Category Archives: Events

The Hidden Jews of Ethiopia: Bal Ej

KulanuCanada.org

presents Irene Orleansky’s award-winning documentary:

Bal Ej – the Hidden Jews of Ethiopia.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

7 pm in the evening

Doors will open 6:30 pm        Tickets at the door    $12

Donations welcome

Refreshments served

Borochov Cultural Centre

272 Codsell Ave.

Bal Ej – The Hidden Jews of Ethiopia

Though it has been formally announced that with the last emigration of Falash Mura, there are no more Jews left in Ethiopia, there are still a number Jews living in Addis Ababa and the North Shewa region of Ethiopia, most of whom practice pre-Talmudic form of Judaism secretly. They split from the Beta Israel who settled in Northern regions of Ethiopia since Biblical times and even had the only independent Jewish Kingdom in the world. The migration of the Beta Israel from the area of Gondar to North Shewa was gradual with its pick in the 19th century. Beta Israel began their migration from North Shewa region to Kechene village in the northern part of today’s Adddis Ababa when Emperor Menelik II decided to move his palace from Ankober to Entoto and later to Addis Abbaba. Named Bal Ej, which means craftsmen, for for their skills in crafts, the community members played an important role in building the capital of Ethiopia Addis Ababa. Bal Ej of North Shewa and Kechene were forced to convert into Christianity. For centuries they have been persecuted by their Orthodox Christian neighbors who slandered them as buda or evil-eyed and hyena-people and have been deprived of the basic rights such as ownership of land, the reason for adopting crafts such as pottery, weaving and iron smithery. The stigma and discrimination persist till nowadays. Though they appeared Christians outwardly, inwardly they never abandoned Judaism and continued practicing Judaism secretly. Only recently, the youths of the community opened a synagogue in Kechene neighborhood of Addis Ababa where they hold their services openly; the rest of the synagogues are not visited by strangers and their location and practices are kept in strict secret. Because of persecutions, out of 40, only 15 cryptic synagogues have survived till today. In spite of the fears of murder and persecutions, Beta Israel of North Shewa keep faithful to their beliefs and ancient Hebrew traditions, some of which have been completely forgotten by the rest of the Jewish world.
In her movie “Bal Ej: the Hidden Jews of Ethiopia”, Irene is lifting the curtains of hundreds of years and reveal the history, traditions and music of this remarkable community to the world.

The Forgotten Refugees – A Documentary

Join us for a very special presentation in one of two locations:  Toronto (March 19) and Winnipeg (March 21)

Come to meet members of the WordSwap Team, an event sponsored by StandWithUsCanada in both Toronto and Winnipeg, Canada.

Jewish communities that existed for thousands of years in Arab countries were suddenly dismantled. The destruction of these communities is the subject of this documentary and evening devoted to archival footage and personal accounts of nearly a million Jews forced to leave their homes.

See details here:   https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/stand-with-us-canada-or-standwithus-canada/events/toronto-the-forgotten-refugees/

FROM TORTILLAS TO TORAH – The Jews of Guatemala

At an evening program hosted by City Shule on December 4, 2017, and co-sponsored by Kulanu Canada, representatives of Adat Israel of Guatemala City talked about their journey to Judaism, showed slides of their small community of recently Reform converted Jews, paid homage to Rabbi Elyse Goldstein who is their spiritual leader and rabbi of Toronto’s City Shule, and engulfed their audience in the love they expressed for Judaism.

Jeannette Orantes, whose husband Moshe Isaiah was the inspired founder of the community, and their daughter Rebecca, recounted the community’s history and shared personal accounts of their religious exploration and study of Judaism. The community had a chance encounter with Rabbi Elyse Goldstein when she was on a voluntour program in that country, about 6 years ago. Their relationship has enabled the community to experience more of Jewish life, to be connected with Kulanu, have rabbis and teachers visit, and to have their youth experience a summer at a Jewish camp in Ontario.

Kulanu Canada helped promote a community wide Pesach Seder for the members of Adat Israel and their guests in 2016, and shares their story here to encourage more support to this small but mighty congregation.

Film Night Celebrates Jewish Diversity: Doing Jewish, A Story from Ghana

On November 12, 2017, Kulanu Canada presented the film Doing Jewish: A Story from Ghana. The movie is the creation of filmmaker Gabrielle Zilkha, who was in attendance and captivated the nearly 100 people in the audience with both her informational film and her warm and animated personality. The event was co-sponsored with Na’amat Canada and we are appreciative of their partnership.

We learned that the Sefwi Wiawso is a small (and at the same time large) group of committed people that has long identified as Jewish. Gabrielle interviewed everyone from the tribe, from the children to the elders. It was fascinating to hear them pray and sing in Hebrew, and learn how they followed many Jewish traditions before knowing the label “Jewish”. The person about whom the film focused was their community leader, Alex Armah, a dedicated young man whohas very passionately worked to educate his community about Judaism and though this to hold his community together as Jews.

Gabrielle Zilkah

A special feature of the film was Gabrielle’s focus on trying to answer many questions about the Sefwis, about their history, about the possibility of their being one of the lost tribes of Israel, about their potential future and about their inclusion (or exclusion) in the wider Jewish global community.

The search for these answers was poignant and thought-provoking for all who claim to be Jewish.

As Gabrielle so introspectively points out, it is not enough to “be” Jewish, as so many of us in North America claim; it is important to “do” Jewish and carry out, as well as carry forward, the traditions which have existed for thousands of years. Upon whose shoulders will this responsibility lie?

Challah covers from Ghana

Kulanu Canada is determined to help the Sefwi Wiawso to continue to exist on their Jewish terms. To that end, we have been selling their beautiful, colourful, hand made challah covers with funds going back to the community for their guest house.

Thank you to all who attended the evening and have helped us to continue to support this amazing community.

We look forward to seeing you at our next events. Please sign up for ongoing information about future programs and information about the communities we support.