By Avraham ben Avraham

What is it that makes a bar mitzvah so unique and fulfilling- and indeed an unforgettable occasion for many? Because, even though typical Jewish celebration (of coming to age) are not all that uncommon in this part of the world, but undoubtedly the special ones seem to be characterized with remarkable features. The questions that come to mind, considering the magnitude of this event- is not just centered on the personality of the celebrant- as the witnessing audience is also a huge determining factor to put to scale.  

Call it a coincidence or simply “perfect timing,” the bar mitzvah was held during an important youth seminar- hence giving it a huge degree of exposure (within Nigeria and internationally). The decision by the parents of the young boy to move the activity from Lagos (their current synagogue location) to Anambra State (in the South East) truly made it all worthwhile. Imagine how interesting and entertaining it was performing this mitzvah in front of over 220 Jewish Youths from four different regions of the federation!

The 2019 National Jewish Youth Seminar

The initiative of a national youth gathering was first brought forward by Gadi Bentley, a young Israeli frequent visitor to Jewish Nigeria. Initially it began as nationwide youth Shabbat, hosted at different regions across the country periodically. Its purpose being to ensure creating stronger bonds across Jewish Nigeria through the National Youth Shabbat. However today, the movement has predominantly grown and now includes a general seminar that was first launched in 2016.

A striking comparison between the debut seminar and the just-concluded edition revealed a path of growth and improvement achieved. The 7 days National Jewish Youth Seminar (2019) featured the following:

  • Hebrew classes for all attendees, ranging from low to topmost levels
  • Teaching on various aspects of Judaism
  • Important skills of interest for participants, as well as
  • A youth Shabbat and other notable activities
Participants from Akwaibom State (Southern Nigeria)

Generally, the turnout for the one week meeting for discussion was highly impressive. This was attributed to the organizing management who spread the words through various effective means that included the Facebook page of the youth association.

The theme for this year’s seminar is focused on taking every participant (who was grouped into different classes) from their current level of knowledge to the next level they need to be. To implement everything according to plan (in order to achieve the intended result)- about 6 experienced teachers graced the occasion from Ertez Israel. And interestingly, Peretz ben Kish (the bar mitzvah boy) was one of the students in the beginner’s classes during the seminar.

5 Notable Facts About The Bar Mitzvah Celebrant

Below is a brief profile of Peretz ben Kish:

Fact #Number 1FAMILY BACKGROUND: Peretz ben Kish is the 2nd child and the first son of his parents. His father is from Enugu State while his mother (Ima Hadassah) is from Anambra State. He has three other lovely siblings who are known as Rachael, Oriel, and Leah.

Rachael, Peretz, Oriel & Leah (in Lagos)

Fact #Number 2ABOUT HIS SYNAGOGUE: Peretz is a registered member of Adat Yisrael Synagogue in Lagos, located off Ago bridge after the popular Apple Junction roundabout in Amuwo Odofin.

Fact #Number 3EDUCATION: The 13 years old boy is in Junior Secondary School class three. He is a student of James Hope College in Agbor (Delta State).

Fact #Number 4SCHORLASHIP STATUS: Being a highly brilliant and smart thinking young Jewish boy- he is currently (a beneficiary) of a 6 years-long secondary school scholarship award from Jim Oviah.

Fact #Number 5HIS LOVE FOR THE TORAH: Just like his father (the rosh of Adat Yisrael Synagogue Lagos), Peretz has a motivated sense (of learning and improving) in knowledge of the Torah and the things that has to do with the Holy One (Blessed is He) and Judaism in general.

In all, CONGRATULATIONS to you, Peretz!

Fulfilling The Mitzvah With A Record Breaking First Reading From The Sefer Torah

The National Youth Seminar may have come and gone, but some of its stories would not be forgotten in many years to come. Because- making history is a factor of getting into good positioning and establishing records that the future can readily relate with most of the time. And no doubt, the celebration of “coming to age” is usually one of the happiest periods in the life of every Jewish child. No wonder majority grew up recounting the memories relating to the ceremony even as they grow into full adulthood.

