Most Ethiopian Jews have left their homeland for Israel. But New York’s Ethiopian Jewish Community continue to practice their religious traditions.

By By Rachel Delia Benaim (Tablet Magazine) |

On Sunday evening, about 200 people were greeted at Manhattan’s Center for Jewish History by the sound of a krar, an Ethiopian Jewish instrument that resembles a cross between a modern-day lyre and guitar. Attendees—everybody from New York’s elderly to younger Ethiopian Jews who have immigrated to the U.S. from Israel—appeared to have been mesmerized by the instrument’s sounds as they took to red-cushioned seats, ready for a night to remember.

The night’s festivities—North America’s sixth annual celebration of Sigd, an Ethiopian Jewish holiday—officially began when four men chanted in Ge’ez, an ancient Semitic language that developed in Ethiopia and Eritrea, as they carried large rainbow umbrellas made of fabric to the stage. When they arrived, two of them, both of whom were wearing a tallit, began to chant verses from the Bible, and other liturgy, in Ge’ez. The ritual display was followed by an address from two the worshipers—a Kes, meaning high priest or rabbi, and a professor—who shared the religious and communal significance of the holiday. As they explained, Sigd celebrates the date on which the Second Temple in Jerusalem was inaugurated, as is delineated in the Biblical books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

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