Beta Abraham

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Beta Abraham
Total population
Regions with significant populations
 Ethiopia 150,000
Historical Jewish language
Agaw (Kayla)

Liturgical language

Predominant spoken language
Crypto-Judaism Orthodox Christianity  · Judaism
Related ethnic groups
Beta Israel  · Amhara

Beta Abraham (Hebrew: בֵּיתֶא אַבְרָהָם, Ge'ez: Bēta Abreham, "House of Abraham")—other terms by which the community have been known include Tebiban ("possessor of secret knowledge"), Balla Ejj (Ge'ez: "Craftsmens"), Buda (Ge'ez: "evil eye") [1] and Kayla (the Agaw language spoken by them),[2]—is a community regarded by some as a crypto-Jewish offshoot of the Beta Israel community.[3] The size of the community is estimated to be somewhere upwards of 150,000 in number.[4]

This community is concentrated mainly in the Northern Shewa Zone in the Amhara Region in Ethiopia.

The earliest reference to the Jewish community in the historical region of Shewa comes from the 14th century missionary Zena Marqos.[5] More Jews arrived in the region of Shewa from the regions of Fogera and Dembiya during the rule of Negasi Krestos and as a result a first wave of Jewish immigration began in the years 1692-1702.

Negasi's grandson, the Meridazmach Abuye fought the forces of emperor Iyasu II, and later on held many of the emperor's soldiers in captivity. Eventually Abuye released some prisoners and appointed them to senior positions in the monarchy. Following this, a second Jewish migration wave began in 1730-1745, which was mainly prompted by the Jews' will to improve their living conditions.

There are quite a few surviving reports about the existence of a Jewish community in the Shewa region in the 19th century. In 1839 the European missionary Charles Isenberg toured Shewa's capital Ankober and reported that there were Jews around the capital of Shewa and that they were the descendants of those who emigrated from the Fogera region in the Begemder province to Shewa. Isenberg also mentioned that when he spoke with an Ethiopian missionary from the Ethiopian Church on 17 October 1839 he reported that several Jews integrated in the village and converted to Christianity.[6] This came after another by the British traveler Charles Johnson in 1842 that stated that the Jews' economic situation was better off than their Christian neighbors and that they were more skilled and described them as successful merchants. In 1908 Dr. Jacques Faitlovitch reported that there are Jews in Shewa who are referred to by the derogatory name Buda by their neighbors.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Edith Bruder, "The Beit Avraham of Kechene: The Emergence of a New Jewish Community in Ethiopia" in Emanuela Trevisan Semi & Shalva Weil (Editors), Beta Israel: the Jews of Ethiopia and beyond History, Identity and Borders, Libreria Editrice Cafoscarina, 2011, ISBN 978-88-7543-286-7, pp. 181–196.
  • Richard Pankhurst, "The Balla Ejj Community of Shawa" in Steven Kaplan, Tudor Parfitt & Emnuela Trevisan Semi (Editors), Between Africa and Zion: Proceedings of the First International Congress of the Society for the Study of Ethiopian Jewry, Ben-Zvi Institute, 1995, ISBN 978-965-235-058-9, pp. 131 – 152
  • Richard Pankhurst, "Betä Abrəham" in Siegbert Uhlig (Editor), Encyclopaedia Aethiopica: A-C, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2003, ISBN 3-447-04746-1 p. 551-552
  • James Arthur Quirin, The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews: A History of the Beta Israel, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992, ISBN 978-0-8122-3116-8

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Richard Pankhurst, "The Balla Ejj Community of Shawa", Between Africa and Zion - Proceedings of the First International Congress of the Society for the Study of Ethiopian Jewry, p. 132
  2. ^ A. Z. Aešcoly, Sefer Ha-falalim, 1943, p.144 (Hebrew)
  3. ^ Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2011-01-23. Retrieved 2010-12-08.
  5. ^ James Quirin, The Evolution of the Ethiopian Jews, p. 48
  6. ^ H. Gundert, Biography of the Rev. Charles Isenberg, Missionary of the Church Missionary Society to Abyssinia and Western India from 1832 to 1864, part V