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Records of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ)

Identifier: I-503

Scope and Content Note

Founded in 1969, the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) was instrumental in the international effort to promote recognition of the Beta Israel (known among non-Jewish Ethiopians as "Falashas") by Israeli authorities, and to assist Jewish emigration from Ethiopia to Israel. The extensive files of the AAEJ include case work files, research materials and Jewish artifacts collected in Ethiopia by AAEJ workers. In the wake of the successful evacuation of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel in 1993, the AAEJ decided to disband and voted to deposit its records at the American Jewish Historical Society. Included are correspondence, office files, photographs, slides, videotapes, audiocassettes and other materials which pertain to AAEJ's efforts to raise the consciousness of the American Jewish community about this unique Jewish subculture. The organization's papers supplement those of its founder, Graenum Berger, which are also held at the American Jewish Historical Society.

The collection is valuable to researchers interested in learning about Ethiopian Jews ("Falashas"), immigration and emigration, rescue and relief, family reunification, widespread famine in Africa, persecution, discrimination, human rights, Israel, Jewish education, activists that worked on behalf of Ethiopian Jews, and massive airlifts (Operation Moses, Operation Solomon, and Operation Exodus). The collection does not contain any administrative files. Because the organization was very small and very volunteer-driven, there were no formal board of directors meeting minutes and no extant financial books exist.

The collection is arranged into six subgroups as follows: Subgroup I: American Association for Ethiopian Jews, Subgroup II: AAEJ Activists, Subgroup III: Ethiopian Jewry - Secondary Articles, Subgroup IV: Israel - Secondary Articles, Subgroup V: Audiovisual Material, and Subgroup VI: Oversized Separated Material.

The collection is in English, Amharic, Chinese, French, Hebrew, Polish, Spanish, and Yiddish.


  • Creation: undated, 1960-1961, 1963, 1965-1968, 1970-1995, 2001-2002


Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at

For reference questions, please email:

Historical Note

American Association for Ethiopian Jews (1969-1993)

The Jews of Ethiopia called themselves "Beta Israel," i.e. the House of Israel. These Jews practiced a pre-Talmudic Judaism which was based on the Torah and preserved many of the customs associated with Israel before the Romans destroyed the country in 135 C.E. For centuries, European Jewish communities knew nothing of the Beta Israel. A Scottish explorer, James Bruce, discovered their existence in 1769 as he was looking for the source of the Nile. These Jews were largely forgotten until the 1950's. They did not use Hebrew in Ethiopia, but a language called Ge'ez (Ethiopic) which was used by Ethiopian Christian denominations.1 The Christian and Muslim majority in Ethiopia called the Jews "Falasha," meaning foreigner, although the Jews had been in that country for centuries.

Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch traveled to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) for the first time in 1904, with support from the French banker Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Faitlovitch had studied Ethiopian languages, Ethiopic and Amharic, at the Sorbonne under Joseph Halévy. Faitlovitch lived among the Ethiopian Jews and became an advocate of their cause. He devoted his entire career to bring the Beta Israel into the Jewish mainstream and convinced them to modify their religious practices so that they conformed to Rabbinic Judaism. Faitlovitch transferred the center of his support for the Falasha to the United States, and with the aid of the New York Committee, opened a boarding school for Falasha in Addis Ababa in 1923. After World War II, Faitlovitch settled in Tel Aviv and restarted his support for the Falasha. He persuaded the Jewish Agency to take up educational work among the Falashas soon after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Wherever Faitlovitch traveled, he tried to stir active interest in the "Black Jews of Abyssinia." He considered the Falashas as the descendants of genuine Jews and an integral part of the Jewish people. He felt that it was his obligation to save them from extinction and lead them through education into the fold of traditional Judaism. Faitlovitch wrote many articles and pamphlets and a series of tracts in Amharic intended for distribution among the Falashas.2 Yona Bogale, a former student of Faitlovitch, was employed by the Jewish Agency in Addis Ababa and distributed Hebrew educational material that he translated into Amharic.

In 1955, Graenum Berger first met a group of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. During the next decade he discovered that information about their history and current life was scarce. While visiting Ethiopia in 1965, he observed the Beta Israel (Falashas) living in poverty, lacking sanitation, receiving substandard education and suffering universal discrimination. The Ethiopian Jews held strongly to Judaism and prayed for a miraculous deliverance to Jerusalem.

