Not long before the American Association for Ethiopian Jews meeting with R. Moshe Sherer of the Agudath Israel World Organization, two representatives of the Lubavitcher Rebbe sought a meeting with the AAEJ.
The purpose of the meeting?
Ostensively, to learn about Ethiopian Jews.
Graenum Berger welcomed the two Chabadniks to his home and spent two hours showing them detailed source material, documentation, rabbinic rulings and the like. He answered questions. He showed more material.
It turned out the the Rebbe's representatives had a proposal: Let the AAEJ pay for a Lubavitch delegation to go to Ethiopia and investigate the Ethiopian Jews Jewish status.
Nothing came from that meeting. The AAEJ was already using all its resources to smuggle Jews out of Ethiopia and Sudan. It had many rabbinic rulings, including rulings from Rav Moshe Feinstein to Rav Ovadia Yosef, two of the leading poskim (religious law judges) in the world. Why should the AAEJ divert money needed for rescue? A delegation could easily have cost upwards of $50,000 (taking into account the much higher priced airfares of that time). That could save a lot of Jews from death. Besides, Lubavitch was a wealthy orgainzation. Why demand money from the tiny AAEJ?
The Rebbe refused to help with the rescue or absorption of Ethiopian Jews. Indeed, the first act Chabad did in 1985 to welcome the newcomers to Israel was to ban Ethiopian Jews from its school system, a system that has been Ethiopianrein ever since.
This is made all the more sad by the Rebbe's referral of the question of the status of Ethiopian Jews to Rav Moshe Feinstein. Rav Moshe loudly and publicly backed rescue. The Rebbe, despite his professed feality to Rav Moshe's rulings, did not listen to him.
Instead, the Rebbe contended that Jewish outreach in America, putting tefillin on a Jew in Omaha, was more important than saving the lives of starving, tortured Ethiopian Jews.
This is not much different from the actions during WW2 of the Rebbe who preceded him. Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn opted for a messianic campaign over rescue, and decried Jewish leaders who would not follow him.
In Lubavitch, now as then, messianic drives trump Jewish law and moral decency.
[Based in part on page 660 of the autobiography of AAEJ founder Graenum Berger, published in 1987 by Ktav, and other contemporaneous sources.]