U.S. Christian-Jewish Group Donates New Ethiopian Center

A spiritual center for Ethiopian immigrants, funded by the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, was dedicated on Wednesday in Lod. The Chicago-based organization donated some NIS 1.5 million for the construction of the building, which they hope will ease the immigration and absorption process for the city’s 2,680 Ethiopian immigrants.

“We don’t usually give money for community centers and we haven’t built any for Russians or Bucharan immigrants; but we made an exception with Ethiopians,” Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, said of his decision to donate the center. “Ethiopians need a place for themselves, where they can be proud of their heritage. They have enough that they need to put up with in society. This is a place where they can come together and take pride in their traditions,” Eckstein added.

American Christians have already funded or partially funded the building and furnishing of 13 similar centers across the country. A Jewish community in South Africa, through a joint project with Keren Hayesod, donated a Torah scroll to the Lod center – the only object in the building not dedicated by Christians. “It was important to us that the Torah scroll comes from Jews,” Eckstein said.

Until Wednesday, Ethiopians were the only community in the city lacking their own religious center, Lod Mayor Benny Regev said at the dedication. “You’ve been waiting for a long time,” he told the crowd, which also included Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, the Ethiopian ambassador to Israel and Jewish Agency Chairman Sallai Meridor. “You deserve this.”

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