97-year-old Holocaust Survivor Receives Bar Mitzvah at Last
By: Boropark24 staff
Mr. Leon Shagrin of Florida hails from the town of Gribov, Galicia, which is a stones’ throw from Sanz—a region that once teemed with Jewish life and chassidishkeit. His family were Stitchiner and Bobover chassidim who were close to the tzaddikim from these courts. .
But this life was brutally ripped away from him when he was a child of twelve years old. He never even got to celebrate his bar mitzvah.
But it’s never too late. And, following this past Sukkos, Leon finally celebrated his identity as a Yid, along with dozens of joyful Yidden in North Miami.
The saga of discovering Mr. Shagrin is a story unto itself, as Boropark24’s Heshy Rubinstein relates:
“As our readers may already know, I founded the Yizkor Foundation in order to capture the memories of our precious Holocaust survivors while they are still with us—and commemorate the thriving Jewish life from the prewar days, and document the terrible events of the churban through the eyes of my interviewees.
During my recent trip to Miami, which is especially rich with opportunities to interview survivors, I interviewed Mr. Shagrin, who is an advocate for Holocaust survivors and Holocaust commemoration in his own right. His story is fascinating, and a thick book has been written about his experiences in the war–which saw his entire family of chassidishe Yidden sent to their deaths in the Belzec concentration camps. It soon became clear that, given his birth in 1926, he was no longer home when his bar mitzvah arrived in 1939.
“I wanted to rectify this,” says Heshy.
Through the generosity of Rabbi Feldbrand, the rov of Kedushas Levi in North Miami Beach, a young thriving community, the shul was made available, and a lavish bar mitzvah was set up for this past Thursday. A volunteer drove Mr. Shagrin to shul for that morning, and he had his official aliya at long last.
“It was emotional all around,” Heshy says. “Following the davening, I spoke to the crowd about the preciousness of the survivors, and our zechus to be celebrating the bar mitzvah today with one of our she’eris hapleitah. Children from the newly-founded cheder came to sing for him, and each of us received a bracha from him–as we all know what tzaddikim said about the power of the brochos of Holocaust survivors.”
His bar mitzvah may have been celebrated eighty-four years late, but on this Thursday afternoon, Leon Shagrin rejoiced with his yiddshkeit surrounded by loving fellow Yidden.