Fifty Holocaust Survivors Celebrate Bar and Bat Mitzvah Ceremonies at Western Wall

Over 1,100 survivors have participated in similar ceremonies in the past four years.

Ofira Koopmans
Dozens of Jewish holocaust survivors wear the Tefilin or the Phylacteries and the Tallit prayer shawl as they read from the Torah scrolls during their Bar-Mitzvah Jewish ceremony, normally done at the age of 13-years-old, on May 2, 2016, at the Western Wall in the Jerusalem's Old City. 
Some 50 male and female holocaust survivors were invited to perform the Jewish Bar-Mitzvah ceremony some 70 years after World War II.
Gal Moshe a Holocaust survivor, during a group Bar Mitzvah ceremony for Holocaust survivors at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City May 2, 2016. Credit: Menahem Kahana, AFP
Ofira Koopmans

DPA - Fifty Holocaust survivors who never got to celebrate their Jewish coming-of-age ritual because of the horrors of World War II got a chance to do so Monday in Jerusalem.

The bat mitzvah and bar mitzvah – the first for girls, the second for boys – is typically performed when the child is about 12 or 13. Monday's participants were all well past retirement age.

Many of the participants said it had never occurred to them to participate in the ceremony, until they were encouraged to do so by the organizing agency.

During the ceremony, boys can go up to the front of the synagogue and read from the Torah when they turn 13. This event is celebrated – by both practicing and even secular Jews – as a major milestone.

A man places tefillin, of a Holocaust survivor during a group Bar Mitzvah ceremony for Holocaust survivors at the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City May 2, 2016. Credit: Ronen Zvulun, Reuters

The bat mitzvah is a more recent invention, introduced as a coming-of-age celebration for girls, with the first one dating back to 1922.

But, during World War II, Jews interned in concentration camps were unable to mark their symbolic transformation from children into teens moving closer to adulthood.

Monday's mass ceremony was conducted at Jerusalem's Western Wall, which holds up the platform that once housed the Biblical Jewish Temple, Judaism's holiest site.

Wrapped in Jewish prayer shawls and tefillin – small leather boxes with sections of the Torah strapped to the forehead and arm – the Holocaust survivors cited special prayers.

Ephraim Zevoltober, a Holocaust survivor, during a group Bar Mitzvah ceremony for Holocaust survivors at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City May 2, 2016.Credit: Ronen Zvulun, Reuters

The event "symbolizes revenge against the Nazi oppressors, in the form of a return to Jewish tradition and proof that 'it is never too late,'" a religious Israeli news site, The Jewish Voice, quoted the Western Wall Heritage Foundation as saying.

The foundation in charge of the Jewish holy site said that more than 1,100 survivors who were 13 during World War II and unable to hold the ceremony amid the horrors of the Holocaust, have participated in such mass bar mitzvahs during the past four years.

Israel marks Holocaust Remembrance Day from sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday this year.

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