Malta, Part 5

Shabbat descended on Malta. We had had our frozen meals heated in the microwave just before I lit the candles and my husband brought them up to our room. We enjoyed a restful evening. We got up early in the morning and made our way to the synagogue.

Malta has a small Jewish community. There is one family that is primarily involved in keeping the synagogue going. Mr. Avraham Ohayon is the president of the congregation and one of his sons, Reuben, serves as the shaliach tzibor. Their extended family comprises a good portion of the Malta Jewish community. There are about 80-100 Jews in Malta.

We walked along the seaside and then veered to the right and a couple of blocks later, the synagogue was on the left. The synagogue is located in an apartment building. There is no indication on the outside of the building that there is a synagogue inside. We worried that we wouldn’t be able to get in because without a key, one would have to buzz to enter. That is one of the reasons we made sure to come early. As it happened, just as we got to the building, a woman was going into it via the front door and we followed her in. We walked up to the apartment which was located on the first floor above ground level. We knocked on the door, but no one else had arrived yet.

After a few minutes, Mr. Reuben Ohayon and some other people arrived. The apartment in which the synagogue is located is very large and the area was very pleasantly planned. The men’s section was long and thin with the ark at one end and the reader’s desk in the center. The men’s chairs were located on either long side of the room facing the center. The women’s section was at the back separated by a tasteful curtain. The room used for the kiddush was off to the side.

The service started at about 10 a.m. and the service followed the Ashkenazi (European) ritual even though the majority of Maltese Jews originally lived in northern Africa. There were two sifrei torah, one Sefardi and one Ashkenazi. About 25 men and about 10 women showed up as well as a number of children including the famous quadruplets, two boys and two girls who are now in their teens. During the torah service, the wimple (the long piece of fabric that is wrapped around the torah as is done in German synagogues) was given to the women to coil and it was passed from one woman to another and each held it and said a prayer. After the torah service, they said a prayer for the government of Malta, just as Jews in every land pray for the well-being of their government. Then they said a prayer for the members of the Israel Defense Forces. The service was very beautiful and very moving.

After the service, the very warm, welcoming congregation gathered for a lovely kiddush serving products mostly imported from Israel. A mixture of English, Maltese, and Hebrew was spoken. It was lovely meeting these people and with the increased number of Israelis visiting Malta these days, perhaps the community will gain strength.

Jews visiting Malta over shabbat should take advantage of the opportunity to visit the synagogue and meet this community. Since hotels are scattered throughout Malta, it would be a very good idea to locate the synagogue on a map and then find a hotel that is nearby. The synagogue is on Enrico Mizzi Street which appears on the map as Enrico Street in Ta’Xbiex. As a basis of judging distance, we stayed at the Park Hotel in Sliema and the walk was between 30 and 40 minutes.

Enjoy Malta, and when you get to the synagogue, be sure to give the people there my warmest regards!




Comments

  1. mireille says:

    I am really glad you enjoyed Malta. Hope you come back again some time :)

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