Jonathan Bernis, Executive Director of Jewish Voice Ministries International, began to hold medical clinics among poor Ethiopian Jews in the slums of Addis Ababa and Gondar. As a result of these outreaches, many lives were touched. A Messianic congregation was birthed, and a need for training leaders became evident.
There is a strong Hebraic influence within Ethiopian culture dating back to Solomon’s time. From primitive villages to cities, it is not uncommon to find Stars of David engraved on buildings like Orthodox churches or attached to grass huts. The national language, Amharic, is a Semitic language with many Hebrew root words.
There is also a Jewish community in Ethiopia. Some have kept Jewish traditions for centuries; others have embraced the Orthodox Church and mixed traditions.
A rabbinical decision from Israel declared that the Ethiopian Jews indeed were Jewish. Therefore, in 1984, the government airlifted 25,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, but they left many sick, orphaned, and elderly behind. Those who remain live in deplorable conditions. Truly, they are the poorest of the poor and desperate to hear a word of hope.
God’s Word says, “Ethiopia will soon stretch out her hands to God” (Psalm 68:11). The African Jews of Ethiopia have been rejected and almost forgotten…But not by God. Their untold stories are profound and must be voiced.
Today, the MJBI has various schools in Ethiopia among the following Jewish communities:
- Beta Abraham
- Beta Israel
Working under the leadership of Derese Yohannes, the MJBI has its national office in Addis Ababa.