Ethiopian Immigrants Ready for First Seders

By JTA

Published April 03, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Ethiopian immigrants to Israel held model seders in absorption centers throughout the country in preparation for their first Passover in Israel.

Ethiopian immigrants in the absorption center in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevaseret Zion held a model seder Monday attended by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews; Natan Sharansky, chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel; Col. Zion Shankur, the highest-ranking Ethiopian in the Israel Defense Forces; Ambassador Belaynesh Zevadia, Israel’s first Ethiopia-born ambassador; and prominent Ethiopian-Israeli singer-songwriter Maski Shabiro.

Sharansky recalled making a seder while imprisoned in Siberia, using water instead of wine and bread instead of matzah, and reciting as much of the Haggadah as he could from memory. After his release and own immigration to Israel, he flew to Ethiopia to escort a group of Jews there on their own flight to Israel.

Many of the olim attended the model seder dressed entirely in white, the traditional Ethiopian attire for festive occasions. After briefly experiencing the highlights of a seder, the participants started dancing a traditional Ethiopian dance.

They have been studying Passover at the absorption center in recent week, learning from the Haggadah along with an Amharic translation.

“In Ethiopia, they ate matzah all year round,” said Yehudah Sharf, director of Aliyah and Absorption for The Jewish Agency. “Here it is only on Passover that they eat the ‘lachma anya’ – bread of the poor – because they have so many more opportunities. For them, now, eating matzah truly makes it a night to ask ‘what is different tonight from all other nights.’ ”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.