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Image retrieved from: The Times of Israel

by Gabe Fresa, Library Intern, Summer 2018

Today, the Beta Yisrael community of Jews celebrates Sigd. In short, the holiday is commemorating the community’s chutzpah against the Christian empire that ruled over them in what is now the modern nation of Ethiopia. According to the stories, the Aksum Empire waged war against the Jews in the 6th century, which resulted in the two communities being separated. Again, in the 15th century, tensions grew as Ethiopian Christians began to persecute the Jews in larger numbers. Because of Beta Yisrael’s lack of connection to the other Jewish communities, they believed that they were the last Jews in the whole world, which made their survival through persecution all the more meaningful. It was in this time that the Kessim (Amharic Jewish leaders) fled to the wilderness and ascended the highest mountain to prostrate themselves towards Hashem and offer thanks for the revealing of the Torah. Sigd is held fifty days after Yom Kippur, which acts as a parallel to the Orthodox Jewish holiday of Shavuot. In 2008, Israel officially recognized Sigd as a state holiday in a historic vote which was marked with fanfare from the marginalized community.

Chag Sigd Sameach!

Sources: The Jewish Virtual Library and Ethiopian Jews and Israel by Ashkenazi and Weingrod