(JTA) — An 83-year-old Holocaust survivor living in northern Israel celebrated his bar mitzvah at a Safed synagogue.
A few dozen friends and family, as well as Safed’s police commissioner, accompanied Hanoch Shachar to a local synagogue, where many of them sang and danced with him before he had his first aliyah l’Torah – the act of reading from the holy book at synagogue after being called up to the bimah, or podium.
Jewish boys typically have the rite at 13, the age that Judaism deems a boy becomes a man.
“I saw something was missing in my life, a tree, a branch, real parents,” Shachar, who survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic, told the Israel Broadcasting Corp. during the event for a report that was aired Thursday. “Every Jew has a bar mitzvah at their right age, and I never had one.”
His entire family perished in the Holocaust.
His wife, Hannah, said she was “very excited because it’s his dream to have a bar mitzvah.”
Shachar said he brought with him to synagogue a violin that belonged to a boy who died in the Holocaust. The dead boy’s parents had given Shachar the violin when he was a boy.
“This violin is my way of asking Hashem why he took the talented boy who owned this instrument,” he told the film crew, using the Hebrew word for God.
Shachar, a marathon runner who during the ceremony hoisted without effort the Torah scroll in its metal casing, said he had prepared f week for the ceremony. His instructor was Rabbi Shlomo Hadad, one of the city’s best-known cantors.
“I prepare many children and tutor them, but now I’ve had a privilege with this one, who is by far the oldest one I’ve ever tutored,” Hadad told the television crew.