A new picture book with charming illustrations in vibrant colors introduces readers to a Jewish holiday many will not know, how it is celebrated, and the way immigrants enrich these traditions.
This holiday, Sigd, marks the day God first spoke to Moses at the burning bush. Jews in Ethiopia honor this day, and they brought the holiday to Israel when they arrived there. Israel adopted Sigd as a national holiday. Celebrations include fasting, reciting Psalms, reading Torah, and a festive meal with singing and dancing. The date of the celebration is very close to America’s Thanksgiving Day, which is not an Israeli holiday. These details set up a gentle plot that explains the holiday to readers.
Maddie and her American family recently made Aliyah; Maddie is homesick, and she yearns to have a big meal she can share with extended family. Israelis, though, do not celebrate Thanksgiving. Maddie’s Ethiopian school friend, Orly, offers her a warm alternative in Sigd and invites her to celebrate with her family. Maddie’s first menu idea is pumpkin pie, but none of the various immigrants in their apartment building know about pumpkins. They suggest squash as an alternative, and so it goes. Each ingredient in pumpkin pie receives a substitute from the various immigrant neighbors. Maddie and her dad cook with Orly, then take their dish to Orly’s big family celebration, where the table groans with tons of traditional Sigd foods. Maddie asks Orly to try their new “pumpkin pie” and the readers can tell that polite Orly does not like it.
Maddie does not get to celebrate American Thanksgiving in Israel, but she does learn about a new Jewish holiday for all to celebrate with love, joy and thoughts of Moses that last even beyond Passover.
Ellen G. Cole, a retired librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.