Deborah Riemer, regional director for the Jewish Agency for Israel, is American, but she married an Israeli and lived in Israel for 17 years. JAFI is a global partnership that aims to bring more Jews to Israel.
"I was more afraid walking in Central Park than Jerusalem," she said. "I felt very secure in Israel."
She moved back to the United States in 1992 to give her children a chance to know their American family better. They live in Dorset, Vt., but Ms. Riemer's work with the Jewish Agency for Israel brought her to Frederick.
She went to the Beth Sholom synagogue on North Market Street to tell the congregation about Operation Promise, a new three-year $160 million campaign to keep the Jewish population from vanishing.
The campaign's goal is to bring the last group of Ethiopian Jews out of Ethiopia and to support the Jews in the Soviet Union by strengthening their connection with Jews worldwide.
Jews have lived in Ethiopia for 2,000 years, she said.
"We're trying to get the last group, 16,000 to 17,000," Ms. Riemer said. "We have the approval and support of the Ethiopian government. Right now, 300 come a month into Israel. We're hoping Operation Promise will boost that number."
Most of Israel's 6 million citizens are Jewish, but the birth rate is declining, she said.
In 1994, Israel had a population of 5.3 million, 81.5 percent of which was Jewish. In 2005, Israel had a population of 6.3 million, 76.5 percent of which was Jewish, according to statistics from the CIA and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Less than 2 percent of the world's population is Jewish, Ms. Riemer said.
"We're losing 100 Jews a day globally in terms of intermarriage and people moving away from their faith. But then again, if you look at the Soviet Union, there's a huge renaissance of Jews," she said.
Operation Promise will al
so help the 700,000 to 800,000 Jews in the former Soviet Union. Some of its funds will be used to aid the elderly and target the cultural and spiritual interests of Jewish youths, she said.
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