Chief Rabbi Lau & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau is a tall
man who brightens any room with his Torah depth and stature. He is
viewed as a someone who has achieved wondrous feats! From surviving the
Holocaust and continuing on the Rabbinic dynasty that he hails from, to
serving as the Chief Rabbi of Israel and now Tel Aviv—he remains a
legendary figure to all of Jewry.
On the complete opposite spectrum
stands the legendary Lakers Center, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Born Ferdinand
Lewis “Lew” Alcindor, Jr., he had a prolific college and NBA career
becoming one of the best basketball players of all time. In 1971 Lew
Alcindor converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
To the naked eye it would seem that the only thing he shares in common
with Rabbi Lau is that they are both luminous figures.
And yet, these two men—one a Jew and
another a Muslim—are eagerly looking forward to meeting one another this
July in Israel!
The former NBA star is making a film
about none other than World War II, and will honor the final wish of his
father. You see, Ferdinand L. Alcindor Sr., had one dying wish. He
requested that his son visit Israel and meet the little boy that he
personally rescued from Buchenwald and turned into a prominent Rabbi.
This Rabbi is none other than Rabbi Lau!
Indeed, Rabbi Lau, who also serves as
chairman of the Council of Yad Vashem remarked that, “the fact that such
a famous basketball player, and a Muslim, is about to attach himself to
the Holocaust issue is very exciting. I will certainly give my blessing
to this initiative.”
Rabbi Lau said he clearly remembers
how an African American solider came up to him during the liberation,
picked him up, and told the residents of the German city of Weimer:
“Look at this sweet kid, he isn’t even eight yet. This was your enemy,
he threatened the Third Reich. He is the one against whom you waged war,
and murdered millions like him.”
As someone who grew up in Los Angeles
and followed the Lakers, I never thought I’d see these two figures
mentioned in the same sentence—let alone meeting in The Holy Land!
However, after reading about what Mr. Abdul-Jabbar intends to do with
his film and his visit, I look forward to seeing these two legends of
their respective fields work towards educating the world about the
horrors of the Holocaust.