncertainty until finally making it into camps set up for Ethiopian refugees in Sudan. They waited for months in the camps, still hiding their Judaism, until they were airlifted to Israel in January, 1984.

Jackson, whose primary language is Hebrew (but also remembers Amharic and speaks English fluently), lived in Israel until her mid-20s, when she met and married a member of the United States Navy, William Jackson. The couple has two children, Ariella, four, who attends Strelitz Early Childhood Center, and Joshua, eight, a second grader at Hebrew Academy of Tidewater. Jackson is a teacher’s assistant at Strelitz. This is only the third time she has shared her story with the public.

In honor of the photo exhibit—which will have a limited showing through Oct. 9—and the special guest speakers, some of the food served at the event will have an Ethiopian-kosher flair.

“This years Campaign Kick-off is a “Can’t miss” event,” says Amy Levy, 2013 UJFT Campaign chair. “The story of Operation Moses and Operation Solomon, through the words of one of the principal figures, Micha (“Abba Micha”) Feldman and of Maly Jackson, an Ethiopian Jew who was among thousands rescued, will inspire you. This unbelievable, but true story, demonstrates the “can-do” spirit of the Jewish people.

“Just as our Jewish community provided funds for Operations Moses and Solomon, we continue to provide vital financial assistance for the Ethiopian Jews both within Israel and Ethiopia,” Levy says. “Just as we did then, Federation is making a difference.

“While thousands of miles separate us from our fellow Jews in Israel, Ethiopia and numerous parts of the world, we are one. We are part of the same Jewish community. With the support of our generous community, Federation can continue to foster our Jewish community, here and overseas.”

The evening also recognizes heroes. The winner of the 2012 Hampton Roads Jewish Community Hero will be announced, the result of an online contest where the public nominated and voted—from an outstanding panel of finalists—to choose their Hero. All nominees will be recognized; the grand Hero will receive a $500 grant toward his or her non-profit of choice.

—For more information, visit www.jewishva. org. To RSVP, call Patty, 757-965-6115 or pmalone@ujft.org.

by Laine M. Rutherford