The word Sigd means “prostration” in the local Ge’ez and in fact has the same roots as masjid, the Arabic word for mosque. For most of Jewish history, the Ethiopian Jewish community – commonly referred to as Beta Israel – lived completely removed from the rest of their brothers and sisters, developing their own practices and traditions that make up the rich 2000 year history of Ethiopian Jewry. It wasn’t until Ethiopia’s civil war and ensuing famine in the 1970s and 1980s that Beta Israel would be brought into the larger Jewish community, when Israel engaged in two separate airlift missions – Operation Moses and Solomon – to rescue Jews fleeing for their lives. These two actions led to the arrival of 22,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, founding the community that makes up more than 125,000 in Israel today. Today, Sigd is celebrated in Israel by Ethiopian Jews flocking to the Western Wall, with some dressed in their ancient religious clothing.
As a long-time Ramah Darom camper and summer tzevet, I feel it’s important for Ramah to signify this holiday for the Jewish people, even if not directly rooted in our own, predominantly Ashkenazi traditions and narratives. Through the National Ramah Commission, along with 70 other Ramah professionals and summer staff, I have been participating in training workshops led by Yavilah McCoy, CEO of Dimensions Educational Consulting. As young leaders of the Jewish community, I believe we have the ability to reshape and make more equitable, Jewish discourse for future generations.
Story of Ethiopian Jewry: https://unpacked.education/video/ethiopian-jewry/
Rescuing of the Wandering Jew: https://unpacked.education/video/homeland/
About the Author
Jakob Levin is a junior at the University of Florida studying political science and Holocaust studies. He was a camper at Ramah Daron from 2009-2016, returned on staff for summer 2018 and 2019 and took part in Kayitz 2020 Babayit (Summer at Home).
Register now to join us TONIGHT, November 13 for an Ethiopian Kabbalat Shabbat in Honor of Sigd at 3:00pm ET.