Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – LXX. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – My Bar Mitzvah (2 of 5)

At the age of 11, it was time to start the instruction that would eventually prepare me for my Bar Mitzvah.

I started by going to a koutab (school of religious education) that was situated a block before Malaka Nazli Avenue.

At the koutab, I was taught to read my prayers. Like for any other language, I started with the alphabet. Unlike learning another language, the meaning of the words was not explained!

[Jews across the world, for a long time, prayed but didn’t understand what they were reading. Today, most prayer books have a side-by-side English (or the applicable native tongue) and Hebrew texts. Therefore, they understand what they are reading. Incidentally, for Muslims from non-Arab countries (example Indonesia) the same situation prevails since they do not know Arabic. Whether side-by-side texts are permitted and used, I do not know. Going a step further, Catholics read their prayers in Latin (a language they did not understand) for many centuries. All that changed in the ’60s when the Vatican authorized a mass delivered in the native language of the faithfuls.]

After going for a few months to the koutab, I realized that I wasn’t progressing satisfactorily. Most other pupils were ahead of me. They had either started their religious education early and/or had religious parents and therefore more exposure to the required prayers and the basic tenets of Judaism. I therefore alerted my parents to that fact, and they started looking for an alternative.

The nephew of one of our neighbors had been instructed by an excellent teacher, would we be interested?

And so it was that a man, who would have a great influence on me, entered my life. It almost didn’t happen. The tutor, Solomon, was leaving for Jerusalem in a year’s time. He stressed that he had plenty of time to properly prepare me. My parents hesitated, but eventually agreed. They, and indeed me, never regretted it. I will have more to say on this very unusual individual in my next section.

The Bar Mitzvah date was fast approaching. On top of my schoolwork, I was spending time reviewing my prayers, and the portion of the Haftarah I was going to read in front of the congregation. Since Solomon was now out of the picture, a neighbor assisted me. A few days before the ceremony he (the neighbor) informed me that I was well prepared and that I would do well. And indeed I did.

[Haftarah means conclusion; and it applies to the selection from the prophets read in the synagogue right after the reading of the Torah on Sabbath and special religious holidays. The Bar Mitzvah boy is asked to read the Haftarah; and he is expected to practice it ahead of time.]

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