JERUSALEM (JTA) — The world’s oldest man, 113-year-old Yisrael Kristal, a Holocaust survivor living in Israel, celebrated his bar mitzvah a century late.
Kristal, of Haifa, celebrated the rite over the weekend with his two children, grandchildren and nearly 30 great-grandchildren, The Associated Press reported. He was recognized as the world’s oldest man in March.
He missed his bar mitzvah at 13 due to World War I. His father was in the Russian army and his mother had died three years earlier.
His daughter, Shulamith Kuperstoch, told the AP on Wednesday that Kristal was “very pleased” as he recited the Shehechiyanu prayer of gratitude as a prayer shawl was draped around his shoulders while surrounded by his family.
“Everyone sang and danced around him. He was very happy,” she said. “It was always his dream to have a bar mitzvah and he really appreciated the moment.”
Kuperstoch said her father is still in good health and remembers his life in the early 20th century, including seeing a car for the first time at age 9.
Born on Sept. 15, 1903, in the town of Zarnow, Poland, Kristal moved to Lodz in 1920 to work in his family’s candy business. He continued operating the business after the Nazis forced the city’s Jews into a ghetto, where Kristal’s two children died. In 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz, where his wife, whom he had married at 25, was killed. In 1950, he moved to Haifa with his second wife and their son, working again as a confectioner.
When asked at the time he was certified as the oldest living man what his secret was to long life, Kristal said: “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. There have been smarter, stronger and better-looking men than me who are no longer alive. All that is left for us to do is to keep on working as hard as we can and rebuild what is lost.”