Yisrael Kristal, generally recognized as the world’s oldest living man, celebrated a milestone in Yerushalayim last week – his 113th birthday, and, after a century’s delay, his Bar Mitzvah. Surrounded by hundreds of family members and friends – including numerous great-grandchildren – Kristal made the brachah of Shehechiyanu and got an aliyah at the Kosel, to the joyful singing of those in attendance, who threw candies and danced to celebrate the great occasion.
Kristal was born in Zhernov (Żarnów) Poland in 1903, and came of age in 1916 – in the midst of World War I. Although religiously observant at the time (and throughout his life), there were no facilities or opportunities for Kristal to have a Bar Mitzvah celebration with the war raging. His father passed away during the war, so that by the age of 16 he was forced to support himself.
In 1920, he moved to the Polish city of Łódź, where he married and went into the candy manufacturing business.
During the Holocaust, he was deported to Auschwitz. His wife and two children were killed in the war.
In 1950, Kristal remarried and eventually left Poland for Israel with his new wife and two children. Settling in Haifa, he again manufactured candies, a business he continued until 1970.
In March 2016, the Guiness Book of World Records certified Kristal as the world’s documented oldest living man. Speaking to CBC news, Shula Kuperstoch, Kristal’s daughter, said “my father told my son not to take his bar mitzvah for granted, saying that not everyone was lucky enough to have one,” was quoted as saying by CBC News. “He said the same thing to his great-grandsons when they had their bar mitzvahs, so it obviously affected him. Other people boast about their children or grandchildren. I boast about my father.”