'The First Time I Put On Tefillin Since The War'
MDA holds moving bar mitzvah ceremony at Kotelfor 87 Holocaust survivors who were robbed of the experience by the Nazis.
An emotional group bar and bat mitzvah ceremony was held on Monday at Kotel. The 87 participants were not 13- and 12-year-old boys and girls - they were elderly Holocaust survivors who had been robbed of the ceremony signifying Jewish adulthood by the Nazi regime.
The unique event was set in motion nine months ago, when workers and volunteers of Magen David Adom’s (MDA) Holon station began volunteering at the local “Europe Britania” club for elderly in the city. Members of the station met with elderly weekly through the club, and got to know their stories.
"Yesterday was the first time I put on tefillin since the war"
One survivor who finally got to hold his bar mitzvah, 80-year-old Yaakov Eckstein, noted that he was born in Hungary, and at the age of ten was put into a ghetto. From there he was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen death camp.
"When I was freed by the Russians, I was already 11-and-a-half. After we searched for relatives and friends in Hungary and discovered none of them had made it home, we were forced to return to Germany," recounted Eckstein.
"When I was 13, it didn’t even cross my mind to have a bar mitzvah. It wasn’t a possibility. In 1948, I immigrated to Israel with my brother, and since then we are here," added Eckstein.
“Since the day I was freed from Germany I didn’t pray or step in a synagogue. Yesterday was the first time I put on tefillin since the war.”