(JTA) — Synagogues and Hebrew schools in the United States looking to help their communities celebrate Sigd, an Ethiopian Jewish holiday, have gotten a helping hand this year, thanks to Sigal Kanotopsky.
Kanotopsky is the first Ethiopian Jew to hold a regional leadership position at the Jewish Agency for Israel, a nonprofit agency associated with the Israeli government that promotes immigration to Israel. Now overseeing the agency’s operations in the northeastern United States, she was 7 when her family arrived in Israel in 1983, part of a wave of Ethiopian immigrants who had made their wave largely by foot, through Sudan and countless hardships.
The wave of Ethiopian immigration brought — Sigd, which takes place 50 days after Yom Kippur and celebrates yearning for Israel — to the Jewish state. (This year, the one day festival begins Tuesday night.) Advocacy from within the community led to Israel adopting Sigd as a national holiday in 2008. But it remained largely under the radar in other countries — and even to many in Israel — until the last few years, amid a growing appreciation for Jewish diversity.
“In a year that saw renewed and widespread understanding of the importance of the Movement for Black Lives, celebrating Sigd provides American Jews with a unique opportunity to activate our sense of the racial diversity of the Jewish community,” Ruth Abusch-Magder and Beza Abebe wrote in 2020 on Kveller. “By celebrating Sigd here in the U.S., we send a powerful message that we are all part of the global Jewish peoplehood.”
Last year, PJ Library sent “Pumpkin Pie for Sigd,” a picture book about an American in Israel finding comfort during Thanksgiving by joining her friend’s Sigd celebration, to thousands of American Jewish families. And now, under Kanotopsky’s leadership, the Jewish Agency has released what it is calling “Sigd in a Box,” a collection of digital resources that communities can use to teach about Ethiopian Jewish music, food and customs.
“By accessing Sigd-in-a-Box, Jewish communities across the globe can grow closer — first learning about one another’s unique customs and cultures, and then even serving as de facto ambassadors for Sigd,” Kanotopsky, who has been based outside Philadelphia since last year, said in a statement. She is visiting a handful of communities in person to share Sigd traditions.
The growing recognition of Sigd among non-Ethiopian Jews has generated complicated reactions for some. “It is a strange feeling to see all the many invitations and publications about Sigd celebrations on social media,” wrote Shula Mola, an Ethiopian-Israeli scholar spending the year in the United States, in a Jewish Telegraphic Agency op-ed last year. She recounted how she had been ambivalent about Sigd’s embrace in Israel, remembering the pressure she felt to be an ambassador of a culture that many Israelis long seemed unwilling to learn about and knowing that many Ethiopian Jews there continue to feel marginalized.
This year, Israel’s population of Ethiopian immigrants has grown. In the latest development in a painful and protracted immigration saga, hundreds of Falash Mura — descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity about 200 years ago and who are relatives of the Beta Israel Jews who were airlifted to Israel in 1991 — were permitted to move to Israel over the summer. But an estimated 10,000 remain in Ethiopia, and the Jewish Agency has been working with the Israeli government to bring more of them to Israel.
“Sigd is a wonderful opportunity for our global Jewish community to become closer as we celebrate this moving day of communal reflection,” said the agency’s chairman, Doron Almog, in a statement about the new Sigd resources. “It’s a time for us to learn more about the rich Ethiopian Jewish culture and also honor the difficult journey many made — and many who are still waiting to make – to Jerusalem.”
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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