Proving once again that it is never too late to engage with Judaism, this past Sunday 91-year-old World War II veteran Hans De Leeuw celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Mr. De Leeuw was born in Holland before World War II and was raised as a secular Jew. As the war broke out he managed to flee to Britain where he ultimately joined the British army. He participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944 and fought against the Nazis who had driven him from his home.
Mr. De Leeuw began reconnecting with his Jewish roots after the death of his wife in the 1990's. Earlier this year he met former Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Meir at a World War II veteran's conference, after hearing about De Leeuw's desire to have a Bar Mitzvah ceremony the retired ambassador helped to arrange it in Israel. While traditionally the Bar Mitzvah ceremony is performed at 13 years of age, when the boy Becomes a Bar Mitzvah, there is no prohibition in Judaism against celebrating the occasion or performing the ceremony at a later date. Mr. De Leeuw's return to practicing Judaism and the celebration of his Bar Mitzvah 78 years after his 13th birthday should serve as a powerful reminder to all of us that it is never to late to reconnect with our past. Despite a secular upbringing, nine decades of life and an intervening world war, Mr. De Leeuw was able to rediscover and reinvigorate his connection to Judaism. Mazel tov Mr. De Leeuw!
Image via YNet/AP