Peretz ben Kish called to the Aliyah

For Peretz, the big moment finally came for him to achieve spiritual elevation into the next Jewish life on the 22nd of August. It was on a Thursday (which the Sefer Torah can be read during weekdays) and the “DAY 5” of the Youth Seminar. And prior to the occasion, a delegation which included the following people:

  1. Professor William Miles of Northeastern University (author of Jews of Nigeria: an Afro-Judaic Odyssey),
  2. Omer ben Yaakov, Rosh of Yavneh Synagogue in Ikot Akpa Nkuk, Ukanafun LGA of Akwaibom State
  3. Eben Cohen, Founder of TorahWorld Outreach Organization, and
  4. Basil Saint Kelvin, Jewish Travel Blogger and (chief editor) of http://jewishnigeria.blog had arrived late at night ahead of the bar mitzvah celebration scheduled to hold during the Shacharit prayer the next day.
Professor William with some members of Gihon Synagogue & Beit Eri

The prayers got underway quite early that morning, with the hall filled with the highly spirited youths, teachers, and the few invited guests. Unlike a typical Shabbat, only three males would be called up to read from the Sefer Torah on that day. Then following the custom, Peretz ben Kish was honored with the first Aliyah (in celebration of his bar mitzvah). There was an air of expectation and great curiosity since it was his first time. But the young Jew didn’t disappoint, as his voice rang audibly across the large hall while he read.

This was immediately followed by the public declaration (usually recited by the father) to henceforth be freed from all the punishment, because Jewish parents are bound to be responsible for the wrongdoings committed by their children prior to the age of thirteen for boys (and twelve for the girl-child). Thereafter, the second and third Aliyah was taken by:

  • Yitzak be Peniel (Chazan, Igbo Jewish Community Synagogue in Ogidi) and
  • Kish ben Onyia

The prayer was continued by the chazzan from the Ogidi synagogue, until the point of giving the D’var Torah.

D’Var Torah On The Week Parashat By Orah bat Yokhanan

The parashat Eikev is the 46th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of the Torah reading and the third parashat in Devarim (the book of Deuteronomy). Before Eikev is the parashat Va-Ethannan and after Eikev is parashat Re’eh. Beginning from (Deuteronomy 7:12 and ending in 11:25), Eikev highlights on the following:

  • Blessings for obedience to G-d
  • Dangers of forgetting the Creator
  • Taking the land across the Jordon
  • The promise of good harvest (the early rain and the later rain).
Orah bat Yokhanan (Adat Yisrael Synagogue)

But listening to Orah bat Yokhanan as she gives the dvar Torah, it was amazing how she creatively related the parashat as it concerns us in the present day. In her short speech, she seems to have a message for not only the male and female folks, but for the bar mitzvah celebrant as well. At the end, everything added up together (as a richly prepared and clearly communicated teaching from the young lady).

After this, the prayer was continued and completed (till Aleinu) by Kish ben Onyia.

Congratulatory Message From Gadi Bentley

Gadi Bentley was the first to speak in front of the audience, addressing Peretz just shortly after the bar mitzvah Shacharit service. He was suitably impressed with the performance of the young boy reading from the Sefer Torah. “This is truly historic and a good record-breaking listening to Peretz’ Hebrew reading accuracy” according to Gadi.

Yitzhak, Gadi Bentley & Ithiel (a week before the bar mitzvah)

Then he encouraged him to remain steadfast on this path and continue to grow and devote more time to deep learning. Reminding the celebrant how special the day was; Gadi emphasized on the beauty of having a good number of audience in attendance from several synagogues around Nigeria, and guests from Israel and the United States. The uniqueness of the bar mitzvah is beyond measure- a story that would be propelled through word-of-mouth by witnesses from three continents in the world.

Kiddush, Followed By Brikat Hamazon (Grace After Meal)

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The Kiddush for festival mornings, which usually begins with a specific prayer, then the blessing of the wine (and then the washing of hands) was said by the rosh of Adat Yisrael Synagogue, Kish ben Onyia. After which it was time for the Hamotzi (Praised are You, Lord and God, sovereign of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth).

Kadmiel saying the Brikat Hamazon, seated next to Ithiel ben Moshe

Schmuel Ben Tzuriel (Aaron Hakodesh Synagogue, Port Harcourt) and Raphael Ben David (from Kehilat Melek in Port Harcourt) assisted in the distribution of the challah.

The Brikat Hamazon was said by Kadmiel Ben Immanuel (from Gihon Hebrew Synagogue in Abuja).

Vote Of Thanks From A Happy Father

An obedient son is often the pride of his parents. And when the things of the Torah is also part of such son, then this makes his father and mother more cheerful and satisfied. Judaism (as a religion and tradition) ought to be passed down from fathers to the children, and to the upcoming generations.

