Activist for Ethiopian Jews to get Cohon award

Barbara Ribakove Gordon with some of the Ethiopian children she has helped.

Barbara Ribakove Gordon, founder of the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jewry, will receive the Rabbi Samuel S. and Irma Cohon Foundation Award for 2010.

Rabbis Baruch J. Cohon and Samuel M. Cohon will present the award, which includes a cash prize of $25,000, at Temple Emanu-El’s Shabbat Chanukah service on Friday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

The foundation honors individuals for accomplishments that benefit klal Yisrael — the entire Jewish people — in the areas of unity, education or rescue.

In 1981, after participating in the first American mission to visit Ethiopian Jewish villages, Ribakove Gordon gave up a promising career in journalism to devote herself to the cause of rescuing Ethiopian Jews. Organizing the New York-based NACOEJ, she led 18 missions into Jewish villages, bringing doctors, medicine, clothing and school supplies. In 1991, as executive director of NACOEJ, she was summoned to Ethiopia to participate in Operation Solomon. With two opposing Ethiopian armies holding their fire in a temporary armistice, she and two other NACOEJ volunteers helped the Israelis process over 14,000 Ethiopian Jews at the Israeli embassy in Addis Ababa for the historic airlift to Israel. Ribakove Gordon continues to work with and advocate for Ethiopian Jews.