113-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor to Celebrate Bar Mitzvah


At 113 years old, Yisrael Kristal is officially the world’s oldest man, according to Guinness World Records. But despite his advanced age, the Auschwitz survivor never experienced an important rite of passage: a bar mitzvah. This month, the BBC reports, Kristal will celebrate the Jewish religious initiation rite with his loved ones in a synagogue in Haifa, Israel.

A bar or bat mitzvah marks a Jewish child's transformation from child to adult. Typically, the ceremony is held at age 13. Kristal, who was born in Poland in 1903 and has lived in Israel for more than 60 years, was supposed to have his bar mitzvah 100 years ago, in 1916. But sadly, the ritual took a backseat to family tragedies, and later to World War II.

Kristal’s mother passed away when he was about 10 years old, and his father was drafted into the Russian army. The boy was raised by his uncle, and later moved to the Polish city of Lodz to work in his family’s candy business.

Kristal was in his mid-30s when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The Nazis moved both Kristal and his family to the Lodz ghetto, and later to Auschwitz. Kristal’s two children died in the ghetto; his wife was killed in the concentration camp. Kristal survived, and in 1950 he emigrated to Israel with his second wife and son, and later had a daughter.

In Judaism, individuals can celebrate their bar or bat mitzvahs later in life under certain extenuating circumstances. Kristal will have his later this month, two weeks after celebrating his 113th birthday (according to the Gregorian calendar) on September 15.

Kristal’s ceremony will contain all the standard bar mitzvah rituals and traditions, like reciting blessings over the Torah. About 100 of his relatives—including children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—will attend the event.

“We will bless him, we will dance with him, we will be happy,” Kristal’s daughter, Shulimath Kristal Kuperstoch, told the DPA news agency.

[h/t BBC]

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