Berger discovered a reluctance to assist Ethiopian Jews or bring them to Israel. He undertook a personal campaign to educate and raise money for their health and welfare. Berger created the American Association for Ethiopian Jews in 1969 to bring pressure on world Jewry to save this unique Jewish subculture from extinction. The AAEJ's primary purpose was to make the saving of Ethiopian Jewry a number one priority of the Government of Israel and of world Jewish leadership.3 The AAEJ was the oldest organization dedicated solely to the relief and aliyah of Ethiopian Jews and assisted with the rescue of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Since 1969, the AAEJ used a variety of means to get the Jews from Ethiopia to Israel. Students at the University of California-Irvine campus became extremely vocal on behalf of the Ethiopian Jewry cause under Professor Howard Lenhoff.

Berger and his wife Emma visited Ethiopia often and reported on the plight of the Ethiopian Jews. Activists on behalf of AAEJ visited Ethiopia as well, providing field information about the situation faced by the Ethiopian Jews. The activists were in constant contact with the AAEJ in the United States. The organization provided money, supplies, food and medical assistance to the Ethiopian Jews.

In 1974, the organization was officially incorporated and the AAEJ established its offices in Highland Park, Illinois. The AAEJ was loud and critical of the Israeli government for its inaction regarding the plight of the Ethiopian Jews. The AAEJ was suspicious of the Israeli government's intentions, based on long experience. In the cause of the Ethiopian Jews, Berger repeatedly lobbied Israeli officials. The AAEJ provoked Israel to take action on behalf of this imperiled minority. Even after the chief rabbinate declared the Falashas to be Jewish in 1973, Israel made little effort to bring them in. According to Berger, "Our work was advocacy, to provoke Israel primarily, but also American and world Jewry to take on this responsibility of rescuing and bringing them to Israel."4

After the Ethiopian revolution in 1974, thousands of Ethiopian Jews fled to refugee camps in Sudan and AAEJ brought a few to Israel. By 1977, the Israeli government accepted the right of the Ethiopian Jews to immigrate. Prime Minister Menachem Begin finally opened Israel's doors to Ethiopian Jews, but not wide enough. Berger arrived in Washington, D.C. and urged Senator Rudy Boschwitz to organize a Congressional caucus on their behalf. Yehuda Dominitz, Director General of the Immigration and Absorption Department of the Jewish Agency for Israel, would not reveal how many Ethiopian Jews were arriving to Israel on a weekly basis. Dominitz refused to let his agency rent buses to allow Ethiopian Jews to travel to Jerusalem. He publicly said that he was not in favor of bringing these Jews to Israel.5

In 1978, the leadership of the AAEJ was turned over to Professor Howard Lenhoff. In 1983, Nathan Shapiro succeeded Lenhoff and became the third president of the AAEJ in 1984. Lenhoff and Shapiro helped broaden AAEJ's support and influence for the Falashas cause.

In America during the Reagan Era, the AAEJ organized unofficial luncheons at communal events when they were denied space on the formal agenda. The AAEJ also brought up the issue in Washington, D.C., a move that eventually paid off in its favor. In Ethiopia, the AAEJ began working secretively to bring out Jews to Israel. The AAEJ was more concerned with rescuing Ethiopian Jews rather than making friends in the Jewish communal establishment.6

By 1984, thousands of Ethiopian Jews arrived in the Sudan, living in refugee camps under very poor conditions and with high mortality rates. Continued pressure on the Israeli government by AAEJ led to Operation Moses. Beginning November 21, 1984 and lasting just over a month, more than 7,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted from Sudan in a secret Israeli mission called Operation Moses. On June 5, 1985, a total of 10,000 Jews were evacuated.7 Jerry Weaver, Chief Refugee Officer for the U.S. Embassy, stated that it was "Washington's clout in Sudan that made Operation Moses possible." Weaver facilitated in the rescues of 1984-85 and was a key man in the operation. Weaver's report on Operation Moses can be found in Black Jews, Jews and Other Heroes.

The AAEJ could not have been successful without its outstanding dedicated activists and leaders dedicated to the Ethiopian Jewry cause: LaDena Schnapper, Susan Pollack, and William Recant.

LaDena Schnapper's start in the Ethiopian Jewry movement was as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia in 1963. In 1978, Schnapper was excited to learn of the AAEJ and that they were assisting in the rescue and relief of Ethiopian Jews. About a week later, she volunteered and began speaking on behalf of AAEJ. Schnapper met with Graenum Berger who spearheaded the entire movement and with Howard Lenhoff, AAEJ President, who provided constant encouragement. Schnapper received an orientation on running AAEJ in a single visit to Lenhoff in California. She was impressed by how he had single-handedly built the organization to a level where it was not only raising public awareness on the plight of the Ethiopian Jews, but was also beginning involvement in direct rescues, handled mostly by Shapiro and Berger.

