I was honored earlier this week when Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel and author of the moving memoir, OUT OF THE DEPTHS, spoke to President Obama at Yad Vashem. Today, Rabbi Lau is mentioned prominently in a front-page article in The New York Times about the life and death of Rabbi Hershel Schacter, who was the first Jewish chaplain to enter Buchenwald on April 11, 1945, an hour after General George Patton’s Third Army liberated the camp. The article relates the story of a little boy named Lulek who was hiding behind a mound of corpses as Rabbi Schacter entered. Here is an en excerpt of that encounter:
“With tears streaming down his face, Rabbi Schachter picked the boy up. ‘What’s your name, my child,’ he asked in Yiddish. ‘Lulek,’ the child replied. ‘How old are you?’ the rabbi asked. ‘What difference does it make?’ Lulek, who was 7, said. ‘I’m older than you, anyway.’ ‘Why do you think you are older?’ Rabbi Schacter asked, smiling. ‘Because you cry and laugh like a child,’ Lulek replied. ‘I haven’t laughed in a long time, and I don’t even cry anymore. So which one of us is older?’
That little boy would be come Chief Rabbi of Israel. His memoir is one of the most moving and beautifully written Holocaust accounts I have ever read. It traces Lulek’s subsequent emigration to Israel, his education as a rabbi, and his encounters with some of the most important world leaders of our time, including Pope John Paul II, Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, Bill Clinton, and the Dalai Lama.