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Rabbi Lau at the Americas Business Council

24 March 2009

Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, was in Washington DC last week to open the Americas Business Council Reconciliation Forum held from March 18-20, 2009. The Forum brought together world leaders from government, business, and civil society to explore ways to impact positive change in the face of prevailing injustice and conflict.

In remarks at the inaugural event, Rabbi Lau said, "In regard to reconciliation, I recall my own background as a young Holocaust survivor. When we emerged in 1945 from the ghettos and concentration camps and death camps, no one saw campaigns of revenge from the side of the survivors against their enemies, even towards the Nazis who survived the war... Painfully, and with a commitment to never forgive or forget, we understand that mankind's needs require us to live together - with no more wars and no more conflicts.

We had suffered so much, and in vain: We were after all innocent. I, a 7-8 year old child: What had I done against the National-Socialist Party in Germany? I had done no harm; I didn’t endanger the very existence of Germany. So we were clearly the victims. And yet, we didn’t resort to hatred. On the contrary: We returned to build our own home, in safety and peace....

Let's look at the Biblical text regarding the brothers, Cain and Abel. Nothing whatsoever is mentioned about what one said to the other. Just that they were in the field together. And that Cain stood up and killed his own brother. There was no dialogue. My dear friend Archbishop Tutu, just look at the Book: No dialogue between Cain and Abel. This, perhaps, is the core reason for bloodshed: lack of dialogue." Rabbi Lau spoke at the inaugural event together with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in a session moderated by White House counsel to President Barack Obama, Gregory B. Craig.

Among the participants of the Forum were Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev, Martin Indyk, Haim Saban, former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Tel Aviv University President Itamar Rabinovich, Paul Rusesabagina ("Hotel Rwanda"), and diplomats and human rights activists from around the globe. More information about the Forum is at: www.reconciliationforum.com