Ethiopian Jews differed from their Christian and Moslem neighbors mainly in terms of lifestyle and customs. Most were farmers and unlike their neighbors, some worked in traditional crafts, such as pottery, metalwork and weaving. Their community life was highly developed.

They lived in huts near streams or rivers. Aside from the economic advantages, water sources were used for ritual immersion and purification. The Kessim were the spiritual leaders and had broad authority regarding religious issues – holidays, ceremonies, etc.

The Shmegelotch, elders, were second in importance after the Kessim. Their wisdom and experience allowed them to be influential regarding interpersonal relationships and issues, such as property disputes, marital relations and more. The customs and values associated with the Beta Israel community include: respect for fellow people, politeness, modesty, keeping promises and secrets, guarding emotions, patience, making mourning visits, accommodating guests, mutual support within the family and community and more.