Sigd – A Holy Day for Israel’s Ethiopian Jews

Stand for Israel  |  November 16, 2020

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein at 2012 Sigd celebration of Ethiopian Jews
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein at 2012 Sigd celebration of Ethiopian Jews

It has been 50 days since Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement and the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. And, 50 days since they observed that holy day, Ethiopian Jews now celebrate Sigd, a state holiday for all Israelis.

Perhaps you’ve heard of this day in connection with the brightly colored umbrellas that adorn the streets of the Holy Land. Perhaps you heard of it because of The Fellowship’s strong connection with Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish community (in the above photo, our late founder Rabbi Eckstein joins in a Sigd celebration in 2012). Or perhaps you’d never heard of this holy day before.

Did you know that originally Sigd was another name for Yom Kippur? Today, the two holidays are observed separately, 50 days apart. But for Ethiopian Jews, Sigd still symbolizes their acceptance of God’s Word. And it is when they look to the Book of Nehemiah and the biblical figure of Ezra, who again presented God’s Word to His people after their Babylonian exile.

Surely these people – the Jews of Ethiopia who for centuries had been cut off from their biblical homeland, and who returned thanks to the help of Fellowship friends and friends of Israel – celebrate the return to the Holy Land of those who have kept God and His Promised Land close to their hearts, even when their physical bodies suffered through exile so far away.