Zaudu Berhan has made a dream come true: He has translated the Sephardic Siddur for his brothers and sisters, the Ethiopian olim in Israel. The new Siddur was launched recently at the “Heichal Shelomo” event space in Jerusalem, in the presence of the Ethiopian community's leader, Rabbi Yosef Hadane, and Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky.
"For decades I was my community's Hazan (cantor) in Ethiopia. Since I had already published seven other books as well as a Hebrew-Amharic dictionary, my publishing company, Koren, approached me with the task of also translating the prayers to Amharic so that a bilingual Hebrew-Amharic siddur might be published. I worked on it for several years. I didn't translate all of the prayers because if I had, the siddur would have been over 1,500 pages long. I translated the main parts," says Berhan.
Koren published the new Siddur with an appendix containing the ancient prayers of Ethiopian Jews, which were also translated by Berhan, from Amharic into Hebrew. This is the first time these ancient prayers appear in Hebrew, and for Hebrew-speakers they constitute a window to the nusach (style) customary to Ethiopian Jews.
The launch ceremony at Heichal Shelomo attracted Kessim (Elders of the Ethiopian community), rabbinical judges, families, and youth.
Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky said that he had heard of Israel’s efforts to bring Ethiopian Jewry to Israel, while he was a Prisoner of Zion in Russia. When he came to Israel, he got to know the Ethiopian community and even visited Ethiopia several times. "The [Ethiopian] community carries with it a tradition thousands of years old which it kept alive, unlike we [Jews of the Former Soviet Union] who were not allowed to keep our tradition," he said.
Berhan’s last name means “light” in Amharic; his first name, Zaudu, means “crown.”
Rabbi Menahem Waldman, Director of Jewish Programs for Ethiopian Olim at The Jewish Agency and head of the "Shevut Am" institution, was touched by the ceremony. He said that he met Berhan in Ethiopia twenty years ago and that he clearly lives up to his name: "Zaudu Berhan brought a great light to Israel with the translation of the Siddur."