Jews of EthiopiaThe threat of annihilation that looms over the Jews of Ethiopia was the focus of an address here last night by Bennett Yanowitz, chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC) at its annual plenary session here, attended by 400 Jewish leaders from III local and II national Jewish community relations organizations.

The Falashas, Ethiopian Jewry, “face extinction not merely from famine but from persecution in the form of pillaging, slavery, forced conversion and other deprivations,” Yanowitz said. He noted that the area of the world they live in is one where whole populations face a slow death from starvation, where “refugees are numbered in the millions and are largely ignored by the world.”

Notes Differences Of Opinion

But “the adequacy of world Jewry’s response to the plight of Ethiopian Jewry is an issue that tends to invite differences between those who stress the complexity and risk involved in the rescue effort and others who focus on the peril to the survival of the Ethiopian Jews,” Yanowitz said. He observed that those who focus on the peril “contend that the rescue efforts are minimal, as measured by the relatively few who have made their way out, and say that more needs to be done and therefore more can be done.”

“While we know that there are differences among us within the Jewish community on many issues when it comes to saving lives we expect unity, not recriminations,” Yanowitz declared. Cites Volatile Situation

He warned however, that public condemnation of the Ethiopian government, mass protests and Entebbe-like operations were neither productive nor possible. He cited the volatile political situation in Soviet-influenced Ethiopia; the continuing war between Ethiopia and Somalia; the rabid anti-Israel stance of Ethiopia’s Arab neighbors; the vast and forbidding geographical setting of the remote Falasha villages; and the confusion and massive privations in the refugee camps on the Ethiopian-Somalia border where Ethiopian Jews are intermingled with perhaps two million others.

Because of the difficulties facing rescue efforts, “neither we nor our Israeli friends are satisfied at the rate of emigration of Ethiopian Jews,” Yanowitz said.

A Pledge To Save Falashas

He expressed confidence in the Israeli personnel and apparatus that engineered previous rescue efforts in other countries and is now working on Falasha rescue operations. In that connection, Yanowitz read a telegram from Israeli Premier Menachem Begin which stated-

“The government of the day in Israel took the momentous decision to bring home all our Falasha brethren and it is doing its utmost persistently without let-up, to carry out this historic task.” Begin pledged that “We shall not rest until the last of our brethren will come back home and find a haven here for himself and his family.”

Yanowitz cited the role of the NJCRAC Committee on Ethiopian Jewry which, he said, is to measure the effectiveness of efforts being made in light of the needs and circumstances. He noted that the committee includes all of NJCRAC’s national member agencies, the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF), the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the United Israel Appeal.

He said that it serves in fact as a committee on oversight on this issue. Yanowitz promised to continue NJCRAC’s role of bringing together all groups concerned with saving Ethiopian Jews until the job is done.

JDL Stages Protest Action

Last Thursday, the Jewish Defense League staged a 90-minute sit-in at the offices of NJCRAC in New York City to protest their “indifference and quiet resignation to the murder and torture of Ethiopian Jews. ” Meir Jolowitz, chairman of the JDL, said the 50 JDL members who took part in the sit-in demanded to know “how many more must die before the so-called respectable Jewish organizations learn that it was quiet diplomacy that already cost our people six million lives. Wasn’t one Holocaust enough?”

Jolowitz, noting that the Ethiopian Jewish population “once numbering several hundred thousand has been reduced to some 20,000, ” said the JDL action last week was to demand of NJCRAC officials that the organization “make a priority in practice, not in lip service, to rescue Jews being oppressed in Ethiopia and refugee camps in the Sudan.” According to Jolowitz, NJCRAC spokesmen said they would continue to make it a priority issue.