An Ethiopian Passover: A Video and Discussion Guide for Children

Passover is a holiday that is celebrated all over the world. This short video from the folks at Shalom Sesame is a great introduction to the holiday as seen through the experiences of Khalikidan, a young Israeli girl whose family emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel. It provides an opportunity to open up a conversation with children, at home or in a classroom, about a modern day Exodus and the ways in which Jews around the world are the same and different!

The video also provides an opportunity to expand on the themes of Passover to include a discussion of Ethiopian Jewry and their recent exodus to freedom. Below we have included a brief background about Ethiopian Jews as well as some discussion questions that can be used to deepen and reinforce the understanding of this excellent video. In particular, sharing the story of the Exodus from Ethiopia can help show that the ancient story can connect to modern experiences.

Link to Video from Shalom Sesame

Khalikidan’s family came to Israel from Ethiopia. Jews have been living in Ethiopia since biblical times. In the 1980s when famine came to Ethiopia, the country became politically unstable and many Ethiopian Jews faced persecution. Known also as Beta Israel, they sought to leave and go to Israel. Much like the ancient Israelites, many Ethiopian Jews walked in the wilderness, to make their ways to temporary camps. Eventually large scale airlifts by the Israeli Government known as brought over 100,000 people to freedom and safety. Like the ancient Israelites, there was much suffering and the journey was difficult but they were lifted to freedom.

Because Ethiopian Jews lived apart from contact with other Jewish communities for many centuries, they have many of their own customs. They have special Ethiopian costumes like the white ones seen in this video. They call their rabbi¹s Kes. They make their own matzah by hand instead of purchasing it in the store. But they do observe many of the customs that are observed world wide at Passover, including abstaining from leavened bread and retelling the Passover story at the Seder.

Questions you can discuss with young children

• What do you think Khalikidan’s favorite part of the Seder is? What is your favorite part of Passover?

• How did Khalikidan feel when she had to read the four questions? If you read them for your family how do you feel?

• What are some of the differences between Khalikidan’s family’s Seder and yours?

• Who are the visitors who come to Khalikidan’s Seder? Who are the visitors to your Seder or whose Seder to you go to visit?

• Do you make your own matzah like Khalikidan’s family? If not, where does yours come from?

• In Khalikidan’s family they put a special table cloth and special cup on the table to make the Seder extra special. What do you do at your home/at the Seder that you attend to make it extra special?

• Why do you think that Khalikidan’s grandmother tells the story of how she left Ethiopia at the Seder? If leaving Ethiopia was like leaving Egypt in ancient times, do you think it was easy to leave or difficult? How did your family come to the country that you live in? Was it easy to get there or difficult? If you do not know, you should ask your parents, aunts and uncles or grandparents to tell you at the Seder!

Helpful Vocabulary

Aliyah = Emigration to Israel

Chametz = any food with yeast or leavening, so it does not rise. It is forbidden to eat Chametz during Passover

Matzah = a flat cracker made only from flour and water, and baked quickly so that it does not rise. Matzah replaces bread during the entire festival of Passover.

Seder = the ritual meal held on the first and for some Jews first two nights of Passover

Afikoman = a piece of matzah that is hidden at the end of the Seder meal. Children find it and return it so that the meal can conclude

Amharic = the main language spoken in Ethiopia and by Ethiopian Jews

Eliyahu = Elijah the Prophet, is said to visit every home where there is a Seder. A special cup is set out for him and he drinks a little at each house.
(Tags: Ethiopian Jews, Passover)

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