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Harold (the Bar-Mitvah boy) and Ricki Segal


By Ricki Segal, January 5, 2011

It is very apparent to all who are Jewish, and even some who are not, that a boy’s bar mitzvah happens when he turns 13. Such was not the case with my husband Harold Segal.

He was born on April 26, 1931 in a small town called Earl Grey, Saskatchewan. Harold was the middle child, having two older siblings and two younger ones as well. When it came time for Harold’s bar mitzvah, it was wartime and his parents could not afford the costs of this celebration. So Harold did not have a bar mitzvah like other boys of the Jewish faith.

This would all change many decades later, as if it was beshert by the Almighty.

In 2008, Harold and I moved to Winnipeg from Regina. This was the first time that Harold had lived outside of Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, Harold had health issues before the move and those intensified in February 2009 when he had a stroke. This was his second stroke, and it forced him to be hospitalized. His case was discussed by a committee of caregivers at the hospital and we were told that Harold could no longer live at home.

Since our choice of where Harold would now live was the Sharon Home in Winnipeg, we had to wait until there was a bed available for him there. In the interim, he was sent to the Misericordia Hospital where he was cared for until a bed became available at the Sharon Home. We were both pleased when, after a few weeks in hospital, Harold was visited by Rabbi Charzen, the Jewish chaplain. He was a wonderful visitor and both Harold and I looked forward to his visits. On this particular day, Harold mentioned that he had never had a bar mitzvah.

The Rabbi told him that it was never too late, and we began to seriously consider the idea. 

One sunny day a few /weeks later, Rabbi Charzen arrived and announced that we were going to have Harold’s bar mitzvah that very day. .
Harold, who has always had a sense of humour, began to chuckle out loud. When we asked him what was so funny, he pointed to the Christian cross on the wall and said, “Here I am, having a bar mitzvah in a non-Jewish facility with a cross staring me right in the face!”

I looked at Harold  to try to determine what he was feeling. He was sitting in his wheelchair wearing a red shirt, a black track suit and a black yarmulke (skull cap). Despite being very frail in his wheelchair, I could see that his eyes were bright and shining. He had a smile on his face and looked at peace with the world.

Afterwards, the rabbi took out a little bit of wine and a piece of delicious cake that his daughter had baked and the three of us had a party.

So there was my husband at the tender age of 78, having his bar mitzvah in a Catholic hospital which was once run by nuns, in a room with a Christian cross on the wall.

Miracles do happen.

Ricki Segal is a Winnipeg  writer.

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