Q: Are Ethiopian Jews really Jews?
A: This is a complicated question. Halakhic authorities dating back almost 500 years have ruled that Ethiopian Jews are indeed Jewish. Perhaps the most famous of them is Rabbi David ibn Zimra, the Radbaz. He was Chief Rabbi of Egypt and a teacher of the noted kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Ari. The Radbaz had personal contact with members of the Ethiopian Jewish community.
Today, former Sefardic Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has ruled that Ethiopian Jews are indeed Jewish.
Q: If so, why do some people today question their Jewishness?
A: From the time of the Radbaz until late in the 1800's, the Ethiopian Jewish community was isolated from all other Jewish communities. There is a fear among some authorities that improper conversions, marriages and divorces may have taken place. If so, a percentage of the Ethiopian Jewish community may be non-Jewish or mamzerim. A mamzer, a child from certain biblically prohibited relationships, is forbidden to marry a non-mamzer. These authorities consider Ethiopian Jews to be possible mamzerim and possible non-Jews, safek mamzerim, safek akum.
Q: Does this doubt about the Jewishness or purity of lineage effect the rescue of Ethiopian Jews or saving their lives if they are endangered?
A: No. Even authorities like Rabbis Moshe Feinstein an Eliezer Waldenberg (the Tzitz Eliezer) who are concerned with possible mamzerut and Jewish status agree that Ethiopian Jews must be rescued from danger just as one is obligated to rescue any member of the Jewish community under the laws of pikuakh nefesh, saving lives.
Q: Would Baruch Tegegne's medical situation count as pekuakh nefesh?
A: Yes it would, without any doubt. Paying for his kidney transplant and related expenses absolutely comes under the halakha of pekuakh nefesh.
Q: Where can I donate?
A: You can click here to donate online via a secure website.
Q: Can I send a check instead?
A: Yes. Make the check out to The Sha'arei Dayah Foundation. Note "kidney" in the memo line.
Mail the check to:
The Sha'arei Dayah Foundation
2136 Ford Parkway #181
Saint Paul, MN 55116
Attention: Rosenberg/Kidney Fund
Q: Are donation tax deductible in the United States?
A: Yes. The Sha'arei Dayah Foundation is a registered IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. All donations are tax deductible.