By Rochelle Maruch Miller
Mariusz Robert Aoflko, a 64-year-old Jewish attorney in Krakow who grew up thinking he was a Roman Catholic, recently celebrated his bar mitzvah at the Kotel with friends and other “hidden Jews” from Poland. Mariusz spent his entire life as a Roman Catholic. However, 13 years ago, right before his mother passed away, she told him something that turned his whole world upside down and would change his life forever: that he is a Jew–and not only a Jew, but a Kohen. Currently, Mariusz, who now goes by the name of Moshe, is visiting Israel for the first time and celebrated his bar mitzvah at the Kotel 12 years after the secret was revealed, which he calls “my rebirth.”
It turns out that both of Mariusz’s parents were born to Jewish families who perished in Auschwitz. After the war, the fear of being Jewish in Poland led his parents to hide their religion and live as Polish Catholics which, in turn, was a lifestyle and identity they passed on to Mariusz, hiding the fact that he was Jewish.
After learning his true identity, Mariusz was in complete shock and did not know how to digest news of such epic proportions. But slowly, over the years, he decided he wanted to live a Jewish life. He contacted Shavei Israel’s emissary in Poland, Rabbi Boaz Pash, and started to become involved in the Jewish community.
Last month he met Michael Freund, founder and chairman of Shavei Israel, at the entrance of Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and told him the story of how he discovered his Jewishness.
“When Mariusz told me his incredible story, I was deeply moved,” Freund said, adding, “I told him that since 13 years have passed since he found out he was a Jew, it was an appropriate time for him to have a bar mitzvah.”
Freund offered to arrange for the event to take place at the Kotel, all expenses paid for by the organization. Mariusz was very moved by the gesture and agreed.
“Since my mother revealed this incredible secret to me, I feel like I am reborn,” Mariusz says. “By embarking on this journey into my heritage, step by step, it all starts to become clear to me. 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.” v