Hidden Polish Jew celebrates bar mitzva at Kotel

Thirteen years after discovering Jewish roots, 64-year-old Mariusz Robert Aoflko of Poland celebrates bar mitzva in J'lem.

May 30, 2013 18:02
1 minute read.
Mariusz Robert Aoflko's Bar Mitzvah, 30 May 2013.

Mariusz Robert Aoflko. (photo credit: Sasson Tiram, courtesy of Shavei Israel.)


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Mariusz Robert Aoflko, a 64-year-old Jewish attorney from Krakow celebrated his bar mitzva on Thursday at the Kotel with friends and other hidden Jews from Poland.

Mariusz contacted Shavei Israel’s emissary in Krakow, Rabbi Boaz Pash, once he discovered he was Jewish thirteen years ago, and met Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, at the entrance of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland and told him the story of how he discovered his Jewishness.

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Thirteen years ago, right before his mother passed away, she told him that he is Jewish. And not only a Jew, but a Kohen (a member of the Jewish priestly caste). Both of Mariusz’s parents were born to Jewish families who perished in Auschwitz.

After the war, the fear of being Jewish in Poland led his parents to hide their religion and to live as Polish Catholics, which in turn was a lifestyle and identity they passed on to Mariusz, hiding the fact that he was Jewish.

In April, Mariusz met Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, at the entrance of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland and told him the story of how he discovered his Jewishness.

“When Mariusz told me his incredible story, I was deeply moved,” Freund said, adding, “I told him that since 13 years have passed since he found out he was a Jew, it is an appropriate time for him to have a bar mitzva.” Freund then offered to arrange for the event to take place at the Kotel, all paid for by the organization. Mariusz was very moved by the gesture and of course agreed.

Currently, Mariusz (who now goes by the name of Moshe) is visiting Israel for the first time and celebrated his bar mitzva at the Kotel on Thursday , 13 years after the secret was revealed, which he calls “his rebirth.”

According to Shavei Israel, there are approximately 4,000 Jews registered as Jewish living in Poland, but experts suggest there may be tens of thousands of other Jews in Poland who to this day are either hiding their identities or are simply unaware of their family heritage.

In recent years, a growing number of such people, popularly known as the "Hidden Jews of Poland", have begun to return to Judaism and to the Jewish people.

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