Schnapper started producing flyers and preparing her own talks using her own slides and those provided by AAEJ. She spoke three times a week, raised awareness and money, and became more committed to the AAEJ mission. She received a telephone call from Nathan Shapiro, referred to him by Howard Lenhoff, and asked her to take his place at a synagogue presentation. Shapiro soon hired her to run the AAEJ office in Highland Park and she spent the next several years carrying out the mission of saving Ethiopian Jews.

During the early 1980s, Schnapper assumed the role of International Coordinator. She brought a wealth of experience to the AAEJ from her experience as a Peace Corps worker. Schnapper spoke and wrote Amharic and was able to converse directly with Jewish and non-Jewish Ethiopians. She spoke at speaking engagements, set up organizational meetings, prepared material for fund-raising campaigns or release to the media, and responded to hundreds of letters from the AAEJ direct mail campaign.8

Shapiro and Schnapper discussed projects to help rescue the Ethiopian Jews such as assembling the first AAEJ newsletter, Release, and composing letters for the direct mail effort. They responded to supporters who grew from 12,000 to 35,000 over a few years. Shapiro's impatience to save the Ethiopian Jews filtered through AAEJ. The AAEJ staff irritated the Israelis and the Jewish establishment by stating that not enough was being done to rescue the Ethiopian Jews. Shapiro decided that the best way to get the job done was to make the rescue of Ethiopian Jews a human rights issue and enlist the aid of the U.S. government. Lisa Freund was hired to help with the newsletter and direct mail campaign while Schnapper assisted with the rescue effort.9

In the rescue effort, Schnapper fostered many Ethiopian connections and established a network that extended from North America to Gondar to Addis Ababa and on to Israel. The network was successful in getting Ethiopian Jews out of Ethiopia and continued its work even after Operation Solomon was over in 1991. Schnapper's main U.S. contacts were Semu and Girmai Bayouh, Ethiopians who supplied first-hand insight about what was happening in Ethiopia. Semu suggested that his friend Berhanu may also be a useful local contact. Schnapper spoke with Berhanu and they devised a strategy that facilitated the rescue of more than 1,000 Ethiopian Jews when no one else was willing to make the attempt. Berhanu was insulted by the community for what he was doing and he risked his life many times to save his Jewish friends.10

The AAEJ created an assortment of student, tourist, and work papers that would allow Ethiopian Jews to obtain a passport. The AAEJ obtained U.S. visas for them and provided tickets routing the travelers to the U.S. and on to Israel.

The AAEJ tried all sorts of schemes to send relief dollars to Ethiopia and take out more people. Schnapper determined how much money to dispense depending upon the Ethiopian Jew's situation. Checks were dispensed in $250, $500 and $1,000 amounts to individuals. The AAEJ worked as quietly as possible to avoid interference from the Ethiopian government although officials knew exactly what they were doing. The process was full of obstacles. The rescue of one person often took 18 months. AAEJ chose families to rescue through contacts from Ethiopian relatives in Israel, from letters received from Ethiopia, or whispers received by Berhanu through the grapevine that suggested a family to assist. Correspondence between Schnapper and the individual would often provide enough information necessary to prepare appropriate documentation. Documents were mailed with a check to the person or family with a pink U.S. Postal Service Return Receipt Requested form, guaranteeing that 99 percent of the mail would get through the complex, yet efficient Ethiopian postal system. The AAEJ's success was a slap in the face to critics who said it was impossible to send relief funds to Ethiopia, or even to get people out.11

In Ethiopia, Berhanu organized a group of Jewish and non-Jewish facilitators to assist in the complex 29-step rescue process. Because of the difficulty of the task and the time it took, each family's exodus was celebrated by remembering the Talmudic phrase "If you save one soul, you save the whole world."12

The American Jewish establishment soon became aware of the AAEJ's rescue work and they wanted to know how their organization was able to get the job done. Schnapper prepared a statement detailing the rescue process and methods used for sending in relief funds. As a result of this material and meetings held in New York in 1988, the American Jewish establishment was convinced that Israel could do more and that perhaps the AAEJ should be compensated for its work. The AAEJ met with Federation leaders, the JDC, and the Jewish Agency for Israel and it was agreed that the AAEJ would work closely with Israelis and receive reimbursement.13

