It isn’t everyone who hosts a member of Congress at a bar or bat mitzva.
But when Sol Nudelman’s bar mitzva service is held at Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick on June 21, Rep Rush Holt (D-Dist. 12) has promised to be present.
Nudelman, who is 87, did not have a bar mitzva ceremony at the customary time; before he turned 13, the Nazi invasion of Poland destroyed any plans for a normal life. The Holocaust claimed his parents, three sisters and a brother, and other relatives. He was incarcerated in a series of Nazi labor camps before being liberated by the Russian Army and immigrating to the Bronx.
As he was preparing for the Jewish rite of passage at last, Nudelman invited his district congressman, Holt — who in turn issued a special invitation to the bar mitzva boy.
“When he invited me to his bar mitzva, I immediately turned it around and said, ‘Before that happens, may I invite you to the Yom Hashoa remembrance in the Capitol?’” Holt told NJ Jewish News on May 1, a day after Nudelman and his granddaughter, Allie Nudelman of Brooklyn, attended the ceremony in Washington.
Leaders of both parties, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spoke at the ceremony in the Capitol building’s Statuary Hall. Lawmakers also planted a sapling cut from a chestnut tree that once stood outside the window of the house where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis.
“It was a wonderful day,” Nudelman told NJJN, and his granddaughter agreed.
“It was very reverential, and I think my grandfather really enjoyed it,” she said. “I was expecting it to be a lot of empty speeches, but it was very moving.” When they said Kaddish at the end, Allie said, her grandfather “was very moved.”
“You could certainly tell he was touched as they read off the names of the camps,” said Holt. “He is an American patriot.”
Although he considers himself a Republican, Nudelman — a Lawrence Township resident — said he was pleased to meet not only Holt but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who chairs the Democratic National Committee.
Holt — who is retiring from the House at the end of the current session — has attended every Yom Hashoa observance since he came to Congress in 1999.
“They represent what we have said for decades: ‘Never again and never forget,’” he said. “We have all heard the story, but it cannot be impressed too strongly.”