TEL AVIV – Fifty Holocaust survivors were finally given Bar Mitzvahs 70 years after they should have undergone the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony.
Due to World War II and the Holocaust, these men and women, who are now in their late seventies and eighties, missed the ceremony that traditionally takes place at the ages of 12 and 13 for girls and boys respectively.
The government of Israel decided to hold a special mass Bar Mitzvah event at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday, ahead of Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day, which will take place this Thursday.
The 13 men read from the Torah and donned tefillin in keeping with the tradition that signifies their transition from boys to men.
A number of the survivors cried during a funeral prayer sung by European Jews to commemorate the Holocaust, AFP reported.
“The memorial prayer moved me particularly, as I thought of my family, and especially of my mother. I literally cried.” 80-year-old Gal Moshe said.
Moshe, who immigrated to Israel after the war, was never given a Bar Mitzvah in Poland, explaining that “the economic situation was so difficult for us that we didn’t even think about doing the Bar Mitzvah.”
“When I found out I could do a Bar Mitzvah now, I wanted it a lot and I also asked my two grandsons to come with me. I was at their Bar Mitzvah and now they are at mine,” he added.
Dr. Robert Rozett, director of the libraries at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center, asserts that many thousands of Jews who missed out on their Bar Mitzvahs during the war did not hold a ceremony even after the war was over.
Some were too poor while others found themselves in the Soviet Union where religion was suppressed.
According to a 2015 study, some 45,000 of Israel’s remaining 190,000 Holocaust survivors are now living below the poverty line.