Watch: Holocaust survivors celebrate Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel

45 Holocaust survivors celebrate their Bar and Bat Mitzvah at the Western Wall after being unable to do so during the war period.

Ido Ben Porat,

Holocaust survivors celebrate their Bar Mitzvah
Holocaust survivors celebrate their Bar Mitzvah
Noam Moskovitch


45 Holocaust survivors celebrated their Bar and Bat Mitzvah at the Western Wall this week. The survivors came of age during or immediately after World War II, but never had the privilege of celebrating the occasion.

The event at the Western Wall was organized by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the Ministry for Social Equality and the Friendship Foundation.

Members of the families of the survivors were also invited to the celebration, and the participants toured the Western Wall tunnels. Later on, the survivors put on tefillin and read from the Torah, while the women celebrated at the Western Wall Tunnels Hall. At the end of the event, all the guests got together for a festive meal.

Alexander Buchnik, one of the participants in the event, said, "All my life, I felt that I this was missing. I am so excited and happy."

Semyon Libman, another participant, was a young boy in Saint Petersburg when the war broke out. Together with his sister and mother, they were forced to leave their homes. After the war, the family returned to live in the Saint Petersburg area. "When we came back, it was forbidden to even talk about Judaism or anything about a Bar Mitzvah, so we did not talk about it at all...I feel like a child today. I'm excited and I've been looking forward to this event,” he said.

Buchnik's story is similar to that of Libman's. He celebrated his 13th birthday immediately upon the liberation of Moscow from the Nazis. When the war ended, the family returned to Moscow “but we could not celebrate my Bar Mitzvah. [My mother] was busy surviving and keeping us alive, we could not think about it at all." In 1994, Buchnik made aliyah with his family and said that he was waiting for the moment when he would celebrate his Bar Mitzvah. "I thought about it my entire life and all my life I felt that it was missing. I am so excited and happy, I will finally have a Bar Mitzvah and become a real Jew,” he said.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation said that the celebration was one of the most exciting events in the history of the Western Wall.

"Light and darkness are mixed here, but hope is absolute, and there is tangible evidence here of the eternity of the Jewish people. All the survivors expressed their feeling that not only are they celebrating but are also keeping in their hearts a million and a half children who were killed in the Holocaust and did not celebrate their Bar Mitzvah.”

"I find it difficult to think of anything more exciting than the elderly survivors of the Holocaust who are celebrating a Bar Mitzvah late in their lives, in the holiest place for the Jewish people, after they survived the terror of the Nazis at the expense of their childhood, which was stolen from them," said Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, head of the Friendship Foundation.

“We at the Foundation have the right to accompany these heroes and help them throughout the year and I welcome the opportunity we were given to be part of this exciting moment.”

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