Bar Mitzvah in Kochi's Jewish Synagogue after 34 years

Synagogue to host ritual commemorating religious adulthood of two boys, of which one is a British citizen
Bar Mitzvah in Kochi's Jewish Synagogue after 34 years

KOCHI: After nearly three decades, Kochi will serve as the venue for Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish religious ritual commemorating the religious adulthood of a boy. In fact, the Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry will host Bar Mitzvah of two boys on Saturday. That’s not all. One of the boys celebrating the auspicious occasion is a British citizen who is coming to Kerala from England with his family.

“Two boys will celebrate their Bar Mitzvah. While one of them, Menahim Ryan Pallivathukkal, is a Malayali, the other hails from the UK,” said Josephai Abraham, a member of the Jewish community residing in Mattancherry. He said the rabbi officiating the ceremony is from the Kochi office of STAR-K Certification Inc. The ritual was last observed in Kochi around 34 years ago.

The caretaker of the synagogue said the UK natives decided to host the Bar Mitzvah of their son at the heritage monument as they were impressed by it. “The parents visited the synagogue in 2016 and became fascinated with it,” he said. 

Talking about Bar Mitzvah, Abraham said, “The ritual takes place on any occasion when the boy turns 13 during which the Torah (compilation of first five books of the Hebrew Bible) is read. However, the event generally occurs during a Sabbath.” 

“Once the boy reaches turns 13, he is deemed personally responsible for fulfilling all the commandments, may don religious symbols on the forehead and left arm during weekday morning prayers and may be counted as an adult whenever 10 male adults are needed to form a ‘minyan’ for public prayers,” Abraham said. After the religious ceremony, there is often a festive kiddush (prayer over a cup of wine), with a family social dinner or banquet on either the same day or the following day.

For the Jewish community in Kochi that has just around 28 members left, such ritualistic celebrations are few and far in between. “The next Bar Mitzvah in our community will take place after several years. There are not many boys in the community. The next candidate, Menahim’s younger brother, is just five. After that is my grandson who is just one-and-a-half years old,” Abraham said. 

The same ritual for girls is named Bat Mitzvah and is observed when they turn 12. “Bat Mitzvah doesn’t take place in a synagogue, and is often celebrated with creative projects, meaningful gatherings and joyous parties,” he said.

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The New Indian Express