Another way the AAEJ generated funds was through the Chai Campaign. The AAEJ calculated that it would take $3,000 to rescue one Ethiopian Jew from the Sudan. Donors were asked to contribute $3,000 to save one life. The campaign became mainstream as other organizations were adopting it. Large gifts were welcome, but the hundreds of small contributions allowed the AAEJ to spend $80,000 to rescue Ethiopian Jews during 1979 to 1980 alone.14

In 1987, the Ethiopian Jews' tragedy, state of neglect, and the "Unfinished Exodus" were addressed at a luncheon program sponsored by the New England Zionist Federation, where the idea of opening a Boston chapter of the AAEJ was also discussed.15

In 1988, Schnapper took a trip to Israel and met Berhanu for the first time. After six years of contact, transfer of over $1 million, and overcoming tremendous obstacles, they discovered that they liked working with each other and continued work well after Operation Solomon. Tesfaye Aderagew was instrumental with sending assistance to ten remote villages in Woggera. Another "brother," Rachamim Elazar, acted as an advisor when Schnapper was uncertain of what to do next. Schnapper developed a web of support with all of these Ethiopians. Schnapper opined that the ultimate reason Ethiopian Jews reached Israel was because enough people cared, and AAEJ was the most significant organization in building that care. Schnapper believed that a "steadfast focused commitment" was the key to bringing out the Ethiopian Jews.16

In 1988, it was estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 Jews remained in Ethiopia and were prohibited from emigrating.17 In 1989, the total population of Ethiopian Jews in Israel was estimated at 20,000 people. The emigration process continued at the rate of about 3,000 Ethiopian Jews rescued annually. This rate was far from satisfactory given the plight of the Beta Israel families who had been divided between Ethiopia and Israel and the political and economic circumstances prevailing in Ethiopia. Those living in Israel continued to insist that the most important single problem that they faced was the separation of their families. Those living in Ethiopia continued to plea for reunification. The Ethiopian Jews in Israel claimed that favoritism influenced the pace of family reunification. Ethiopians with connections to high authorities in the Israeli government were able to bring their families to Israel more easily than others. These types of arrangements were insufficient to meet the tremendous urgent need for family reunification of the Falashas that remained in Ethiopia.18 In 1989, diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Israel were renewed at the embassy level.19

Susan Pollack [Schechtman] worked together with LaDena Schnapper in the late 1980s to early 1990s in rescuing the Ethiopian Jews. In 1989, Pollack realized that a mass movement of the Ethiopian Jews to Israel was the only way to get the job done. Her skills as a persuasive interpreter led to a Board decision to send her to Ethiopia in 1989. In 1990, Schnapper returned to Ethiopia for two years to relieve Susan Pollack and to assist with the final exodus of the Ethiopian Jews. Her skills proved to be invaluable. Schnapper worked directly with thousands of Ethiopian Jews who arrived in Addis Ababa. She was remarkably successful in getting the Jews out of Ethiopia and enabled them to help others to escape. As cooperation with Israeli organizations improved, Schnapper and Berger met with the Jewish organizations working in Ethiopia (JDC, HIAS, the Jewish Agency for Israel and NACOEJ) every three months to coordinate case lists and address other administrative matters.

In April 1990, Will Recant, the first executive director of the AAEJ in Washington, D.C. from 1984 to 1983, arrived in Addis Ababa. Pollack and Recant made a decision that would alter the course of aliyah. They reviewed the progress of the emigration and determined that the conditions were right to accelerate the AAEJ transport program. This decision would help trigger the mass migration of almost all of the Jewish community from Gondar to Addis Ababa within a couple months.20

In May 1990, when thousands of Ethiopian Jews left their farming villages and headed to Addis Ababa with the hope of immigrating to Israel, they came to the AAEJ compound where they were housed and fed. The AAEJ started the first Hebrew school to reduce the idleness of the children and prepared them for their new lives in Israel. Students were taught Hebrew, math and Amharic. The children were fed a nutritious lunch, often their only meal for the day. The AAEJ initiated an employment program to combat the massive unemployment and to give the Ethiopian Jews the dignity of working. The program grew from a few weavers to 2,400 - the largest employer of Jews in the capital. The AAEJ organized the first Jewish medical transport program in Addis Ababa to get medical assistance for the sick and poor.21

