Bernie Marks is practicing singing the Torah for his Bar Mitzvah, the Jewish ceremony that marks the symbolic passage to manhood.
But at 78, Marks is a bit past the traditional age. When he was 13, he was living in a Polish ghetto under Nazi rule. Later, his family was sent to Auschwitz where he last saw his mother and brother. Marks and his father were sent to a labor camp until they were liberated by US forces in 1945. Rabbi Mona Alfi is delighted that Marks will finally be Bar Mitzvahed.
“It was always my desire to fulfill the dream that my father and grandfathers had,” Marks said. “For years, older men weren’t afforded the opportunity because it wasn’t traditional. But times have changed, and Rabbi Alfi is more progressive.”
So Marks, who speaks 10 languages and was trained by his grandfathers who were both rabbis, is scheduled to be bar mitzvahed Sept. 20.
“He’s definitely the oldest,” said Alfi. And she’s never heard of a Holocaust survivor having a bar mitzvah.