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A Postponed Yet Powerful Celebration of Sigd, Community, and Hope

An Ethiopian Israeli New Yorker’s determination to celebrate Sigd even in challenging times

Sigd is an ancient Jewish holiday, observed 50 days after Yom Kippur. Bringing together the community in ritual, prayer, and festive celebration, Sigd recognizes a return to Jerusalem and carries themes of freedom, safety, and holiness. Through the generations, Sigd was preserved exclusively by the Jews of Ethiopia known as Beta Israel.  Since 2008, Sigd has been recognized as a national holiday in Israel. Today, many Ethiopian Jews, especially those living in America, share a hope that Sigd will become a holiday celebrated by all Jews from all backgrounds.

Tigist Naveh (Tigi) is an Ethiopian Israeli chef and mother living in New York.  For Tigi, Sigd has held deep personal significance throughout her life. She recounted memories of her aunt deep in prayer each Sigd, and the stories her aunt would tell of their family’s journey from Ethiopia, to Sudan, to Israel. “As an adult, I finally understood the power of Sigd, and the power of prayer on this day. Many of my family members died on the walk to Jerusalem. Prayer for Jerusalem was important to every part of their journey.”  

Growing up with Sigd as such an integral part of her experience, it became an especially significant holiday for Tigi when she moved to America from Israel 18 years ago, and when she became a mother. As a mom of three children who are Ethiopian Israeli and Ashkenazi, Tigi expressed that Sigd was an important holiday for sharing the Ethiopian side of their culture. Sigd then became a holiday that she also felt was important to share not only with her Ethiopian Israeli community, but with all American Jews and with her non-Jewish friends as well. For Tigi, “I want this to be a holiday as recognized as Hanukkah or Purim, where everyone celebrates.”

In 2023, Sigd was set to be celebrated on November 12. However, after the attack on Israel on October 7, many organizations canceled their Sigd celebrations altogether. Tigi shared how the community was really struggling at this time, not only with their closeness and connection to Israel, but with growing antisemitism in America. As Sigd passed without any opportunities to come together as a community, Tigi took it on herself to put together the event that she felt the community needed. 

On December 17, Tigi brought together over 50 people to the Ethiopian restaurant Tsion Cafe to celebrate Sigd. Tigi said, “Even though it was after the date of Sigd, it still felt important for us to be in community and be together.” Jews from all backgrounds as well as many people who were not Jewish came to the event. They traveled from Maryland, DC, and across New York to join in the evening of celebration and reflection. People were invited to reflect on what Sigd meant to them, while enjoying Ethiopian Israeli dishes made by Tigi.  “For me, food is art. It is how we build community.” The group connected through storytelling, food, and community throughout the evening.

Tigi’s event held significant meaning for herself, her family, and attendees. She expressed that there are already plans in the works for next year’s Sigd celebration. “Next year I hope it is even bigger, with more people, more kids, more activities, more everything.” Even in a year filled with struggle and darkness, Sigd still arrived to bring hope for a future, and prayer for Jerusalem. Passionate people like Tigi ensured that this holiday was able to be a moment of shared hope and connection for people of all backgrounds. If Sigd was able to bring such hope and celebration even at the end of 2023, there is no doubt about Sigd’s powerful ability  to connect people in growingly meaningful ways in the future. 

 

If you’re in the Brooklyn area this January, be sure to check out Tigi’s Ethiopian and Vegan pop up. Learn more details on Tigi’s Instagram

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