Kessim (Jewish religious leaders) mark the opening of a synagogue in the village of Gomenge, one of five built in Gondar with aid from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). As Ethiopia faced severe famine, the nation's then Marxist government allowed JDC to step in with nonsectarian relief in 1984. JDC launched its first "open mailbox" campaign-a grassroots, emergency fundraising appeal-and drew on United States Agency for International Development (USAID) foodstuffs to feed some 50,000 famine victims, primarily in the Gondar region. Later, JDC set up the Teda Regional Health Center and developed projects to foster agricultural sustainability. By the end of 1984, JDC's ongoing nonsectarian efforts had paved the way for it to cast a lifeline to the country's Jews, known as the Beta Israel.