Between January and May of 1991, an additional 3,500 Ethiopian Jews were flown to Israel, and AAEJ staff in Washington, D.C. was busy organizing a massive rescue mission with Ethiopian, Israeli, and American government officials.22 Working behind the scenes in Washington, D.C., Jerusalem and Addis Ababa, the AAEJ helped coordinate Operation Solomon - the dramatic May 1991 airlift that brought approximately 14,300 Ethiopian Jews to Israel (various sources have quoted different amounts of Ethiopian Jews rescued). As troops stormed the capital, the AAEJ together with the U.S. and Israeli governments, the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency, helped facilitate the operation and get the Ethiopian Jews out quickly. On May 24-25, 1991, the Ethiopian Jews were airlifted in the midst of the civil war and flown to Israel. The Ethiopian Jews arrived to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Ethopian Jews faced obstacles such as culture shock and language difficulties as Israel made its best efforts to absorb the newcomers.23 By December 1991, 1,073 more Ethiopian Jews fled, bringing the total amount of Ethiopian Jews rescued to 19,940.24 Around 1992, Recant travelled to Israel where he spoke with the newly elected Labor government about the current absorption of Ethiopian immigrants.

While AAEJ had been successful in raising money to support the rescue effort, Berger found that it would be difficult to raise the funds necessary to carry out an absorption program. Berger suggested that AAEJ disband since it had accomplished its mission of the successful rescue of 20,000 Ethiopian Jews. At the AAEJ annual board meeting in 1993, the decision was made to cease its operation. The offices in Washington, D.C. and Jerusalem were phased out in December 1993 and all AAEJ records were donated to the American Jewish Historical Society. The AAEJ became superseded by the Israel Association for Ethiopian Jewry (IAEJ) in 1993. The IAEJ gave a voice to the needs of the Ethiopian-Israeli community "to advance wiser, more effective and more efficient policies in the spheres of education, employment, housing and community empowerment."25 Friends of Ethiopian Jews (FEJ), founded in 1998 by Will Recant, Susan Pollack and other members of the AAEJ, were dedicated to assisting the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel. They worked to create full integration and successful absorption in Israel for the Ethiopian Jewish community.26

Chronology - Timeline of AAEJ and Ethiopian Jewish History

Ethiopia and Israel begin full diplomatic relations.
The American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) is founded by Graenum Berger.
ORT (Organization for the Rehabilitation and Training) sets up schools, clinics, and vocational training centers in Ethiopia.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi, rules, following the Radbaz, that the Beta Israel are from the tribe of Dan and confirms the Jewish identity of the community.
Emperor Haile Selassie, ruler of Ethiopia since 1930, is overthrown in a coup. A Marxist regime is established and headed by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam. This begins a wave of violent acts throughout the country, some severely affecting the Jews.
Agrarian Reform, meant to benefit tenant farmers, including Jews, creates a violent backlash by traditional landowners and much suffering for all of Ethiopia's citizens. Israel, in an attempt to improve relations with Ethiopia and secure freedom for the Beta Israel, renews military assistance to Ethiopiaafter Somalia besieges it on the southeastern border. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren agrees with the 1973 opinion of Rabbi Yosef. Interior Minister Shlomo Hillel signs an ordinance to accept all Ethiopian Jews officially under the Israeli Law of Return. Ethiopian Jews are granted full citizenship and receive the full rights given to new immigrants.
Approximately 250 Ethiopian Jews are living in Israel.
Prime Minister Menachem Begin comes to power in Israel. He requests that Colonel Mariam allow Israel to transport approximately 200 Jews to Israel in an empty Israel military jet returning to Israel from Ethiopia.
Approximately 8,000 Ethiopian Jews are brought to Israel by covert action.
Canadian Association for Ethiopian Jews (CAEJ) is founded in Toronto, Canada.
North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry is founded by Barbara Ribakov Gordon, in New York.
The massive airlift known as Operation Moses begins on November 18th and ends on January 5th, 1985. During those six weeks, some 6,500 Ethiopian Jews are flown from Sudan to Israel. Attempts are made to keep the rescue effort secret, but public disclosure forces an abrupt end. In the end, an estimated 2,000 Jews die en route to Sudan or in Sudanese refugee camps.
With the abrupt halting of Operation Joshua in 1985, the Ethiopian Jewish community is split in half, with some 15,000 souls in Israel, and more than 15,000 still stranded in Ethiopia. For the next five years, only very small numbers of Jews reach Israel.
The United States Congressional Caucus for Ethiopian Jewry is established with over 140 representatives currently listed.
The Ethiopian leaders in Israel organize an assembly at Binyanei Ha'uma in Jerusalem, where the Israeli public comes together in solidarity for reunification of Ethiopian Jewry. Prime Minister Shamir, Absorption Minister Yacov Tsur, Knesset Speaker Shlomo Hillel, International Human Rights Lawyer Erwin Cotler, and Natan Scharansky participate in the conference.
The World Union of Jewish Students holds a conference on Ethiopian Jewry in Ashkelon with a closing ceremony at President Herzog's home. Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations, Pinchas Eliav, makes a formal statement at the United Nations Human Rights Commission for the reunification of Ethiopian Jews in Israel.
Ethiopia and Israel renew diplomatic relations. This creates high hopes among Jewry for the reunification of Ethiopian Jews in Israel.
Ethiopia's ruler, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, makes a public statement expressing desire to allow Ethiopian Jews to be reunited with family members in Israel.
With Eritrean rebels advancing on the capital each day, Colonel Mengistu flees Ethiopia. Israel asks the United States to urge rebels to allow a rescue operation for Ethiopian Jews. Spanning the 24th-25th of May, Operation Solomon airlifts 14,324 Jews to Israel aboard thirty-four El Al jets in just over thirty-six hours. Over 1991/1992 around 34,000 Ethiopian Jews arrive in Israel.
AAEJ disbands.
Friends of Ethiopian Jews is founded by former AAEJ leaders.
Ethiopia blocks a plan by Israel to move the Falasha Mura to Israel.
Following a visit by Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, Israel says it plans to start moving the remaining 20,000 Ethiopians of Jewish origin to Israel.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approves the decision to allow 700 Falasha Mura a month to fly to Israel. In September, about 1,000 members of the Falasha Mura group begin a three-day hunger-strike in Addis Ababa to complain of delays in their promised transfer to Israel. Ethiopia agrees to step up immigration to a monthly 600 people to Israel, double the previous number.
The Jewish Agency says that up to the end of 2008 about 6,300 Ethiopians will immigrate. Israel has said that there are now 110,000 Israelis of Ethiopian descent.


