The Ethiopian Jews

The Ethiopian Jews

Written by: Talia Goldberg, Community Shlicha


On the 16th of November this year we have another Jewish holiday. Really? Which one? I know your religious schools taught you that the month of Cheshvan has no holidays, and we just finished all our high holidays already!


So hold on tight, we got another holiday coming. Since 2008, it has been recognized as a state holiday for all Israelis.


This holiday is called the Sigd. It's one of the unique holidays of the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jewish) community. This holiday is celebrated every year exactly 50 days after Yom Kippur. Originally Sigd was another name for Yom Kippur. Sigd symbolizes the acceptance of the Torah. In commemoration of the appeals made by the Kessim and consequent mass gathering, the Beta Israel would make pilgrimages to a high mountain every year to reaffirm themselves as a religious community.


Today, during the celebration, members of the community fast, recite Psalms, and gather in Jerusalem where Kessim read from the bible. The ritual is followed by the breaking of the fast, dancing, and general revelry.


So why haven't we heard about this holiday? Why hasn't this been on our calendar for so long?


I don't know if I have the right answer but I can think of some reasons. One is that the Jewish community in Ethiopia was not in communication with the global Jewish community until pretty recently. The first Ethiopian Jews only made it to Israel in the ’80s, while Jewish communities around Europe and the USA have been connected to Israel since the beginning. It is believed that the Jewish community in Ethiopia has been in Africa since the first temple exile and is from the family line of the tribe of Dan. The second reason is that maybe, just maybe, we are not always the greatest in embracing new cultures. I think that's something we should look into ourselves and decide what is right for us. But the important part is to always be open to being educated about it.