JERUSALEM (AP) — The world’s oldest man has finally celebrated his bar mitzvah — a hundred years later than usual.
Israel Kristal, 113, has lived through both World Wars and survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. Earlier this year, Guinness World Records awarded him a certificate as the world’s oldest man.
But there was a ceremony the supercentenarian observant Jew longed for even more.
Born in Poland in 1903, Kristal missed his bar mitzvah — the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony celebrated when a boy turns 13 — because of World War I.
His daughter, Shulamith Kuperstoch, said his children, grandchildren and nearly 30 great-grandchildren gathered over the weekend to mark the occasion. She said he was very pleased as he recited the traditional Jewish prayer of gratitude while draped in a prayer shawl and surrounded by loved ones.
“Everyone sang and danced around him. He was very happy,” she told The Associated Press. “It was always his dream to have a bar mitzvah and he really appreciated the moment.”
Kristal was born to an Orthodox Jewish family near the town of Zarnow in Poland. He was orphaned shortly after World War I and moved to Lodz to work in the family confectionary business in 1920. During the Nazi occupation of Poland he was confined to the ghetto there and later sent to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. His first wife and two children were killed in the Holocaust.
Kristal survived World War II weighing only 37 kilograms (about 81 pounds) — the only survivor of his large family. He married another Holocaust survivor and moved with her to Israel in 1950 where he built a new family and a successful confectionary business.
A devout Jew, he has wrapped phylacteries daily for the past century. Kuperstoch said her father still has a curious spirit and keeps a regular schedule, but she asked that reporters not burden him with questions.
She said he was still in good health and could regale in stories from the early 20th century about, for example, how he saw his first car at the age of nine and wondered why it wasn’t attached to horses.
Kuperstoch also said that her father had no explanation for his incredible longevity.
“It’s a gift from above,” she added. “He doesn’t feel like he had any part in it.”