I was a sophomore in high school when my synagogue called the entire congregation together for an important Shabbat service, no press allowed. They were raising money for Operation Moses, the first large-scale rescue of Ethiopian Jews – and it was top secret at the time. It was the first of two Ethiopian evacuations I would witness. During the second I was in Israel, studying Jewish education at HUC-JIR and volunteering at an Ethiopian absorption center.
The influx of Ethiopian Jews transformed Israeli culture, introducing traditions including the festival of Sigd, which became a national holiday in 2008.
Sidg was celebrated yesterday in Israel and has been celebrated in Mirowitz classrooms as well. (You can learn more about the holiday here. Enjoy a virtual celebration hosted by The Jewish Agency for Israel here.)
Students heard stories about the diversity of the Israeli people who have been brought to our Jewish homeland for safety from many countries, including Ethiopia. First graders were were introduced to a few Amharic words and used them in conversation with one another.
In middle school, students are learning about the experiences of a wide range of communities who came to Israel.
They will examine the reasons each community made Aliya, what they encountered on arrival, and what impact they have had on the State. This understanding of the diversity of the Jewish state is one aspect of the way we are bringing Israeli history to life this month.
Younger students are learning about the history of the Israeli flag, national anthem, state seal and other symbols with our shinshinit, Shelly, and their Hebrew and Judaics teachers.
And older students are learning about Yitzhak Rabin and the legacy he left behind.
We hope that the stories they learn become their own stories, connecting them to Israel in personal ways that all come together when they visit Israel as 8th graders.