Robbed by Nazis of Traditional Ritual, Elderly Jews Undergo Bar Mitzvah in Melbourne Nursing Home
Seventy-five residents of an Australian nursing home celebrated their bat and bar mitzvahs on Sunday, after missing the chance to do so at age 12 and 13, because of the outbreak of World War II, Australia’s The Age reported.
More than 150 family members watched their elderly relatives take part in the special ceremony organized by Jewish Care, which oversees four senior citizen facilities in Melbourne. Rabbis at these facilities recently learned that many residents had never undergone the traditional Jewish entrance into spiritual manhood (and womanhood) as a result of the Holocaust or communism, and decided to do something about it.
Rabbi Nerenberg, from Jewish Care’s Caulfield facility, said the oldest resident to have his bar mitzvah on Sunday was 99.
He said that one elderly resident was having a second bar mitzvah — as hours into his first celebration, when he was 13, the Nazis invaded his town and took away his parents, whom he never saw or heard from again.
Nerenberg said most of the residents who underwent the ritual were Holocaust survivors or Europeans who had to fled their homes as the war broke out.
“The war was definitely the number one factor as to why they didn’t celebrate it properly,” said Nerenberg, describing Sunday’s festivities as “meaningful and moving.”
The event included the elderly men being called to read from the Torah, and a candle-lighting ceremony for the women, followed by dancing and singing.
“It actually transported me back in time to when I was a little girl in Poland before the war,” said Esther Warblud, 82, an Auschwitz survivor who had her bat mitzvah this week. “I feel lucky that I live in a place like Australia.”