NACOEJ History

  • 1981: First American-Jewish Mission to Ethiopia.
  • 1982: The North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry is founded in Barbara Ribakove Gordon’s apartment. NACOEJ is incorporated.
  • 1983: First trip to Israel to investigate possible assistance to Ethiopian absorption
  • 1984: First of 18 official NACOEJ missions to Ethiopia takes place in January; Operation Moses begins in November.
  • 1987: The Adopt-A-Student (AAS) College Sponsorship Program is created to provide living stipends to Ethiopian-Israeli college students.
  • 1988: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Twinning Program is inaugurated, matching American children with their Ethiopian-Israeli peers.
  • 1990: NACOEJ opens a small compound in Addis Ababa, providing recreational facilities for children, including Children’s Circus and vocational opportunities for adults waiting to immigrate to Israel.
  • 1991: Operation Solomon; Beta Israel compound expands in Addis Ababa to include a school and religious facilities. Feeding programs soon follow. Embroiderers’ co-op begins.
  • 1993: First NACOEJ Limudiah: Intensive After-School Study Program opens in Ramla.
  • 1995: Limudiah opens in Lod.
  • 1997: High School Sponsorship Program is founded to provide funds to help Ethiopian-Israeli high school teens attend local high schools.
  • 1998: Limudiah programs open in Rehovot: Beta Israel compound opens in Gondar, Ethiopia.
  • 2004: Limudiah opens in Rishon LeZion.
  • 2005: NACOEJ forms an agreement with the Jewish Agency for Israel and the United Jewish Communities on aliyah and support of the Beta Israel community in Gondar.
  • 2006: Limudiah programs open in Nes Ziona and Kiryat Ekron.
  • 2007: Limudiah program opens in Gedara. Ethiopian government grants NACOEJ land for a new Beta Israel school.
  • 2009: Limudiah program opens in Jerusalem
  • 2011: NACOEJ programs in Gondar are handed over to Jewish Agency.

As we turn over our programs in Ethiopia to the Jewish Agency for Israel, to facilitate the aliyah of the community and to provide a larger budget for their support while waiting (for years, on the present quota) to leave for Israel, we want to review briefly some of the programs we established and maintained over some 20 years.

These included:

Schools for Jewish children from pre-school through eighth grade, with full secular and Jewish/Hebrew language curricula.

  • Nourishing school lunches.
  • Feeding Centers for young children from age six months through six years, providing two excellent all-you-can-eat, meals a day.
  • Two equivalent meals a day in the Feeding Centers for pregnant and nursing women. Community-wide regular food distributions.
  • Distributions of iodized salt, soap, candles, tools, mosquito nets, etc. Establishment of libraries of children’s books.
  • Creation of religious facilities including synagogues, mikvehs, matzoh baking, celebrations of all Jewish and Israeli holidays, daily services, Sefer Torahs, tallitot, tefillin, siddurim, etc.
  • Employment programs enabling hundreds of heads of households (men and women) to earn money at traditional handicrafts including funding a needleworkers’ co-op, providing tools for those seeking outside labor and more.
  • Health care via nurses at schools and Feeding Centers, referrals to JDC clinics.
  • On-site employment of hundreds of community members as purchasers, cooks, servers, clean-up crews, teachers, guards, compound managers and more.
  • Sports, music, arts and circus training for talented children.
  • Adult education at many levels.

Not bad for a small organization largely dependent on grass-roots funding.

We thank all our supporters for making this record possible, and ask for you continued support for our equally essential programs for these Jews arriving, and already in, Israel!