After 80 Years, A Holocaust Survivor Finally Received His Bar Mitzvah

"This day is, for me, a happy day and a very emotional day too."

The daily horror and sense of loss that those that experienced the Holocaust had to endure cannot be overstated. It is rare, however, that Holocaust survivors get to reclaim some of what they lost. Samuel Heider, a Dayton, Ohio, resident who lost his entire family during those dark years, was able to do just that when he finally received his bar mitzvah some 80 years after he was supposed to participate in the rite of passage.  

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As reported by ABC News, the event was a surprise put together by his daughter, Linda Heider, and the congregation at Dayton's Beth Jacob Synagogue, where Mr. Heider attends. According to his daughter, the idea was brought up to her by the congregation after Mr. Heider told them about his wish to do so. 

During the bar mitzvah, which is typically a right of passage commemorating a Jewish boy's 13th birthday, Heider expressed how bittersweet the special moment was for him, telling ABC News, "God gave me strength... This day is, for me, a happy day and a very emotional day too. I am blessed to have my family."

After Heider's small Polish village was invaded during World War II, Heider's 9-person family was separated and moved to concentration camps. Heider, the only survivor family member, spoke of his experiences in concentration camps during a panel on the Holocaust at the National Museum of the US Air Force and wrote about it in a personal essay for the Dayton Jewish Observer

Samuel and his late wife, Phyllis, eventually relocated to Dayton after the end of World War II and built a new life for themselves. Their hopeful attitudes are something that their daughter cherished about her parents, with her telling ABC News, "I was always amazed that they had such positivity, looked ahead, but still talked about the past."

Heider showed ABC News a photo of his sister from 1936 that he carried under his arm during his five years in concentration camps. He also took time to remember his parents and acknowledge his father's efforts during the event, saying, "My parents didn't live to be [at] my bar mitzvah," he said. "My father, he was a very religious man. He tried to do the best he could."

Linda considers her father's resilience a testament to the kind of man he is. "With all the things that he's gone through..." she said of him. "He has persevered... He's here."

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