Holocaust Survivors Celebrate Bar Mitzvahs at Western Wall

The Fellowship  |  November 14, 2017

Several male Holocaust survivors at the Western Wall with a scroll.
Holocaust Survivors Celebrate Bar Mitzvahs at Western Wall

When World War II ended over seven decades ago, the Jewish people who survived the Holocaust weren’t always able to begin freely worshiping their faith. And many of them, children at the time, never had the opportunity to celebrate their bar or bat mitzvah. Arutz Sheva reports on a very special event in the Holy City, where The Fellowship assisted 45 Holocaust survivors in observing this special milestone at the holiest place in Judaism:

The survivors reached bar or bat mitzvah age during the war or immediately afterwards, but because of their circumstances never got to participate in the ceremony marking a Jewish boy’s or girl’s entrance to adulthood. Alexander Buchnik, one of the participants in the event, said: “All my life, I felt that I missed it so much. I am so excited and happy.”

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Israel’s Office for Social Equality, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) sponsored the moving ceremony. Eighteen of the survivors also receive financial assistance throughout the year from IFCJ.

The survivors and their families joined Monday’s event, which included a tour of the tunnels under the Western Wall. The men put on Tefillin and read from the Torah, while the women participated in another ceremony at the Western Wall Tunnels Hall. The group ended the celebration dining together.

All now elderly, many of the survivors said they’ve long felt that because they’d never had a bar or bat mitzvah, something was missing from their Jewish identities. Aspir Ravicher was 11 when the war began. Her family fled from their homes in Ukraine to Russia. Throughout the war, they lived on the run, focused solely on the need to survive each day.

“We ran away with nothing but the clothes we had on us. We had nothing, we were hungry all the time, we lived in a crowded place – I remember that it was mostly cold and I was very hungry,” Ravicher recalled. A bat mitzvah “was not something we could have done.”

Hiding their Jewish identity to survive was necessary not only during the war but also during communist rule in the years that followed…

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