I'm interviewed on a radio show, Mamash Radio, running tonight after Shmuel Butman's Moshiach is on the Air program, which itself runs immediately after Zev Brenner on the Talkline Radio Network.
A list of sources I cite are posted after the jump in the extended post.
Most links to sources I mentioned are found on my Rabbis & Ethiopian Jews page.
More than 20 years ago, after Operation Moses and before Operation Solomon, Professor Marc Shapiro, spent a few months living in Ethiopian Jewish villages in Ethiopia. He wrote a good summary of the history of Ethiopian Jews from antiquity to the mid-1980s shortly after.
The Israel Association of Ethiopian Jews has a history of Ethiopian Jewry posted on their website.
Howard Lenhoff's book, which contains a long section written by Jerry Weaver, the US point man in Khartoum and in the desert refugee camps in Southern Sudan where Ethiopian Jews waited for the airlift that would be known as Operation Moses.
(Like any work of this nature, attempting to cover many years of detailed history, there are a few errors in Howard's book. Beside small errors of fact (the wrong name, for example, when listing an activist in Minnesota), Lenhoff misses a lot of what took place in Washington with regard to Operation Moses and then its CIA-run followup, Operation Joshua. This is because, I think, he was already largely out of the loop when these operations were planned and executed. For example, Howard did not know Operation Moses started until seven days afterward. I knew before the first plane landed in Israel.)
Baruch Tegegne's book should be out soon. (It was due out December 31, 2007, but is not yet in print.)
Baruch asked me to edit his book and to add in the details of what we did together, especially what we did in Washington, DC, in early summer 1984. Baruch was very sick with kidney failure (he since had a kidney transplant and is, thank God, doing much better). I was also ill at the time, although not as seriously as Baruch. My edits and comments came in late, and I'm not sure whether Gefen was able to include them. If not, I'll try to post the information on this site.
I mention in the interview that the Rebbe told a wealthy Chabad donor from Montreal and Baruch Tegegne in 770 in approximately 1981 that the wealthy donor should ask Rabbi Moshe Feinstein about the Jewishness of Ethiopian Jews. If Rav Moshe thought they should be rescued, the Rebbe implied he would help.
Rav Moshe had already gone on record urging rescue and the Rebbe should have been aware of this. At any rate, the wealthy Chabad donor asked Rav Moshe, who reiterated his support for rescue. The Rebbe ws contacted and did nothing.
In 1983, when I asked the Rebbe to help Ethiopian Jews he told me to ask Rabbi Feinstein about their halakhic status. But the Rebbe already knew from several sources that Rav Moshe strongly supported rescue.
You can see Rav Moshe's frustration at having to answer this question again when you read his answer to my questions for him asked through Rabbi Moshe Dovid Tendler, Rav Moshe's son-in-law. (Rabbi tendler asked his son, Rav Moshe's grandson and corresponding secretary, to ask the question to Rav Moshe, as you can see by Rav Moshe's answer.)
At any rate, the point is, the Rebbe already knew the answer when he sent the rich donor from Montreal and later sent me to Rav Moshe. Even so, the Rebbe did not help Ethiopian Jews.
Sending us to Rav Moshe was simply a diversionary tactic, which, unfortunately, worked in both cases.
I suspect (note the word: "suspect," not "know") that Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky may have taken the letter the Rebbe wrote to me before it was mailed. Why would he have done this? Because he feared I would, in my position with the North American Jewish Students Network, bring dozens of students to demonstrate in front of 770.
One last point. Ethiopian Jews were very willing to adopt rabbinic practice and become Orthodox Jews. What turned them off was the rudely presented idea that they needed to convert to become Jewish, this after suffering so much only because they were identified as Jews.
In other words, the issue was not with Orthodox Judaism per se. The issue was with the behavior of the Orthodox rabbis who demanded conversion and who did so in an insensitive, rude manner.
The actual rabbinic rulings called for a pro forma conversion (giur l'humra) with a drop of blood drawn from the males' penises and immersion in a mikva for both males and females. The idea was not to "make" Ethiopian Jews Jewish. It was meant to remove halakhic doubts about mamzerut (bastardy) while cementing their Jewish status in a way that could not be questioned. At no time did the Rabbinute or Rav Moshe Feinstein consider Ethiopian Jews to be Gentiles.
If Ethiopian Jews had been approached kindly, the crisis that ensued over conversion would most likely have never taken place.
Of course, the rabbinic functionaries who insulted the Ethiopian Jews and who provoked that conversion crisis were often Orthodox rabbis who disagreed with the Rabbinate's ruling and who were not kindly disposed to Ethiopian Jews coming to Israel.