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Holocaust Survivors Finally Get Bar Mitzvahs 70 Years After WWII

Mazel tov!
Dozens of Jewish holocaust survivors read from the Torah scrolls during the ceremony.
Dozens of Jewish holocaust survivors read from the Torah scrolls during the ceremony.

A missing rite of passage -- now made right.

On May 2, 50 Holocaust survivors who never got to experience a traditional coming-of-age ceremony had their bar and bat mitzvahs during an emotional event at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The event, organized by the Israeli government, included 13 men and 37 women who had missed their ceremonies due to the war and its complex after effects.

"I am not embarrassed to say that I was moved to tears,” Solomon Moshe, a 79-year-old Jewish man who fled Greece during World War II, told CNN. “Soldiers were saluting us like we were heroes."

The survivors are applaud. 
The survivors are applaud. 

Gal Moshe, an 80-year-old survivor, was 9 when World War II ended and could have had one in Poland, which is where his family immigrated after the war, but it never occurred.

“The economic situation was so difficult for us that we didn’t even think about doing the bar mitzvah,” he told The Times of Israel.

Dozens of Jewish holocaust survivors wear the Tefilin or the Phylacteries and the Tallit prayer shawl.
Dozens of Jewish holocaust survivors wear the Tefilin or the Phylacteries and the Tallit prayer shawl.

Yitzhak Rezink, who was a child during the Holocaust, had an entirely different reason why he never had a bar mitzvah. After the war, he ended up in the Soviet Union, which suppressed religion.

“The Russians took over at the end of the war and we couldn’t leave until 1970,” he told Times of Israel.

According to a 2015 study published by the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, nearly one-third of Holocaust survivors still alive are poor.  A report put out by Center For Research and Aging also noted that researchers in 2003 found that 40 percent of the survivors in Israel were living below the poverty line.

A Jew carries the Torah scroll.
A Jew carries the Torah scroll.

Yet, for the 50 Jews who participated in the ceremony at the Western Wall on Monday, it was a particularly moving experience. A funeral prayer to commemorate those lost during the Holocaust was sung by European Jews, moving many to tears.

"After we finished, everyone had a spirit of harmony. Here we are, we have done it,” Solomon Moshe told CNN. “We are here today more complete, and we feel that we got back what was missing."

Jews who participated in the ceremony pose for a photo.
Jews who participated in the ceremony pose for a photo.
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