VOORHEES, N.J. — A local Holocaust survivor is sharing his story so no one will ever forget. Typically, the celebration follows the Bar Mitzvah — a ceremony where a Jewish boy becomes a man in his faith.
But on this evening inside of the Congregation Beth El Synoguge in Voorhees, the festivities were had first. After all, this is a Bar Mitzvah sequel.
“It’s incredible,” 93-year-old Fred Behrend said.
Behrend had his first Bar Mitzvah 80 years ago in Cuba. Only 20 people came.
It was a stop for his family, all Holocaust survivors who fled Germany and eventually made it to the United States.
“He left the only home he knew, came to a new land and it’s been a blessing,” Fred Behrend’s daughter, Evelyn Behrend, said.
Behrend’s official anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah will be Saturday, which is also the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, when violent riots were carried out against Jews in Germany.
“They took out prayer books and the Torah and prayer shawls. They were put in the middle of the street and they were put on fire,” Behrend said.
What’s Behrend’s message 80 years after his Bar Mitzvah? To show Adolf Hitler didn’t win.
“His message his entire life has been pick yourself up by the bootstraps, move on and do your best and everything will turn out right,” Evelyn Behrend said.
This Saturday, Behrend will recite a blessing over a 200-year-old Torah. Like him, it too survived the Holocaust.
In reading it, a pointer known as a Yad rescued by Behrend’s father before entering a concentration camp will be used to trace the text.
“I had the feeling as if my father was looking down and saying to me, ‘It’s well done, I’m proud of you,`” Behrend said.
Wednesday night’s celebration was also to benefit a documentary being made about Behrend’s astounding life called “Rebuilt From Broken Glass.”