For Uzhgorod, Ukraine's Yisrael Krilati, it's been quite a week.

Last Wednesday, the 13-year-old boy chose to undergo a ritual circumcision, where he received his Jewish name. Yesterday, he celebrated his bar mitzvah by putting on tefillin and being counted in a minyan – the quorum of 10 Jewish men needed for public prayer services – for the first time in his life.

At the celebratory meal last night, mother Alona Krilati was fighting back tears of happiness.

"I never dreamed that here in Uzhgorod, he would have a bar mitzvah like this," said the woman. "I really feel like a yiddishe mamma now."

Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Menachem Taichman, who presided over the bar mitzvah and will be standing next to Krilati when he's called to the Torah on Thursday, emphasized that it was the young man who chose all of this for himself. He even pledged to put on his new tefillin "every day and everywhere."

According to Taichman, when he lived in nearby Zhitomer, Krilati, whose father is not Jewish, went to the community's Ohr Avner Chabad Jewish Day School. After their move to Uzhgorod, an administrative center on Ukraine's border with Slovakia whose Jews were nearly wiped out in the Holocaust, Krilati began going to the local Chabad-Lubavitch teen club. His mother also started going to programs at the Chabad House.

"The family had barely any connection to Jewish traditions," said Taichman, Uzhgorod's chief rabbi. "They came to learn more and more."

Krilati's circumcision was performed by a mohel from Brit Yosef Yitzchak, a Chabad-Lubavitch organization that arranges such procedures in distant communities all around the world. It took place in a room at Taichman's home that had been torched by arsonists last fall.

Moussia Taichman, who co-directs the Jewish community with her husband, said that renovations to the room were finished just in time.

"We still don't have furniture everywhere," she said, "but good people made the renovation possible through their donations."

Menachem Taichman saw in the celebrations a turning point not only for Krilati, but for the community.

"This is a sign of victory," said the rabbi, "over those who would disrupt Jewish life."