Child survivor of Holocaust concentration camp to tell stories of torment, survival and renewal in Vail tonight
Rabbi Israel Meir Lau was just a child when he was freed from the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945. A U.S. Army chaplain found him hiding under a heap of corpses when the camp was liberated by allied forces.
Tonight, as part of his first visit to Colorado, Rabbi Lau will tell stories of hope, courage and faith to a Vail audience. The free event begins at 7 p.m at the Arrabelle Hotel. RSVPs are requested at http://www.jewishvail.com or 970-476-7887.
Rabbi Lau’s visit is presented by the Chabad Jewish Center of Vail and is sponsored by the Vail Daily and the Arrabelle Hotel.
Rabbi Lau was born June 1, 1937, in Piotrków Trybunalski, Poland. His father, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau, was the last chief rabbi of the town and died in the Treblinka extermination camp. Yisrael Meir is the 38th generation in an unbroken family chain of rabbis.
After being freed from the Buchenwald concentration camp, Rabbi Lau immigrated to Mandate Palestine with his brother Naphtali in July 1945. Lau studied in various yeshivot and began to work as a teacher of Bible. He was ordained as a rabbi in 1961.
After filling rabbinic posts in numerous synagogues and neighborhoods, Rabbi Lau was appointed as chief rabbi of Netanya, where he served from 1978 to 1988. It was then he developed his reputation as a popular orator.
In 1988, Rabbi Lau was appointed to serve as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo, a position he held until 1993.
Between the years of 1993 and 2003, Rabbi Lau served as the Ashkenazic chief rabbi of Israel.
During his tenure as chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Lau worked to establish closer ties for Israel with the Catholic Church, ties that he still continues to strengthen.
In 2005, Rabbi Lau was awarded the Israel Prize for his lifetime achievements and special contribution to society and the State of Israel. That year, Rabbi Lau also was reinstalled as chief rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo.
In 2008, Rabbi Lau was appointed chairman of the council of Yad Vashem — Israel’s official memorial to the Holocaust in Jerusalem.
As a Holocaust 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 from 2000, “Do Not Harm the Child.” The English translation of his memoir, “Out of the Depths,” was published by Sterling Publishing in 2011.
Rabbi Lau is a master storyteller who imparts visions of hope, courage, and faith which reflect his life experiences. He has shared intimate discussions with Popes John Paul and Benedict, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Rabbi Dovid Mintz, Director of Chabad Jewish Center of Vail and one of the event organizers, said ”Rabbi Lau represents the hope and brightness for which we all yearn. His story is a story of triumph of spirit, reverence for his Divine mission and commitment to family, to Torah and to his people.”