Berkeley campaign aims at helping the Falas Mura

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Like many newspaper readers, Linda Press Wulf often vowed to do something about the injustice and suffering she discovered in those pages. And like most readers, she usually found her best intentions thwarted.

Until now.

She is launching a campaign to help rescue thousands of starving Ethiopian Jews left out of the Operation Solomon airlift in 1991, and to get these Ethiopians to Israel.

Press Wulf has won backing from the social action committee of Congregation Beth Israel in Berkeley, where she is a member. She is, however, looking for additional support both inside and outside the synagogue.

Last week's front-page Bulletin story on the Falas Mura — Ethiopians who have relatives in Israel, live an Orthodox life and claim they qualify under the Law of Return for immigration to Israel yet remain in Africa — propelled her into action.

In hopes of pressuring the United Jewish Appeal, the Israeli government and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee into completing the task of rescuing the Falas Mura, Press Wulf will direct a letter-writing campaign to the Israeli government right after this month's elections.

She also plans to pursue other tactics — including the withholding of UJA pledges in an interest-bearing account that would not be released until the remaining Ethiopians are allowed to emigrate.

Press Wulf says she is haunted by the plight of 3,800 Jews left behind in Addis Ababa, a situation described in front-page stories in this week's and last week's papers.

"I may not be a Jew living in Israel but this is my issue," she says.

"I was in Israel after Operation Solomon. I went to the hotel where Ethiopians were being housed. I touched their hands. I smiled at the adults. I played with their children in a makeshift school. [These Ethiopians' relatives] are starving to death now.

"I can't bear to think this is happening to Jews right now. These are Jews. They are our responsibility."

Why did the stories about the Falas Mura affect Press Wulf so strongly?

"I read about the 10-year-old orphan whose grandparents are in Israel. I can't understand how a bureaucrat can leave this child behind with her 13-year-old sister, weaving to support them," she says.

"She's their daughter in everything but name. A blood relative. The pain, shame [and] indignation" of the orphan's story motivate the Berkeley activist, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa.

"I can't let this one go. Because if we let it go, they're going to die and then it's too late."

To join the letter-writing campaign and support the plight of the Falas Mura, contact Press Wulf at (510) 525-4115.