70 Years Later, Holocaust Survivors Receive Their Long Awaited Bar and Bat Mitzvahs

western wallBar and bat mitzvahs can cost anywhere between $15,000 to $30,000. But for one group of Holocaust survivors, the celebrations today are priceless. 

The 50 survivors, now far older than the 12- and 13-year-olds who typically see the coming-of-age celebrations, were unable to experience the festivities during World War II due to anti-Semitic views around Europe at the time.

Yet earlier this month, septuagenarians and octogenarians from around the world gathered at the Western Wall in Jerusalem to complete their passage.

The Western Wall stands in the place of the ancient Biblical Jewish Temple and is considered to be Judaism’s holiest site.

Bat and bar mitzvahs, for girls and boys respectively, are typically completed by Jewish children when they are 12 or 13. This is a major milestone in the Jewish religion, where children become adults and are given more responsibilities.

However, thousands of Jewish families were forced to repress their religion during the war. And because millions of people lived in places with no formal Jewish religious observance, or were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, these children were never given the chance to celebrate becoming adults.

Once the war was over, the survivors did not want to complete their bat or bar mitzvahs as the only surviving members of their families. Many were also living in poverty and could not afford it.

Covered in prayer shawls, the survivors split into a gender-divided groups. The men wore tefillins, a leather box containing religious scriptures strapped on their heads and arms, as they read special prayers from the Torah, the Jewish holy book.

As reported on Haaretz.com, the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said this act “symbolizes revenge against the Nazi oppressors, in the form of a return to Jewish tradition and proof that ‘it is never too late’.”

This foundation has been able to give 1,100 Holocaust survivors their bat and bar mitzvahs over the past four years.

This ceremony was performed in honor of Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, which was observed on May 4 and May 5.

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