Mazel tov to pupil with seven distinctions
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Johannesburg - Meet Melech Britz: former Yeshiva College vice-head boy who achieved seven distinctions in his matric exams.
Melech’s story is unusual as he converted to Judaism from Christianity just before he started his finals.
That meant he had dedicated a lot of his time to Jewish studies over the past three years..
He says: “ As soon as I saw I was doing well in Jewish studies, it spurred me on to do well in academics as well. I wanted to be a complete student. Matric was obviously different, and made the whole dynamic different. Jewish was my way of rejuvenating myself even though I couldn’t spend so much time on it in 2016 as I did in the past two years.”
Born Stefan Britz to Christian Afrikaans parents, Melech, Hebrew for King, was the closest name the family could find related to Stefan. In Afrikaans the name means “betrothed to kingship”.
He grew up in George in the Western Cape, and after Grade 2 was home-schooled by his mom and grandmother until he was 12. After Grade 7, Melech started the Cambridge Syllabus, and with the help of his grandmother he started teaching himself.
He said he left Grade 2 because school work was not sufficiently stimulating and because of the brand of Christianity present in George schools.
“We were never full-blown Christians, we were Messianic Christians. The spark of Judaism was ignited for my family during one of our many trips to Israel.
“I was considering whether being different was all worth it. It got to a stage when I was 15 where I told my parents that either we become Jewish and be around Jewish people or we leave this whole spiritual journey behind and integrate back into society. They concurred and we moved to Joburg (in December 2013).”
While their conversion to Judaism officially began, Melech enrolled at the Yeshiva College which posed its own difficulties.
“Besides not knowing anything about Jewish studies, practices or customs and having to learn it all, the biggest issue was actually balancing all the things I had to deal with.”
Melech plans to spend a gap year in Israel furthering his Jewish studies, and dreams of one day living in Israel. After his gap year he wants to study chartered accounting or become an economist.
Awaiting his results on Thursday Melech said he wasn’t stressed.
“It is something that it is completely out of my hands and directly in the hands of God so I think I did what I could and whatever results I get, it is obviously what God wants so I’ll get what I need to get.”