Exhibit: Women Who Dared
BiographiesMultimediaBy CityAbout WWD Jewish Gender Activism
What She Said
  Barbara Gaffin
  Human rights activist with Ethiopian Jews
  Boston WWD Event 2000
  Born in 1954
  Investigated and publicized oppression of Ethiopian Jews
Biography  up to top

Barbara Gaffin was raised in Dorchester and Newton, Massachusetts, in a Conservative Jewish home. Her parents were both active in the Jewish community, primarily with Jewish Big Brothers and B'nai Brith. Although her family was not actively involved in Zionist causes, Gaffin fell in love with Israel on her first trip there in 1972. After graduating from Brandeis with degrees in Near Eastern studies and psychology, Gaffin went to work in the Jewish community, first for Zionist organizations and then for the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), where she continues to work today.

Gaffin came to her work with Ethiopian Jews when materials describing their plight crossed her desk at the JCRC. In 1981, she had the unique opportunity to participate in a mission of North American Jews to Ethiopia. Posing as non-Jewish tourists, the travelers overcame many risks to visit the closed Jewish villages, where they compiled information about the government violence toward Jews. Upon returning from this trip, Gaffin devoted herself to publicizing the conditions under which Ethiopian Jews were living and organizing to bring them to Israel. She gave many speeches, wrote articles, and pushed the US Congress to address the situation of Ethiopian Jews. While Gaffin found her passion in the issue of Ethiopian Jewry, she has also been troubled by the slowness of the Jewish community to respond to the crisis and by the mistakes Israel has made in the absorption process. She remains deeply involved with Ethiopian Jews, continuing to raise awareness about their needs in Israel and in Ethiopia.

Gaffin is married and has two children. Her husband also works in the field of human rights.

What She Said  up to top
I certainly always looked up to my parents, even though they did a very different kind of work than I did. But it all stems from the same sentiment ...More 
On the one hand, I have so much passion for this work. On the other hand, I am quite cynical about it. And has the work made me cynical? ...More 
It was terribly upsetting to know that Jews were dying in Ethiopia, trying to get to Israel. And yet if one Jew died today in the Soviet Union ...More 
When I see Ethiopian Jews in Israel, it's quite overwhelming. When I was there this past January in Haifa, a woman spoke to us. She was a teenager. Incredible English. ...More 
Social change can be so many things. It's giving money, it's writing letters, it's starting campaigns, it's voting ...More 
Multimedia  up to top
Photographs Photographs
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How to Cite This Page
For a bibliography: Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Barbara Gaffin." <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=pbgaffin>.

For a footnote: Jewish Women's Archive, "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Barbara Gaffin," <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=pbgaffin>.