Taking responsibility in Ethiopia

The Montreal participants of The Ethiopian Short-term Service Program

Our young adults see their Jewish collective responsibility as a call to action. They understand global Jewish peoplehood is something to take responsibility for and not just to participate in. Federation CJA is listening to the voices of our young people who wish to be involved in tikun olam, who wish to help those who are in need as it relates to practical methods, no matter in what capacity. Partnering with the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), Federation CJA is fulfilling the aspirations of our young people by offering an Ethiopian Short-term Service Program taking place over the holiday period involving 20 participants from the Montreal Jewish community and our Beer Sheva/Bnei Shimon partnership communities who are between the ages of 18 and 25.

The Ethiopian Short-term Service Program will take place between January 2nd and January 13th, 2012. Follow this amazing journey at federationcja.org/ethiopia as participants report to us with daily blogs and photos.

“This once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Ethiopia with other Montreal and Beer Sheva/Bnei Shimon students will expose me to a new culture and way of life. Learning about Ethiopian Jewish traditions and struggles will enrich my understanding of the diversity of the Jewish people and the richness of our heritage. It has been my experience that tzedakah is far more meaningful when done personally. Taking an active hands-on role in the work we will be doing in Ethiopia and seeing first-hand how my efforts will benefit others will be rewarding, educational and empowering,” said Talia Bensoussan, a Canadian participant on the Mission. “I am excited to go on a humanitarian mission together with members of our sister city in Beer Sheva. Ever since I was in elementary school, I have been building bridges with the Beer Sheva community through the Gesher Chai program. This opportunity will enable me to cement relationships with my peers from our partnership region. Together, we will share a unique experience that will bond us forever.”

The service program provides these young Jews with the opportunity to directly engage and work through meaningful volunteer projects to meet real needs while gaining an understanding of pressing Jewish and humanitarian challenges worldwide. They will learn through hands-on and practical experience that Jews are obligated to work towards achieving a more perfect world by increasing the well-being of humankind. The service work will focus on meeting the health, development and educational challenges of children and youth in Ethiopia. During the mission, they will assist in the construction of a new school house, distribute vitamins and de-worming medication to local children and facilitate sports, art and education enrichment activities in local schools.

“I see this trip as a unique opportunity for learning through personal experience about what is happening in Ethiopia, a Third World country, a different way of life, the way of dealing with problems (food, diseases and education among others), survival and the children who are born every day into this reality . I see this trip as a first-hand learning experience, to have personal contact with residents as opposed to learning from the media, and on a personal level, from my parents who were born in Ethiopia, to see and not just hear about Ethiopia. I hope I can give of myself this trip, to understand, see, draw conclusions, find meaning and learn lessons for the future on how we can contribute to communities all over the world and gain self-gratification and personal fulfillment,” said Rosa Vota, a participant from Israel.

During the Mission, participants will visit many key Jewish sites, including Ambober, a village that once served as the capital of Ethiopia’s Jewish (Falasha) community, where they will receive an overview of Gondar’s rich Jewish history. At the Israel Transit House, they will meet with Felas Mora (Ethiopian Jews remaining in Gondar) who are preparing to make aliyah and will see first-hand the care and maintenance needed to help this population immediately prior to their departure.

Each day will include time dedicated to learning about Ethiopia’s history, development needs and programs that address humanitarian issues in Ethiopia and around the world. Throughout the program, the participants will engage in cultural exchanges with professionals and peers and take time to reflect on their experiences and the Jewish values that form the basis of this service work.

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