PHILADELPHIA, August 31, 2012 – Hoping to bridge and deepen transcontinental ties of the African Diaspora, a top-ranking member of Israel’s Knesset is embarking on a four-city tour of the United States and comes here next Friday, Sept. 7.
Knesset Deputy Speaker Shlomo Neguse Molla will share his story of triumph and insights on his homeland with Philadelphia-area audiences in a cultural exchange, supported by the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL).
Molla, born in an impoverished Jewish village in Ethiopia, could now serve as Israel’s president if both President Shimon Peres and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin were out of the country.
He is the first sub-Saharan African to have risen that high in Israel’s political structure.
“Deputy Speaker Molla is not only an historic figure, but also a man whose personal story is amazing and inspiring,” said state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, who, along with City Council President Darrel Clarke, will host a private cultural exchange and luncheon in Center City with a cross-section of African and African-American community members from Philadelphia.
“What he has accomplished already is stunning, but to hear how he arrived at this place and his vision of Israel may shift conventional wisdom on what it means to be an Israeli Jew, or a Jewish person of any nationality, for that matter,” Williams said. “We hope to expand the conversation of inclusion and our minds in a thoughtful set of dialogues. I’m proud to co-host this event.”
At the luncheon, remarks will also be offered by incoming Consul General of Israel Yaron Sideman and Deputy Consul General Elad Strohmayer, both of whom started last week.
“The Consul General strengthens relations between Israel and the Mid-Atlantic Region by building partnerships for enhanced economic, academic and cultural exchange,” Sideman said. “I am honored to begin my tenure with this event as it fits directly into our mission of becoming involved with every community, meeting people, exchanging ideas and showcasing Israel for what it is – a rich nation of diversity and inclusivity.”
Deputy Speaker Molla and the Israel’s newly-tenured diplomatic corps will hold a media availability prior to the luncheon. Molla will expound on his message of opportunity and shared connections with African-American and Jewish advocates, faith leaders, politicians, journalists and students at various stops during his visit to the Philadelphia area, including Villanova University.
“On behalf of City Council, I welcome Deputy Speaker Molla to the ‘City of Brotherly Love,'” said City Council President Darrell L. Clarke. “We use that phrase in earnest as a welcome to visitors to Philadelphia from all across the globe, and we are particularly honored to host the Deputy Speaker during his visit.”
Molla’s focus on promoting and strengthening the relationship between people of the United States and Israel is the hallmark of AIFL. After Philadelphia, his tour will continue on to Atlanta, New York and Chicago.
FOR ASSIGNMENT EDITORS
State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, City Council President Darrell Clarke and the American-Israel Friendship League will sponsor an invitation-only cultural exchange luncheon featuring Israeli Knesset Deputy Speaker Shlomo Molla from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7 at Kleinbard Bell & Brecker, LLP, One Liberty Place, 46th Floor, 1650 Market St., Philadelphia.
Deputy Speaker Molla, newly-tenured Israeli Consul General Yaron Sideman, Deputy Consul General Elad Strohmayer, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and other elected officials will hold a media availability from 11:30 a.m. to noon at Kleinbard.
Deputy Speaker and Consulate diplomats will hold a second media availability before or after a 3-5 p.m. academic presentation at Villanova University, Driscoll Hall Room 134, hosted by Dr. Emory Woodard, an associate communications professor who has studied YouTube as a vehicle for social justice. For details and interviews, contact Michelle Effron Miller, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (215) 977-7600, ext. 511 or (484) 319-5699.
About Deputy Speaker Molla
In 1983, sixteen-year-old Shlomo Neguse Molla heard that Jews from Tigre Province, 700 kilometers away, were being flown to Israel via Sudan. Even then, Molla, who attended the Jewish high school run by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, was a leader. He and several friends trekked hundreds of miles from their impoverished village across Sudan, where they boarded planes bound for Israel.
He completed high school in Haifa, joined the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), became an officer, and later earned his LL.B. By 1991, Molla was working with the Jewish Agency as a volunteer during Operation Solomon. He was then appointed director of the Unit for Ethiopian Immigration & Absorption of the Jewish Agency.
Less than two decades after arriving in Israel, Molla became the second Israeli of Ethiopian descent to become a Member of Knesset. He serves on the House Committee, the Committee on the Status of Women, the Public Petitions Committee, the Subcommittee on Trafficking in Women (Alternate Member), and Finance Committee and is Chairman of the Lobby for Equality and Pluralism and the Lobby for Struggle Against Racism.
On August 3, 2011, Molla became the first sub-Saharan African to serve as deputy speaker of the Knesset. To view of video of Molla’s life, please go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pghLDeMtHvY
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