Prestigious award for Chief Rabbi Lau

March 27, 2018 by Elana Oberlander
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Bar-Ilan University’s Ingeborg Rennert Centre for Jerusalem Studies will bestow its annual Guardian of Zion Award upon former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Israel Meir Lau in May.

Rabbi Lau

Rabbi Lau will deliver the Distinguished Rennert Lecture, this year entitled “From Shoah to Revival: Reflections and Conclusions Regarding Dramatic and Historic Events”.

“As a newly liberated prisoner of Buchenwald, Rabbi Lau was described as ‘a pair of living eyes looking out among the dead’. He was an eight-year-old child who said of himself that he could neither cry nor laugh. He grew up in Israel to be a man of many dreams, a visionary who brought and brings the message of Torah and the love of Torah to Jews the world over,” said Rennert Center Director Prof. Joshua Schwartz in making the announcement.

Rabbi Lau was born in 1937 in Piotrków, Poland, the scion of well-known Rabbinical families. During World War II, he was separated from his parents by the Nazis and shipped to Buchenwald. He was liberated from there by the Allies (1945), having been saved time and again by his lste brother Naftali. His father, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau, the last Chief Rabbi of Piotrków, was killed in Treblinka and his mother in Ravensbrueck.

Rabbi Lau immigrated to Israel in 1945 and studied at Kol Torah in Jerusalem, Knesset Hizkiya in Zichron Yaakov and Ponovitz in Bnai Brak. He was ordained in 1960 and had a long and prestigious career in the Rabbinate. He was congregational Rabbi at “Or Torah” and at “Tifferet Zvi” in North Tel-Aviv. Later he was the Regional Rabbi of North Tel-Aviv, Chief Rabbi of Netanya (1979), a member of the Chief Rabbinical Council (1983), Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa (1988) and Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel (1993-2003). In 2005, he was re-appointed Chief Rabbi of Tel-Aviv-Jaffa and retired from this position in 2017.

In 2005, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald he published Do Not Raise a Hand against the Boy (and translated as: Out of the Depths), on his Holocaust experiences, on growing up in Israel and on the influence of his childhood experiences on his way of life as leader and Rabbi. In 2008 he became Chair of the Yad Vashem Council.

Rabbi Lau has received numerous prizes including the prestigious Israel Prize for lifetime achievement (2005), the French Legion of Honor (2011) and the Israel Presidential Commendation (2014).

This is the twenty-second year the Rennert Center is conferring the Guardian of Zion Award, which honors those dedicated to the perpetuation and strengthening of Jerusalem.  Last year’s award was bestowed upon newly-appointed US National Security Advisor John Bolton.  Other previous recipients have included World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, former US Senator Joe Lieberman, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Israel Museum Director James S. Snyder, the Israel Antiquities Authority and its late Director, Shuka Dorfman, Amb. Dore Gold, Malcolm Hoenlein, Caroline Glick, Norman Podhoretz, Dr. Daniel Pipes, the late William Safire, Arthur Cohn, Dr. Charles Krauthammer, Cynthia Ozick, the late A.M. Rosenthal, Herman Wouk, and the late Prof. Elie Wiesel. 

The Guardian of Zion Award ceremony will take place in Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, May 22.

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