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 – LXXIII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – My Bar Mitzvah (5 of 5)

After the Bar Mitzvah, I was expected to follow certain religious rites, chief among them was to say my daily prayers. I did so at the insistence of my mother, but my heart was not in it. Each morning, I put on my Tefilim (Phylacteries) and wrapped myself in my Tallit (Prayer Shawl).

What I did enjoy was to attend the Friday night service. I had a choice of two synagogues: Hanan at the end of Rue Khantaret Ghamra, or Neve Shalom on Rue Tour Sina. I preferred Neve Shalom. The two things that I remember with fondness is the choir and the darrouche (sermon).

After the prayers were completed, the shammash (beadle) looked up at the loft and called out: “yalla ya welad,” “come on boys.” And from upstairs I could hear (but not see) the choir intoning Shir ha Shirim (Song of Songs): “Lekhou neranenah l’Adonai, lekhol nari’a lo …” “Let us sing a song to our Lord, Him whom we worship …” (It doesn’t quite follow the text as it is written in the bible). After the first stanza, the congregation then sang; the same procedure was carried on for the complete song. The Song of Songs was sung following a hauntingly beautiful mangina (tune).

The sermon was short and to the point. It used examples from daily life. It did not refer to obscure texts, and preaching was kept to a minimum. You usually could relate to it whether you were 12 or 72. It was delivered by the rabbi or a member of the congregation.

I also loved going to Temple Hanan during the High Holidays: Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day Of Atonement). All or most of the Sepharim were taken out of the Aron Ha-Kodesh (Holy Ark). I remember what was written on top of the Holy Ark: “Teda’a Lifneh Mi Ata Omed.” “Know In Front Of Whom You Are Standing.” The intonation of the Shofar (horn of a ram) brought tears to my eyes.

Another synagogue that I cannot leave out, it being the largest in Egypt: Sha’ar Ha-Shamayim (Gates of Heaven); it was commonly referred to as Temple Ismailiah. It was a large and splendid place of worship which could, and did, hold many worshipers. It is presently maintained thanks to a substantial donation from a rich Swiss businessman, Nessim Gaon. Its rabbi was none other than Haim Nahum Effendi, a respected figure among people in position of power and Cairo’s Jews. Nahum Effendi served between 1925 – 1961. Since he was blind, the beadle had to remind him when to terminate his sermon, for he usually lost track of time.

* * *

Throughout my religious life, I looked for something more, the missing piece of the puzzle as it were. And the day came when I found it. I will talk of that in my next section.


1) The New Jewish Encyclopedia:  Edited by David Bridger Ph.D. In association with Samuel Wolk J.S.D.

Behrman House, Inc.

New York


2) The Vanished World of Egyptian Jewry

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