The rarely told story of how a handful of Montreal Jews covertly rescued 300 Ethiopian refugees

(Photo by Eduardo Velazco Guart/Unsplash)

Thanks to the Netflix action film The Red Sea Diving Resort, many people have heard of Operation Moses, when Israel rescued 30 planeloads of Ethiopian refugees, bringing them to the Holy Land. That covert operation launched almost exactly 37 years ago.

But even earlier, another secret mission took place to save several hundred Ethiopian Jews, which brought them not to the shores of the Mediterranean, but the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

In the early 1980s, a group of Montrealers decided to do what the Israel government had still only been planning. The group of lawyers, social workers and students teamed up with Quebec politicians, Brian Mulroney and Steven Lewis, arranging visas by forging fake university acceptance letters, made-up job offers and bogus wedding invitations. Ultimately, they helped between 200 and 300 Ethiopians reach Canadian soil.

Now, more than 40 years later, an American museum is sharing this story more widely. It tells the story from the perspective of one of the main operatives, Mark Zarecki, who joins us today to discuss the rescue mission that deserves its own Hollywood movie—but never got one.

What we talked about:

  • Learn about the museum exhibit featuring Mark Zarecki at
  • Read about Operation Moses at
  • Watch “Sterlin Castle: The Story behind RCR Lt. Mitch Sterlin’s Gallantry in Italy in WWll by Ellin Bessner” on YouTube on Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. EST


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