Nathan Shapiro Recognized for Work with Ethiopian Jews

At a gathering in September 2017, Goldin Institute Board Member Nate Shapiro and his wife, Randy, were recognized for the vital role they played in rescuing Ethiopian Jewry by the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, Aviv Ezra, and staff of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Central Region. Nate served as President of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) from 1983-1993 and under his leadership, the AAEJ provided relief, rescue and advocacy on behalf of the threatened Ethiopian Jewish community in Ethiopia and Sudan, leading to the successful immigration of the Ethiopian community to Israel through Operation Solomon in 1991.


"We're proud to take this opportunity to acknowledge Nate and Randy Shapiro for their support and continued dedication to the brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces, and unwavering commitment to the state of Israel," said Tamir Oppenheim, Midwest Director of the Friends of the IDF.


Architect of a highly successful brokerage firm, SF Investments, Nate was a dear friend of “Moe,” late husband of Goldin Institute founder, Diane Goldin. When he took over as AAEJ President in 1982, Nate stepped up the organization’s political advocacy as well as its direct relief efforts inside Ethiopia. AAEJ had been founded in 1969 to launch a public campaign for Ethiopian Jews, who faced discrimination and dire poverty within Ethiopia and had dreamed of emigrating to Israel since the founding of the state in 1948. Nate organized the U.S. Congressional Caucus for Ethiopian Jews, which negotiated with the governments of Ethiopia, the United States and Israel, and eventually won the backing of U.S. President George H. Bush, who personally convinced the government of Sudan to cooperate with Operation Moses and Operation Joshua, airlifts which finally brought tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

From 1989 to 1991, the AAEJ facilitated the departure of Ethiopian Jews, known as the Beta Israel, from over 300 villages in the Ethiopian provinces of Gondar and Tigray to the capital of Addis Ababa. AAEJ then provided them with food, housing and medical care while Nate and other members of AAEJ’s leadership played a key role in the political conversations. Finally, in May, 1991, the Israeli government launched Operation Solomon, the largest single departure of Ethiopian Jews.

Its mission complete, the AAEJ was disbanded in 1993. However, Nate continues to work with Ethiopian Israelis – both the immigrants as well as their descendants – through Friends of Ethiopian Jews, an organization founded in 1998 to support grassroots organizations working for full integration and successful absorption.








Board Spotlight: Nathan Shapiro

Nathan Shapiro was a dear friend of “Moe,” the late husband of Goldin Institute founder, Diane Goldin. “When he passed away he left behind a very intelligent woman who wanted to do good,” recalls Shapiro. “Diane was always out there. She had the energy and support, but also didn’t want to seek credit for what she was doing. She just wanted to make the world better. When people have money, they become accustomed to a certain life and don’t want to give up. Diane, she gives everything.”


“Giving everything” is a commitment with which Nathan Shapiro is well acquainted. Involved as a mentor and supporter to Diane Goldin and the founding team of Goldin Institute, Nathan Shapiro is an iconic figure in the Chicago community and internationally, both as the architect of a highly successful brokerage firm, SF Investments, as well as for his long-time advocacy and support of the Jewish community in Ethiopia. Suffering under brutal oppression and famine-like conditions in the 1970’s and ‘80s, 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel in 1991 as part of the historic relief effort “Operation Solomon,” which Nathan and Moe spearheaded.

Frank Cohen, a friend of Shapiro for more than 50 years and fellow Goldin Institute board member, reflects:

[quote]Nate is one of the most well-respected people whom I have ever known. He goes about doing things for others with no mention or fanfare. He only wants to help others out of a sense of humanity.[/quote]

Two years after the airlift, Nathan left his position as president of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) and later became president of Friends of Ethiopian Jews (FEJ), which he still leads.  As his eldest son, Steve, shared:

[quote]Our father has always forged his own path. He knew what was right and didn’t seek approval. For whatever reason, the plight of Ethiopian Jews was not being addressed, and so he made them his mission.[/quote]

As a recognized authority on humanitarian assistance and relief in crises, Nathan Shapiro has brought a critical depth of understanding and detail to Goldin Institute’s international efforts since becoming an inaugural board member upon the organization’s launch.

When asked what keeps him engaged in the organization since his role in the founding of the organization, Nathan shared:

[quote]The Goldin Institute has a great network for going into the most impoverished areas and doing essential community organizing, like what’s happened with the clean water project in the Philippines. Diane, Travis (Rejman) and their partners go out and connect with local people to talk about the changes which need to happen and how they can do it.  Assisting (former) child soldiers in Uganda, mobilizing communities to stop rape in Haiti, providing safe drinking water in the Philippines...the Goldin Institute really puts its ideas into action.[/quote]

Though he hasn’t had the opportunity yet to make any field visits to Goldin Institute global associates, Nathan has been a consistent cheerleader and advisor to to the leadership team, and Diane.

“Nathan has been a mentor to me and is one of the most generous men I’ve ever met,” marvels Diane Goldin. “Nathan has expressed pride in our efforts, accomplishing so much with limited resources. Since our very founding, Nathan has been a great friend to the Goldin Institute.”

We are honored to have Nathan Shapiro on our Board and thankful for his deep wisdom and insight as well as his generous support and dedication to our mission.