Holocaust Survivors and the State of Israel

“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.”

Israel Meir Lau

Chief Rabbi Lau speaks on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Rabbi Israel Meir Lau is the Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo and former Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel.

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, managed to evade being deported and was thus saved. In November 1944, during a selection, his mother succeeded in pairing him with his older brother Naphtali, who was sent to a labor camp. Their mother was murdered in Ravensbrueck. Lulek was deported along with his brother to the slave labor camp Czestochowa 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 made aliyah. Israel studied in various yeshivot and began to work as a teacher of Bible. After filling rabbinic posts in numerous synagogues and neighborhoods, he was appointed as chief rabbi of Netanyah, and then as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. He also served as a member of the chief rabbinical council. Between the years 1999-2003 Rabbi Lau served as the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Israel, returning afterwards to his position of Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo.

As a survivor, Rabbi Lau intensely deals with Holocaust memory and commemoration through his worldwide speeches and appearances, as well as in his writings, including his best-selling autobiography Do Not Harm the Child. During his tenure as Chief Rabbi of Israel he worked to establish closer ties with the Catholic Church, ties that he still continues to strengthen.

On August 4,2009 Rabbi Lau participated in the Righteous Among the Nations ceremony at Yad Vashem honoring his rescuer Feodor Mikhailichenko.

Rabbi Lau is married and has eight children and many grandchildren. He is the author of numerous works on Jewish law and tradition. In 2005 Rabbi Lau received the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement.