Bar mitzvah when he’s 64

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Moshe Aoflko celebrating his bar mitzvah in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, May 30, 2013. (Sasson Tiram)

Mariusz Robert Aoflko is not your average bar mitzvah boy. In fact, he’s not a boy at all, but a 64-year-old attorney from Krakow. For most of his life, Aoflko believed he was Catholic. But 13 years ago, on her deathbed, his mother revealed that he was in fact a Jew. Mariusz changed his name to Moshe and, on May 30, celebrated his bar mitzvah in Jerusalem. Like many Polish Jews of their generation, Aoflko’s parents hid their Jewish identity due to fears of anti-Semitism, choosing to live a Polish Catholic life instead.

“Since my mother revealed this incredible secret to me, I feel like I am reborn. By embarking on this journey into my heritage, step by step it all starts to become clear to me,” said Mariusz. “I am not doing this to prove anything to anyone. All I ask is to embrace the truth about my family and regain the lost identity that was hidden from me for decades.”

Joe Winkler is the online coordinator for JTA.