A special barmitzvah takes place this Shabbat when identical 96-year-old twins Jack and Louis Feldman mark their third coming of age.
Born on 12 August 1922 to Polish-born parents, the brothers grew up in the streets around Piccadilly Circus and will enjoy their third call-up to the bimah at New North London Synagogue.
Described by Jack’s son, David, as being “typical street kids”, they had their first joint barmitzvah at West End Great Synagogue in Manette Street, where they shared the sedra.
Members of West Central Jewish Boys Club in Fitzroy Square, they left school aged 14 to learn the fur trade, became skilled furriers and opened their own workshop after the Second World War on Carnaby Street.
They both had lucky escapes during the war, when they served in the 1st Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Italy. Their elder sister, Nellie, wrote to Winston Churchill to argue they shouldn’t be separated when serving.
The end of the fur trade led to them working in markets, before Jack met Rita, whom he married in February 1970. They have a son, David, and two grandchildren, Sam – who recently celebrated his barmitzvah – and Rafi.
They celebrated their second barmitzvah at the West End Great Synagogue in 2005, from which Louis remembers Adon Alom being sung to O Sole Mio. Their favourite memories are of their parents, whom they still idolise, stories of their time in the army and welcoming new generations of the family.
Both now suffer from dementia, while Jack has had to overcome a triple heart bypass and a car accident which led to a leg amputation.
Listen to this week’s episode of The Jewish Views Podcast here: