Holocaust survivor, 83, has belated bar mitzvah to remember lost family

“Every Jew has a bar mitzvah at their right age, and I never had one.”

By JTA
March 10, 2018 17:51
1 minute read.
Holocaust survivor, 83, has belated bar mitzvah to remember lost family

A man places tefillin around the arm of a Holocaust survivor during a group Bar Mitzvah ceremony for Holocaust survivors at the Western Wall. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

An 83-year-old Holocaust survivor living in northern Israel celebrated his bar mitzvah at a Safed synagogue.

A few dozen friends and family, as well as Safed’s police commissioner, accompanied Hanoch Shachar to a local synagogue, where many of them sang and danced with him before he had his first aliyah l’Torah – the act of reading from the holy book at synagogue after being called up to the bimah, or podium.

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Jewish boys typically have the rite at 13, the age that Judaism deems a boy becomes a man.

“I saw something was missing in my life, a tree, a branch, real parents,” Shachar, who survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic, told the Israel Broadcasting Corp. during the event for a report that was aired Thursday. “Every Jew has a bar mitzvah at their right age, and I never had one.”

His entire family perished in the Holocaust.

His wife, Hannah, said she was “very excited because it’s his dream to have a bar mitzvah.”

Shachar said he brought with him to synagogue a violin that belonged to a boy who died in the Holocaust. The dead boy’s parents had given Shachar the violin when he was a boy.



“This violin is my way of asking Hashem why he took the talented boy who owned this instrument,” he told the film crew, using the Hebrew word for God.

Shachar, a marathon runner who during the ceremony hoisted without effort the Torah scroll in its metal casing, said he had prepared a week for the ceremony. His instructor was Rabbi Shlomo Hadad, one of the city’s best-known cantors.

“I prepare many children and tutor them, but now I’ve had a privilege with this one, who is by far the oldest one I’ve ever tutored,” Hadad told the television crew.


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