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  • Chloe Ganjian

Shiriyah Dvar Torah Winner- Day 2: United by Our Differences

Hello everyone,

This year’s Shiriyah theme is "Israel at 75", and specifically for the seniors, it is AM YISRAEL, the different communities that come together and form the Jewish people in Israel.

From the outside, many non-Jews may believe that all Jews are the same. According to the stereotypes, we are all white, have big noses, and only care about money…

However, within the Jewish community, we all know that the opposite is true. Jews come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes.

One example of diversity within AM Yisrael is the Ethiopian Jews. Ethiopian Jews lived in complete isolation from other Jewish communities until the mid-20th century when many were air-lifted to Israel. The Ethiopian Jews look different than your typical Jew- they have darker skin and features. Because they were completely separated from the rest of the Jewish world for so many centuries, they have developed many of their own traditions that do not exist in other Jewish communities.

One of these traditions is the Ethiopian Holiday called Sigd. Sigd is celebrated on the 29th of Cheshvan, exactly 50 days after Yom Kippur. It is thought to be the date on which Hashem first revealed himself to Moshe. Sigd is all about accepting the Torah and yearning for Israel and the Temple. For the Ethiopian community, it marks the renewal of the covenant between the Jewish people, Hashem, and the Torah. You may be wondering, why do the Ethiopians celebrate Sigd? The answer is simple: They love Judaism, and they LOVE Israel.

When the Ethiopians heard that they would have the opportunity to make aliyah to Eretz Israel during the period of the first aliyah, they were determined to make it to the holy land successfully. They left Ethiopia quickly and packed lightly as they were scared to be found by the Ethiopian government. Their journey was long and treacherous, their supplies ran short, and people died of exhaustion and disease, but eventually, they made it to Israel! The Ethiopian Jews REALLY LOVED Israel. Sources teach us that they never even knew that the Beit Hamikdash had been destroyed. On their journey to Israel, they believed that the Beit Hamikdash was still standing, and when they got to Israel and learned of the Temple's destruction, they were absolutely heartbroken.

The Ethiopians celebrate their Sigd Holiday at the top of a high mountain, symbolizing Mount Sinai. They begin preparing for their ceremony a long time before the holiday, further demonstrating their love for Judaism. Today, Ethiopians in Israel perform the ceremony at the Kotel.

The Ethiopian Jews face extreme discrimination. They look different than the typical Jew. But, as you can see, some may argue that they are 100 times more devoted to the religion. They are passionate and proud to be Jewish, maintaining unique traditions from centuries ago. While many non-Jews may view all Jews as the same, so much beauty lies in the fact that we are in fact different. As it is written in Masechet Brachot, “ No two minds are alike, just as no two faces are alike.” We can see these discrepancies even within our school. At North Shore, we have Jews of all different cultures. There are Bukharians, Persians, Mashadis, Ashkenazis, Syrians, Moroccans, Israelis, and MANY more. In ninth grade, when we entered the school as freshmen, we may have been divided by our different cultures. Personally, in the first weeks of freshman year, I found myself immediately sitting with the girls from my Shul. However, once I opened my eyes and talked to girls of other backgrounds, I was immediately drawn to their cultures. Now, when we’re dancing at chagigahs, no one cares if they’re holding hands with a Bucharian or a Persian. We all dance together.

On Friday, when we sat on the soccer field to complete the rope-tying competition, we were united as a grade. The way I looked at it was that each piece of yarn symbolized a different student in our school, and as we tied the fragments together, we created one strong rope, a symbol of our strength as a grade and as a people.

To the seniors: As seniors, WE are responsible for creating this unity in our school. Whether a person is in their freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior year, we are all North Shore students. Similar to the Ethiopians’ love for Eretz Israel, we have a burning love for our school. For many of us, North Shore has been our home since kindergarten. It is up to us to bring in new students and collectively embrace our North shore and Jewish spirit. Just as the Ethiopians persevered their Jewish traditions over centuries, it is up to us, the seniors, to preserve the traditional north shore spirit. We must bring the ruach into the building and inspire the younger grades.

B'ezrat Hashem, may we continue to grow our Jewish communities, and may our differences continue to glue us together. And, just as the Ethiopians have shown us, may we always strive to upkeep our wonderful religion.

Thank you!

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