Rabbi Lau and Rabbi Katz: The Sons of 2 Boys from Buchenwald

Rabbi Lau and Rabbi Katz: The Sons of 2 Boys from Buchenwald
A few weeks ago I attended my last siddur party for my youngest child. It turned out to be the final siddur party as well for Rabbi Shmuel Katz, who is retiring after 34 years as school rabbi. It was clearly a bittersweet event for him and for me as well. All but one of my children have attended the same school, which has girls and boys divisions, so that was my 7th siddur party with Rabbi Katz. The end of an era for both of us.
About half way through the party, music started playing and everybody stood up in honor of the arrival of Israel’s chief rabbi, Rav David Lau. I had to wonder how our school merited such an honor, the Chief Rabbi had taken the time out of his busy schedule to hand out the siddurim to the youngest boys from our small school.
And then Rav Katz began speaking, and revealed his surprising connection to the Chief Rabbi, “When my mother was a young girl, my great-uncle offered to buy her any present she wanted, expecting she would request a doll or a special treat. But instead my mother requested what she desired more than anything else, a new siddur, just like the siddur that you boys are about to receive. Not long after that, my mother and her twin sister were sent to Auschwitz, where Mengele chose them for his barbaric experiments. B”H, she and her sister survived and made aliya to the Land of Israel.
“My father was also in a concentration camp, in Buchenwald. When he was alive, my father would sometimes tell me how one day the camp was buzzing with excitement, a 7-year-old boy had arrived at the camp! For some of the prisoners it had been years since they’d seen such a young Jewish child.” Rav Katz’s father befriended that boy and took him under his wing. His name was Yisrael.
At the end of the war, when Buchenwald was liberated, U.S. Army chaplain Rabbi Herschel Schacter discovered that same little boy hiding in terror behind a heap of corpses.
Incredibly, young Yisrael grew up to become Rav Lau’s father, former Chief Rabbi Rav YIsrael Meir Lau.
It was so remarkable for me, to think of those rabbis’ fathers almost 80 years behind barbed wire, veritable walking corpses in Buchenwald, nearly murdered for the mere fact that they were born Jewish contrasted with that day, the 2 sons of those 2 Holocaust survivors, distinguished rabbis standing in a synagogue in Jerusalem in the State of Israel handing out prayer books to a group of Jewish boys who were the same age that Rabbi Lau had been when he was torn from his mother and sent to near certain death in a concentration camp.
This Yom HaShoah we remember the horrors our people have experienced so recently, 6 million Jews murdered including 1.5 million children like Yisrael HY”D. And this Yom HaShoah I personally will also be remembering that siddur party, an unforgettable reminder of how very much we have to be grateful for today.

One comment

  1. Beautiful

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