“As long as our – the survivors’ – candle is burning, we must use its light to learn, draw conclusions from, internalize, and apply the lessons we have learned as much as possible.”
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau is the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council and former Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel and Tel Aviv-Yaffo.
Israel Meir Lau was born in 1937 in Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland. In 1942, the majority of the city’s Jews were deported to Treblinka. Among the victims was the rabbi of Piotrków, Israel’s father Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau. Israel, at the time a five-year-old known as "Lulek," was saved from deportation by a series of rescuers – Jews and non-Jews. In November 1944, during a selection, his mother Chaya succeeded in pairing him with his older brother Naphtali, who was sent to a labor camp. Chaya was murdered in Ravensbrueck. Lulek was deported along with Naphtali to the Czestochowa slave labor camp and from there to Buchenwald. At the age of eight he was liberated in Buchenwald by American forces.
In the summer of 1945, Israel and Naphtali immigrated to Eretz Israel (British Mandatory Palestine). Israel studied in various Torah and Talmudic academies, and began to work as a teacher of the Bible. The 38th generation in an unbroken family chain of rabbis, he filled rabbinic posts in numerous synagogues and neighborhoods. He was appointed Chief Rabbi of Netanya, and then of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and served as a member of the Chief Rabbinical Council. Between the years 1999-2003, Rabbi Lau served as the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, subsequently returning to his position of Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.
As a Shoah survivor and Yad Vashem Council Chairman, Rabbi Lau deals intensively with Holocaust memory and commemoration through numerous worldwide appearances and writings, including his best-selling autobiography Out of the Depths. During his tenure as Chief Rabbi of Israel he worked to establish closer ties with various non-Jewish religious communities, ties that he still continues to strengthen.
Rabbi Lau is married and has eight children and many descendants. He is the author of numerous works on Jewish law and tradition. In 2005, Rabbi Lau received the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement.