About Meketa USA
Our mission is to support the Jewish community in Gondar by helping them to be more financially independent.
Meketa USA was launched in 2021 to bring attention to Americans of the plight of Jews who remain in Ethiopia and who live under extreme poverty.
Most of the adults in the Jewish community moved to Gondar from rural areas in the hope of emigrating to Israel. They did not have suitable skills for finding work in Gondar when they arrived there. They obtained support in the form of food for their families and education for their children from an American NGO and the Jewish Agency in Israel. When the charities stopped operating in Ethiopia, the community was left without the support it depended on. Years of waiting in Gondar created a dependency culture for some families and inability to plan for the future. You can read a summary of the community's history here and for further details here.
Our programs are designed to support education and provide training so that the participants can become self-sufficient and support their families.
We facilitate microloans that create subsistence level businesses for the poorest families in the community, encourage children and young people in their education through our After School Club, and sponsor further education and training to enable people to enter employment. However age, illness or disability prevent some families from participating in these programmes. We help them through sponsorship, grants and stipends.
OUR LOCAL PARTNER
Meketa USA works with a local organisation called Shutafut to operate our programs and projects. The trustees of Shutafut include members of our staff in Gondar, as well as volunteer members of the local community. We are delighted to have such a committed local partner in our work. Read more about Shutafut here https://avi6651.wixsite.com/shutafut
Our Staff in Ethiopia
Front row from left to right; Sisay Zeleke, Zelalem Mihiret, Gech Tekeba
Second row from left to right: Eshetu Berihan, Chalachew Ejigu, Seble Mandefo, Abraham Getachew, Ambanesh Biru, Mengiste Kume
The Livelihood and Economic Team
Ambanesh Biru was born in Dembiya and moved to Gondar with her family. She studied at the Hebret school, and Fasiledes Secondary School in Gondar, obtaining a certificate in IT. Ambanesh worked with NACOEJ as the Controller of Food at the daily feeding centre. She was the Chair of the Jewish community in Gondar for 4 years. She is our head community worker and responsible for choosing our beneficiary families.
Eshetu Berihan was born in Dembiya. He came to Gondar in 1990 to study and learn. He is a qualified midwife with a degree from Gondar University. Eshetu is jointly responsible for support and follow up of sponsorship families with special responsibility to support families with severe medical problems. He also works part time in the After School Club focusing on the sciences, and health and hygiene.
Abraham Getachew comes to us with considerable experience of working with NGOs. He studied geography and the environment for his first degree and did a post graduate degree in social work. Abraham is responsible for our economic projects, in particular, Microloans and Training. He also maintains strong relationships with local government office (such as the local government's micro-enterprise office), securing their support for our work.
The Education Team
Gech Tekeba was born in Gondar and went to the Hebret school and Fasiledes Secondary School there. He has a certificate in Electricity and IT. His previous positions were as librarian in the NACOEJ library and as a kindergarten teacher for the Jewish Agency. Gech runs the After School Club and is a mentor and friend to the children.
Seble Mandefo is a member of the After School Club Staff. She was born and raised in Gondar and is an active member of the Synagogue. She attended Fasiledes Secondary School in Gondar and also has a Level 4 Diploma in Surveying from Gondar Polytechnic. She particularly enjoys celebrating Shabbat with the After School Club.
Zelalem Mihiret is the librarian at the After School Club. He was born in Dembiya and he attended Dembiya Elementary School, until he finished grade 7. He came to Gondar 14 years ago to register to make Aliyah. He attended Fasiledes Secondary School and graduated from the University of Gondar with a degree in Marketing Management. He also has a certificate in General Computing Knowledge and English Communication. He previously worked as a quality control expert.
The After School Club
Sisay Zeleke is a member of the After School Club team. He was born in Gondar and he registered in 2001 to make Aliyah. He studied at the Tsadiku Yohanis Primary School until grade 6, and then he studied at the Fasiledes Secondary School. He worked in NACOEJ for 10 years as a culture teacher and he worked in the Jewish Agency for 5 years as a Hebrew Teacher.
Chalachew Ejigu helps the students with mathematics in the After School Club. He was born in South Gondar and graduated from Adams University with a degree in Mathematics and Information Technology. He also works as a teacher of Information Technology in a government school.
Meketa USA Volunteers
Brian Kaplin, J.D. (President) is the founder and president of Enchanted Imports. Enchanted Imports manufactures, imports, and wholesales jewelry, handicraft, and gift items. He is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of New Mexico School of Law. Brian discovered the Jewish community of Gondar while backpacking around Ethiopia in 2018. In his free time, Brian enjoys pickleball and improv, both of which he would like to share with the Jewish community in Gondar once political conditions in Ethiopia improve.
Sigrid Levi-Baum (Treasurer) is a retired systems business analyst with over 40 years of experience in technology. During her working and retired life, she has been a volunteer both in her synagogue and in other Jewish organizations. She chaired a program called the Prejudice Awareness Summit locally in Austin, TX for over 5 years. Sigrid and her husband Mike went to Ethiopia in 2017 to learn about the country and the Jews in Gondar.
Bryce Diamond (Secretary) is the Director of Development and Major Gifts at Hadassah where she has worked since 2016. Bryce holds a BA from Rutgers University and a MS in Fundraising Management from Columbia University. Prior to her work at Hadassah, Bryce worked in donor relations at the Jewish Communal Fund, a donor advised fund with over $1.7 billion in charitable assets. Bryce is passionate about raising funds to support marginalized Jewish communities and is proud to support Meketa USA’s mission. Bryce lives in New Jersey with her husband, Brian.
Jeff Curtis is a certified accountant. He retired in 2018 to travel the world nomadically. At the end of 2018, he spent three months volunteering for the Jewish community in Gondar, helping to develop trades. He continues to volunteer for charities in developing countries.