  1. "Ethiopian Jews - Beta Israel" ( Accessed January 17, 2012.
  2. Faitlovitch, Jacques. Unknown encyclopedic source and year. Found in AJHS Howard Lenhoff Papers (P-902), Box 23, Folder 2.
  3. "The AAEJ: The Organization, Its Programs and People." Found in American Association for Ethiopian Jews Records (I-503), Box 109, Folder 23.
  4. Yudelson, Larry. "Ethiopian Jewry Group Closes Shop, Saying Its Work Is Done." Jewish Telegraphic Agency: 1922 to present; 06/17/1993, p7-7, 1p. Accessed from EBSCO Index to Jewish Periodicals Database, January 10, 2012.
  5. "Ethiopian Jews - Beta Israel" ( Accessed January 17, 2012.
  6. (Yudelson, 1993)
  7. "Fact Sheet - In Ethiopia." American Association for Ethiopian Jews Records (I-503), Box 136, Folder 12.
  8. Berger, Graenum. Rescue the Ethiopian Jews! A Memoir, 1955-1995. 1996. Pp. 193 (AJHS Call # DS135.E75 B47 1996)
  9. (Berger, 1996, 194)
  10. (Berger, 1996, 195)
  11. (Berger, 1996, 195-196)
  12. (Berger, 1996, 197)
  13. (Berger, 1996, 197)
  14. Lenhoff, Howard. Black Jews, Jews, and Other Heroes. pp.127 (AJHS Call # DS135.E75 L37 2007)
  15. "The Unfinished Exodus of Ethiopian Jews." Jewish Advocate (1909-1990), December 10, 1987. Accessed January 23, 2012 from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Database (
  16. (Berger, 1996, 198-199)
  17. "Ethiopia Jails Jews." Jewish Advocate (1909-1990), January 7, 1988. Accessed January 13, 2012 from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Database (
  18. Wagaw, Teshome G. For Our Soul: Ethiopian Jews in Israel. Pp. 235.
  19. "Ethiopia." Encyclopedia Judaica, Second Edition, Volume 6.
  20. Spector, Stephen. Operation Solomon: The Daring Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews. Pp. 40. (AJHS Call # DS135.E75 S64 2004)
  21. Brochure in American Association for Ethiopian Jews Records (I-503), Box 136, Folder 12.
  22. "Fact Sheet - In Ethiopia." American Association for Ethiopian Jews Records (I-503), Box 136, Folder 12.
  23. "OneWorld Magazine presents 'Surviving Salvation'" by Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Dr. Steven Kaplan. ( Accessed January 13, 2012.
  24. Brochure in American Association for Ethiopian Jews Records (I-503), Box 136, Folder 12.
  25. Israel Association for Ethiopian Jews. Accessed January 24, 2012.
  26. Friends of Ethiopian Jews ( Accessed January 24, 2012.
  27. Timeline of Ethiopian Jewish History. ( Accessed January 10, 2012.
  28. About the Organization. Friends of Ethiopian Jews: Founders and Directors ( Accessed January 17, 2012.
  29. "The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village." ( Accessed January 17, 2012.
  30. Brochure in American Association for Ethiopian Jews Records (I-503), Box 136, Folder 12.
  31. "The Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village." ( Accessed January 17, 2012.
  32. (Berger, 1996, 187)


