HAIFA, Israel – The world’s oldest man, Holocaust survivor Yisrael Kristal, is to celebrate his bar mitzvah 100 years late — at the age of 113.
Kristal, who was born in Poland in 1903, began learning Hebrew at the age of three, and studying the Mishna, or Jewish laws, at six.
But he missed out on the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony, traditionally marked when a boy turns 13, because of World War I.
His daughter, Shulamith Kristal-Kuperstoch, told CNN that Kristal’s long-delayed bar mitzvah would be held close to his Hebrew birthday, which falls this year on October 2.
Kristal-Kuperstoch said it would be a “privilege” for her to organize the upcoming ceremony for her father, as a way of correcting the past, and as a gift to him.
Devout Orthodox faith
As a young man, Kristal married and had two children. They died in the Lodz ghetto during World War II. Kristal was later sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
He survived the Holocaust, and moved to Israel with his second wife in 1950.
The retired confectioner now has a large family, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His bar mitzvah will be held at the family’s local synagogue in Haifa.
According to Guinness World Records, which recognized Kristal’s longevity in March 2016, he has carried out the rites of his devout Orthodox faith “continuously and rigorously” for 100 years.
He has wrapped phylacteries (tefilin) “every morning for the last century, with the exception of the Holocaust and both world wars,” the organization wrote.
The tefilin is the practice of fixing Torah texts in small black boxes to the head and hand during prayers, following literally the commandment that calls for believers to bind excerpts of religious scriptures to their hands and their eyes.
Philosophy: ‘Work hard and rebuild what is lost’
When he was named the world’s oldest man, Kristal insisted, “I don’t know the secret for long life.”
“I believe that everything is determined from above and we shall never know the reasons why,” he told Guinness World Records.
“There have been smarter, stronger and better-looking men then me who are no longer alive,” he said. “All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Kristal’s family died at Auschwitz. They died in the Lodz ghetto.
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