Ethiopian Matzah Cover

Object number

H. Kal-Weiss

Object Information

This is an Ethiopian matzah cover for Passover, made by Alemtsehay Eshete. It is used to cover the matzah bread. The handmade embroidery on this particular matzah cover depicts baby Moses in the Nile river, where he was found and saved by the Pharaoh’s daughter.

Matzah is an unleavened flatbread eaten during Passover (Hebrew: Pesach), festival that commemorates the Exodus of Jewish people from Egypt. When escaping the Pharaoh’s rule, the Jewish people did not have enough time for the dough (for the bread they were making at the time) to rise. They only had enough time to make flat bread, matzah. To remember this special event, Jews today continue to eat the matzah bread throughout the festival of Passover. The matzah plays a special role in the Seder (Hebrew: order) meal at the beginning of the festival.

The Ethiopian Jewish community is one of many Jewish communities around the world. Now, the majority of the community find their home in Israel following two great airlifts missions in 1984 (Operation Moses) and in 1991 (Operation Solomon).

Prior to these airlift missions, much of the Beta Israel community remained isolated from the rest of the international Jewish community for many generations. During this time, they developed many of their own Jewish customs and traditions, shaped by their Ethiopian culture. For example, in Ethiopia, matzah (kita) is made of wheat flour or tef grain, largely popular in Ethiopian cuisine. The matzah dough is poured onto a big, flat, clay pan called megogo that rested over fiery coals.

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Why is this image important to you?

It represents the importance of freedom of religion and expression.

How does this image reflect your Jewish identity?

It was given to me by my cousin Blossom who was a scholar and an activist.

In three words, what does Judaism mean to you?

Justice, Belonging, Community

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