92.2 Linear Feet (168 manuscript boxes, 4 Hollinger boxes, 5 card file boxes, 1 oversized OS1 box, 1 oversized OS6 folder, 9 reels)

Language of Materials







Spanish; Castilian



Founded in 1969, the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) was instrumental in the international effort to promote recognition of the Beta Israel (known among non-Jewish Ethiopians as "Falashas") by Israeli authorities, and to assist Jewish emigration from Ethiopia to Israel. The extensive files of the AAEJ include case work files, research materials and Jewish artifacts collected in Ethiopia by AAEJ workers. In the wake of the successful evacuation of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel in 1993, the AAEJ decided to disband and voted to deposit its records at the American Jewish Historical Society. Included are correspondence, office files, photographs, slides, videotapes, audiocassettes and other materials which pertain to AAEJ's efforts to raise the consciousness of the American Jewish community about this unique Jewish subculture. The organization's papers supplement those of its founder, Graenum Berger, which are also held at the American Jewish Historical Society.


The collection is arranged into six subgroups as follows:

  1. Subgroup I: American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ), undated, 1973-1994
  2. Series A: Correspondence A-Z, undated, 1981-1986, 1991-1992
  3. Series B: AAEJ General Files, undated, 1979-1994
  4. Series C: AAEJ Washington DC, undated, 1973-1974, 1976-1993
  5. Subseries 1: General Office Files, undated, 1974, 1976-1977, 1979-1992
  6. Subseries 2: Individual Files, undated, 1973, 1977-1993
  7. Series D: AAEJ Articles, undated, 1975-1977, 1980-1983
  8. Series E: AAEJ Release, 1983-1990
  9. Series F: Political Files, undated, 1981-1984, 1986, 1988-1989
  10. Subseries 1: Congressional Files, undated, 1981-1984, 1986
  11. Subseries 2: ARNEJ Petitions and Letters of Support, undated, 1988-1989
  12. Subsubseries A: Petitions, 1989
  13. Subsubseries B: Petitions to Politicians with Letters of Support, undated, 1988-1989
  14. Series G: External Organizations, undated, 1983-1993
  15. Series H: AAEJ Jack I. Fishbein Award Dinner, 1984
  16. Series I: Miscellaneous AAEJ, undated, 1977-1993
  1. Subgroup II: AAEJ Activists, undated, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1968, 1970-1993
  2. Series A: LaDena Schnapper (AAEJ Coordinator) Files, undated, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1968, 1970-1991
  3. Subseries 1: Schnapper Correspondence, undated, 1961, 1973-1974, 1976-1982
  4. Subsubseries a: Alphabetical, undated, 1961, 1976-1982
  5. Subsubseries b: Individuals, undated, 1973-1974, 1976, 1978-1982
  6. Subsubseries c: Assistance Correspondence, undated, 1973, 1979-1980
  7. Subseries 2: Schnapper Rescue and Relief, undated, 1968, 1970-1991
  8. Subsubseries a: Rescue and Relief A-Z, undated, 1970-1991
  9. Subsubseries b: Rescue/Relief Ethiopians to Israel, undated, 1970-1990
  10. Subsubseries c: Rescue/Relief Ethiopians to U.S., undated, 1981, 1983-1990
  11. Subsubseries d: Rescue/Relief Ethiopians to Canada, undated, 1982-1990
  12. Subsubseries e: Ethiopians to European countries, undated, 1968, 1974, 1983-1990
  13. Subsubseries f: Unsorted rescue relief material, 1984-1990
  14. Subseries 3: Schnapper's Chicago AAEJ General Files A-Z, undated, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1973-1990
  15. Series B: William Recant Files, undated, 1979, 1981-1993
  16. Subseries 1: Recant General Files, undated, 1979, 1981-1993
  17. Subseries 2: AAEJ Washington DC Recant: Congress: General Files A-Z, undated, 1979, 1982-1993
  18. Series C: Arlene Kushner Files, undated, 1981-1992
  19. Subseries 1: General Files, undated, 1982-1992
  20. Subseries 2: Individual Files, undated, 1981-1982, 1987-1992
  21. Series D: Rachel Weinstein Files, undated, 1988, 1991-1993
  22. Series E: Loulette Samuels Files, 1978, 1986-1991
  1. Subgroup III: Ethiopian Jewry - Secondary Articles, undated, 1960, 1965, 1967-1968, 1971, 1973-1993, 1995
  2. Series A: Articles and Newsclippings on Ethiopia and Region, 1965, 1968, 1971, 1973-1984
  3. Series B: Falashas, undated, 1978-1984
  4. Series C: Falashas/Ethiopian Jews Newspaper Clippings, undated, 1977-1991
  5. Series D: Ethiopian Jewry Press Clippings, undated, 1986-1990
  6. Series E: Ethiopian Jewry Subject Files, undated, 1979, 1981-1993, 1995
  7. Series F: Articles and Reports on Ethiopian Jewry, undated, 1967, 1974-1975, 1977-1985, 1987-1991
  8. Series G: Ethiopian Jewry Publications, Pamphlets, and Books, 1960, 1968, 1974, 1976-1979, 1980-1985, 1987-1991, 1993
  9. Series H: Card Files on Ethiopian Jews in U.S., Canada and Israel, undated, 1989-1990
  1. Subgroup IV: Israel - Secondary Articles, undated, 1972-1992
  2. Series A: Israel, undated, 1981-1992
  3. Series B: Aliyah Records, undated, 1984-1989
  4. Series C: Family Reunification Records, undated, 1972-1990
  1. Subgroup V: Audio-Visual Materials, undated, 1965, 1975, 1977, 1979-1992, 2001-2002
  2. Series A: Photographs, Pins, and Slides, undated, 1965, 1975, 1977, 1979-1982, 1986-1992
  3. Series B: Video and Audio Material, undated, 1980, 1983-1991, 2001-2002
  1. Subgroup VI: Oversized Separated Materials, undated, 1981-1988, 1990-1991

