Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau

Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, may he enjoy long life, was born on the 27th of Sivan 5697 (June 6th, 1937), in the city of Pyotrekov, Poland,the scion of well-known rabbinical families in Europe, being the 38th generation to hold a rabbinical position. His father was the learned Rabbi Moshe Haim Lau, of blessed and saintly memory, the last rabbi of the community of Pyotrekov, who rose to heaven in the Treblinka extermination camp with members of his community. Rabbi Moshe Haim Lau was a descendent of Kabbalist and author Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz(5325-5390/1565-1630), known as the “Shelah”; Rabbi Yoel Sirkis (5321-5400 / 1561-1640), known as the “Bach”; major commentator on the Shulchan Aruch Rabbi David Halevy Segal (5346 – 5427/ 1586 –1667), author of “Turei Zahav” and known as the “Taz”; and other great Jewish scholars. His mother, Rebbetzin Haya, the daughter of the Rabbi of Skavin, the learned Simcha Frankel Thummim, was the granddaughter of the learned Rabbi Naftali Halberstam of Kshanow and the Great-Granddaughter of Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz (5553 – 5636 / 1793 – 1876), author of “Divrei Chaim”; and the learned Rabbi Baruch Frankel Thummim (5520 – 5588 / 1760 – 1828), Author of “Boruch Ta’am”.

At the age of seven, Israel Meir Lau was liberated from Buchenwald concentration camp and came on Aliya to Israel in 5705 (1945). He spent his childhood at the home of his uncle, Rabbi Mordecai Fogelman, the Rabbi of Kiryat Motzkin. After his bar mitzvah, he studied for six years at the “Kol Torah” Yeshiva in Jerusalem, where he was a disciple of his teacher and rabbi the learned Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. From there he went to “Knesset Hizkiyahu” Yeshiva in Zichron Ya’akov. he studied for two years at the Ponovitch Yeshiva with the learned Rabbi Kahanman and other rabbis.

In 5720 (1960) he received rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Unterman, Rabbi Toledano, Rabbi Aharonberg, Rabbi Gross, and Rabbi Frankel of blessed memory, and took up the position of rabbi at the “Or Torah” Synagogue, and afterwards at the “Tiferet Tzvi” Synagogue In North Tel Aviv. During those years he was occupied with education and taught religious studies at the “Bet Gimel” high school. He became known as one who disseminates Torah and Judaism in many and varied circles.

In 5731 (1971) Rabbi Lau was chosen as the regional rabbi of North Tel Aviv,and in 5738 (1978) he published his book “Yehadut Halacha Lemaaseh “ (“Judaism, in Theory and Practice”).

In 5739 (1979) he was chosen to serve as the Chief Rabbi of Netanya, where he established the “Ohel Moshe” Yeshiva in memory of his father. His reputation spread beyond the borders of Israel and word of him reached the United States, Europe, South Africa and Australia.

In 5743 (1983) Rabbi Lau was chosen to be a member of the Chief Rabbinical Council of Israel, the youngest of its members.

On the 15th of Elul 5748 (28th August 1988), Rabbi Lau was chosen to occupy the important position of Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

In 5753 (1993) he was chosen to be the Chief Rabbi of Israel, and served in this position until 5763 (2003).

Over the years Rabbi Lau published his book “Yahel Yisrael”, a three-volume work on decisions of Jewish law; and more recently six volumes of commentary on ethics of the fathers were published, with the first edition having been sold out.

In 5765 (2005), on the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, Rabbi Lau’s book “Do Not Raise Your Hand Against the Boy” was published. It tells his life story during the Holocaust, his growing up in Israel, and the influence of his childhood memories upon his way of life as a rabbi and a leader.

In the month of Nisan 5765 (April 2005) he was chosen a second time to occupy the important position of Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

On Independence Day 5765 (2005) Rabbi Lau was privileged to receive the prestigious Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement and Special Contributions to Society and the State

In 2011, French President Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy awarded the title “Légion d’honneur” to Rabbi Lau.