During his brief speech, Kish did mention a number of people who he was grateful to (for their contribution to the success of the bar mitzvah), which includes:

  1. Rabbi Wayne Franklin
  2. Dani Limor
  3. Professor William Miles
  4. Yitzhak ben Peniel (Peretz private Hebrew teacher)
  5. Ima Liz Ben (Igbo Jewish Community Synagogue, Ogidi)
  6. Gadi Bentley
  7. The Teaching crew from Israel
  8. Management of the National Youth Association, and
  9. All the youths in attendance

He hoped and prayed that the bar mitzvah of his second son could coincide with the next edition of the National Jewish Youth Seminar.

Photo Gallery

Some of the unforgettable moments of the bar mitzvah of Peretz ben Kish.

Photo Credit: Ithiel ben Moshe (Aaron Hakodesh Synagogue)

Special Presentation By The Young Group From Gihon Synagogue

Who could have thought that a group of young children would travel almost 500 kilometers overland from the north to participate in the 2019 Youth Seminar? Yet, they didn’t just make the journey for the lectures alone- these children are certainly the youngest Jewish entertainers one can imagine.

I first ran into them a couple of days ago during my maiden visit to Gihon Hebrew Synagogue to mark the beginning of the Miles-Cohen International Tour. How delighted to stumble upon the group again in Anambra as they entertained the crowd after the Bar Mitzvah celebration. Operating as a unit of talented young and upcoming stars- the group draws its inspiration and motivation from their leader, Shlomo ben Yaakov (Chazan of Gihon Hebrew Synagogue and one of the official teachers for the Youth Seminar). Here are the names of the rest of the young group:

Shlomo with the Gihon Children Group.
  • Batyah Imanuel
  • Sarah Michael
  • Miriam Michael
  • Oriel Gideon
  • Avraham Shlomo and
  • Uzziel Gideon

Five Things Not Allowed Prior To The Age Of Bar Mitzvah

The Jewish tradition is generally viewed as a code of series of laws- concerning what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and when not to do it. Let’s briefly look at 5 things not allowed to do prior to the Age of Bar Mitzvah.

  1. Boys are not allowed to put on the Tallit (prayer shawl) while praying
  2. It is forbidden to put on a Tefillin until the age of the Bar mitzvah
  3. Young boys under the age of 13 cannot be called up to the bimah to read from the Torah
  4. Parents cannot deny the responsibility of the sins of their child prior to that age
  5. Bar Mitzah celebration cannot be allowed to hold at certain periods especially between the fast of Tammuz and Tisha B’hav

Mazal Tov To You- Peretz

Performing this mitzvah is always a dream come true for every Jewish young boy. Going beyond (and entering into the next level) opens a new phase from a world of curiosity to that of certainty. Now, with most of the limitations having become a thing of the past- the time for learning and practicing has fully set in.

Hadassah marat Kish, Peretz ben Kish & Yitzhak ben Peniel

Surrounded by the love of a true (and accomplished) Jewish mother and a disciplined father, as well as the support and guidance of the entire community- what else is there to ask for? Except that let the Almighty Father continue to shine His face upon Peretz and ultimately direct the path of the young boy as he grows into full adulthood. Mazal Tov. Mazal Tov!

Shalom!

Avraham ben Avraham

About the Writer: Avraham ben Avraham is a Nigerian Writer, Business Consultant, International Tour Guide and a Jewish Travel Blogger. He is the founder of the Jewish Nigeria Blog (his 2nd blog after the Jewish Standards). His upcoming project is the Jewish Nigeria Online Forum and Parnasa Network (Nigeria). He is a member of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce (New Jersey).

Upcoming Stories on Jewish Nigeria:

  1. Kulanu Across the Globe: Celebrating 25 Years Anniversary
  2. A Maiden visit to Gihon Hebrew Synagogue (Abuja) to mark the beginning of the Miles-Cohen International Tour
  3. The Visit of Professor William Miles To Jewish Communities Across Ebonyi State
  4. The Jews of Akwaibom State
  5. Sights and Sounds of The 2nd National Jewish Youth Seminar 2019
  6. An interview with Gateon Natali and Shlomo ben Yaakov
  7. National Jewish Youth Seminar
  8. The Jewish Wedding at Ogidi, Anambra State