Acquisition Information

Graenum Berger donated his AAEJ papers in 1987 and 1988.

Rachel Weinstein, on behalf of AAEJ, donated the bulk of its papers in July-October 1993.

Chicago AAEJ office records donated in January 1995.

Nate Shapiro donated his AAEJ material in May 2001.

Digitization Note

Selected materials have been digitized. Selections were made by the Friends of Ethiopian Jews, and the digitization of the selected material has been made possible through a generous grant from Howard and Sylvia Lenhoff.

Related Material

American Jewish Historical Society (New York, NY):

Graenum Berger Papers (P-717)

Howard Lenhoff Papers (P-902)

Nathan Shapiro Papers (P-893)

Saralea Zohar Aaron Papers (P-771)

Matthew Penn - Graenum Berger Collection (P-794)

American Jewish Archives (Cincinnati, OH):

American Pro-Falasha Committee Papers (MS-61)

Salvation for the Lost Tribe: The Ethiopian Exodus, a documentary about Operation Moses and the continuous Ethiopian exodus from Sudan to Israel since the 1980’s. Made by students of Herricks High School in Long Island, NY.

Processing Information

In summer of 2001, the AJHS received a grant from Edith and Henry Everett which made it possible for Jessica Weglein, an archival intern, to begin processing of the LaDena Schnapper papers, which are the rescue and relief case work files of the Ethiopian Jews as well as general files. The rescue and relief files contain the actual correspondence between the Ethiopian Jews and Schnapper.

In February-September 2010, Marvin Rusinek processed the remainder of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews records and arranged the collection into series. In December 2011, the collection was rearranged into subgroups and the folders were rearranged intellectually and physically for better access to researchers.

Jerry Brotman and Sheldon Moline, volunteers at the AJHS, assisted with the numbering of folders as part of the arrangement part of the processing.


Guide to the Records of American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ), undated, 1960-1961, 1963, 1965-1968, 1970-1995, 2001-2002   *I-503
Processed by Jessica Weglein and Marvin Rusinek
© 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Description is in English.

Revision Statements

  • May 2018: dao links for selected digitized materials added by Leanora Lange.
  • May 2021: RJohnstone: post-ASpace migration cleanup.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States