Ethiopian Jewish Community Workshops Provide Life-Enhancing Skills


A new initiative has been launched to benefit young Ethiopian Jews who do not have the opportunity or community resources to learn basic skills and to experience the modern professional world of work.

ORT is providing these young people with the tools needed for future employment in tech and other skilled industries.

Israel-based World ORT Kadima Mada (WOKM) is designing workshops and providing instructors to facilitate science and technology skills building. The program is part of the World ORT International Cooperation department’s global aid work, in partnership with Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ), with support from the Buncher Foundation.

The skills training program will ultimately reach 300 Ethiopian Jewish students aged 14 to 21 in the town of Gondar. The students will learn how to construct their resumes, prepare for job interviews, learn communication skills, and receive an introduction to innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Ethiopia is a beautiful country with kind and welcoming people. The SSEJ learning center is full of young men and women eager to move to Israel and celebrate their Judaism. They are embracing Jewish studies and culture and learning Hebrew while gaining knowledge. I am inspired by the eager young students discussing their future aspirations,” said Dr. Moshe Leiba, WOKM Deputy Director General and Chief Pedagogical Officer, who traveled to Ethiopia with Shlomi Lasri, WOKM Project Manager.

“These skills are necessary for these young people to advance. For those who are able to make Aliyah to Israel, it will make all the difference in their ability to acclimate and succeed in Israel’s high-tech economy,” he added.

WOKM is providing trainers to run the program, both virtual and in-person, while also training local trainers. The workshop will officially start mid-January and will be comprised of two classes of 20 three-hour sessions. Two of the trainers are Ethiopian immigrants based in Israel who will deliver the training remotely in the local language, Amharic. Both these instructors – one male and one female – are currently studying at Israeli universities and serve as role models for the Ethiopian students. A third instructor, trained by WOKM, is based in Gondar.

Approximately 14,000 Jews in Ethiopia live below the international poverty line of $1 per day. Severe malnutrition is rampant and access to adequate medical care and shelter is non-existent. Covid-19 ravaged the population and a civil war has been raging for several years. The community practices traditional Judaism, keeping kosher and celebrating Shabbat and Jewish holidays and many of them speak and understand Hebrew. More than 70 percent have parents, spouses, children or siblings in Israel.

Dan Green, World ORT Director General and CEO, said: “The goal of this program is to give Ethiopian Jews the tools they need to succeed.

“Our ORT mission is to improve lives worldwide through education, training, and technical assistance – just as we have done through our International Cooperation program in 101 countries over the past 62 years.”

Since 2006, World ORT Kadima Mada (WOKM) has affiliated with schools throughout Israel, primarily in socially and economically challenged communities in the country’s geographic periphery.

WOKM incorporates the latest technology and advanced instruction into the schools’ curricula through formal and informal educational programs to level the playing field for thousands of students. WOKM gives them access to high-level STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) education and, as a result, countless students go on to study at Israeli universities and serve in elite units in the IDF. Today, many WOKM graduates can be found in Israeli industry, and its vibrant business and tech sectors.

Moshe Leiba in Gondar, Ethiopia

ORT’s International Cooperation (IC) department responds to needs and challenges with a range of development programs, community training initiatives and humanitarian aid missions.

For decades we have helped disadvantaged people in Africa, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Latin America and Asia, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Our IC programs are designed to meet local needs and to overcome economic, cultural and linguistic barriers while working with partners on the ground to integrate projects quickly and effectively. We focus on sectors in which ORT has earned a reputation for excellence and impact, including vocational and technical education, workforce development and agriculture.

Since its founding in 2000, SSEJ has assisted tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews. SSEJ is the main source of humanitarian assistance for the Jewish community in Ethiopia. Its programs include feeding centers, medical care, Jewish and secular education, as well as religious and other communal activities.