This is a bar mitzvah certificate awarded in 1937 to Ezra Nissim Mizrachi on passing examinations in the following subjects: the fundamentals of Judaism, Hebrew, and the prayers and the history of the Jewish people. The certificate is written in Hebrew and French and signed in French by the Chief Rabbi of Cairo in Rashi script. The certificate is also stamped in ink by the Chief Rabbinate of Cairo in Hebrew, Arabic, and French. The certificate includes the name of the school, the Abraham Betesh School, an elementary school where all the subjects were taught in French but students learned to read and write in Hebrew and celebrated the Jewish holidays. The certificate identifies the school’s location as Heliopolis, an affluent suburb of Cairo. The design of the certificate is simple, with the Hebrew text on the right and the French text on the left. A picture of the two tablets of the Ten Commandments is at the top of the certificate, and there is an ornate frame surrounding the whole document. The certificate was signed by Rabbi Chaim Nahum, the chief rabbi of Egypt, who was known as a talented scholar and lecturer and a statesman who had great influence among the Egyptian authorities. He was a member of Cairo’s Academy of Arabic Language and was frequently called on for his linguistic expertise.
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The Jewish Community of Egypt – The earliest Jewish community in Egypt was established in the seventh century BCE, during the time of the First Temple. The Jewish population grew after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BCE and they were persecuted in Israel by Antiochus Epiphanes. In the first century CE, there were one million Jews in Egypt, who were very assimilated into the local Greek culture. From the time of the Muslim invasion of Egypt in 624 CE, Jewish life fluctuated between periods of persecution and periods of tolerance. Major Jewish figures include Rabbi Sa’adiah Gaon (882–942) and Maimonides (1135–1204). A large influx of Jews arrived in Egypt after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. In the 1800s, the Jews of Europe became concerned about the Jewish community in Egypt, and Sir Moses Montefiore visited and opened the first Jewish school in Cairo. The level of education and literacy in Egypt was very high and, while the Jewish community spoke Arabic, the language of instruction in schools was French. During the British occupation of Egypt, life became easier for the Jewish community; this changed, however, as the end of the British mandate in Israel approached. From 1936, conditions deteriorated, and anti-Jewish demonstrations and destruction of Jewish property began. After the UN vote for partition in 1947, many Jews were arrested or had their possessions confiscated. Jews began leaving Egypt in large numbers, and by 1967, the Jewish population of Egypt, that had previously stood at 80,000, had dwindled to 2,500. Jewish men in Egypt were arrested after the Six Day War. They were later released and expelled in 1970. In 1996 only 100 Jews remained in Egypt.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah – Bar mitzvah for boys or bat mitzvah for girls refers to the ages, 12 and 13 respectively, at which a Jew becomes obligated to fulfil the Jewish commandments and is allowed to participate fully in Jewish ritual and law. Since the Middle Ages, Jewish families have celebrated this milestone with a variety of different ceremonies and celebrations that have developed over time and place. In the past only boys celebrated their coming of age, but these days, in most communities, girls also celebrate. Bar and bat mitzvahs may consist of the celebrant being called up to the Torah for an aliyah, reading the weekly Torah portion or Haftarah, giving a sermon about the Torah reading, or leading the prayer service. Parties are probably the most common way of celebrating this milestone with family and friends. In recent years, participating in a social action project has also become quite common in some communities. In the past only boys celebrated their coming of age, though in recent years almost all communities celebrate also the girls' Bat Mitzvah.