A project by the Forum for the Elderly in Sderot, the southern town often hit hard by terrorist rocket fire from Gaza, has allowed 51 Holocaust survivors from the town to have a belated Bar Mitzvah ceremony at Jerusalem's Western Wall (Kotel).
The initiative allowing the survivors to make up for the ceremony that was stolen from them by the genocidal Nazi regime was also backed by the Ministry of Social Affair's Services for the Elderly, and the Western Wall Heritage Foundation.
"These are elderly Holocaust survivors who were unable in the ghetto at Bar Mitzvah age to fulfill the commandment to be called to the Torah," explained Hila Elimelekh, director of the Department of Elderly Welfare in Sderot. "For these Holocaust survivors, this is an important moment, which closes a circle for them and does an historical act of kindness and justice for them."
In addition to the emotional Bar Mitzvah service, the Sderot Municipality will soon be holding a ceremony in honor of the elderly residents of the city, with a concert by Israeli musicians Aviva Avidan and Boris Yerofeev.
"This is the generation of the founders, our parents," explained Alon Davidi, Mayor of Sderot, remarking on the special events for the city's elderly.
"I see an obligation to give them the best conditions and the best service not only as mayor, but also as an ethical obligation," remarked Davidi. "Therefore, together with the Forum for the Elderly, we are advancing different projects and activities for the welfare of the city's elderly."
Davidi noted that the project was a continuation of earlier efforts for the city's elderly along with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, which has included renovating a meeting house for elderly, and a ceremony for war veterans.
"It's our obligation to make sure in their old age they have a healthy and happy life full of meaning, achievement, in a warm and embracing environment," concluded Davidi.
In a similar event, 87 elderly Holocaust survivors in Holon held a group Bar Mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel in April under the auspices of Magen David Adom (MDA).