His father, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau, was the last Chief Rabbi of the town; he died in the Treblinka death camp. Yisrael Meir is the 38th generation in an unbroken family chain of rabbis. He is the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, Israel, and Chairman of Yad Vashem. He previously served as the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel from 1993 to 2003.
When Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau met New York Mayor Ed Koch, the Mayor told him, “You know I am also a survivor.” The Rabbi knew he was born in the Bronx and raised in New York, so he waited for an explanation. Ed Koch continued, “Don’t be surprised, as I told you, I’m a survivor. I was on the delegation of mayors from around the world to visit Berlin. This was a few years ago. They showed us all kinds of things from the Nazi period that were kept in Berlin as documentation. And we saw the famous globe which stood in Hitler’s office and on it many numbers in black-marker. We asked the guide, “What do these numbers mean?” “Hitler ordered his staff to write on every country on the globe how many Jews lived there on September 1, 1939. Albania had the number ‘1’, one Jew. He didn’t give up even on him. Palestine “500,000”. The United States of America, “6,000,000”. That’s an interesting number, six million. “I am one of them, Ed Koch, from the Bronx, New York. I was on his target. I was his destination. If we didn’t stop the Nazi beast, I wouldn’t be here talking to you today. I wouldn’t have been alive. So I am also a survivor.” Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said, “Thank you for the lesson you taught me. Every Jew, wherever he lives, is a Holocaust survivor.”
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