Some 30 Holocaust survivors whose bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah fell during World War II marked the Jewish rite of passage on Monday at the Western Wall.
The male participants donned phylacteries and read from the Torah, while onlookers threw candy at them — as is customary for boys and girls in Israel. Waving Israeli flags, the survivors sang traditional Jewish songs — such as “Am Yisrael Chai,” and danced at the site.
Speaking to the celebrants, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid recalled the bar mitzvah his father, Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, never managed to celebrate.
“Dad was in the Budapest ghetto, in a crowded cellar where almost 600 people lived. And his mother — my grandmother — called him and said, ‘Tommike, today is your bar mitzvah. Your father will not come to the bar mitzvah, and I think he will not come ever again. I can’t make you a cake, but there is one thing I can do,’” Lapid told them.
“She took out a vial of perfume, Chanel No. 5, that she had kept throughout the war — God only knows how — and she smashed it on the floor. ‘At least I can make sure it doesn’t stink on my boy’s bar mitzvah,’ she told my dad,” said Lapid.
The survivors then toured the Knesset, and each one received a bar mitzvah or a bat mitzvah certificate at the end of the visit.
“There is no one more worthy than you to come to the Knesset and be met with blessings and appreciation,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said. “Your youth was stolen from you and you nonetheless chose to live. You came to Israel and established the next generations.”