82-year-old Sol Laufer had never celebrated his own Bar Mitzvah, having spent much of his formative years moving from concentration camp to concentration camp across Europe during World War II.
The Jewish coming of age rite generally takes place when a boy is 13, but Laufer, along with his family, had been forced into the death camps by the time he’d reached that age. Of Laufer’s family of six- mother, father and three siblings- he was the only one to survive the Holocaust. And Saturday, he was finally able to experience the Bar Mitzvah he missed out on 70 years ago.
Despite the horror of his early life, Laufer’s comments on the long-awaited ceremony were hopeful and upbeat:
“I am doing this to proclaim to the Nazis that they did not succeed,” Laufer said. “Here I am, after all of that. I am healthy, I have a nice family, and I am having a Bar Mitzvah.”
While the event in and of itself is moving when you consider what Laufer has been through and how far he came to finally celebrate the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah, his motivation to survive is quite touching as well. Laufer credits his mother’s memory with his improbable survival, recalling how thoughts of his mom kept him alive through the worst of the Holocaust:
“I used to dream that she was with me, holding me and feeding me water. She would tell me that I would be okay and I need to have patience,” he said.
Laufer’s Bar Mitzvah took place Saturday at the Chabad of Sarasota. Rabbi Chain Steinmetz commented on the joy he felt in conducting the rite:
“I almost had a sleepless night last night because of the excitement that fills me. To be able to be a part of this is something I will cherish the rest of my life,” the Rabbi said.