The Story of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Rabbi-Truth! & Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
This is a forwarded story about Lakers basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a Rabbi named Yisrael Mir Lau. It says that Jabbar is flying to Israel, on the dying wish of his father, to meet the man he rescued from a Nazi concentration camp in World War II.
According to a June 20, 2011 ESPN article about a talk that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gave to high school students attending an NBA Basketball Camp on the campus of University of Virginia in Charlottesville, someone in the press got the facts of this story “mixed up” with a book that Jabbar wrote about an all Black tank battalion in World War II.
Rabbi Yisrael Mir Lau met with Jabbar when the basketball star visited Israel in 1997. Lau, in his youth, was a prisoner in Buchenwald concentration camp, which was the first camp to be liberated by U.S. forces. One of the units involved in the liberation was the U.S. Army’s 183rd Combat Engineers, an all Black unit.
Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Sr, Jabbar’s father, was not among the group that delivered the young future Rabbi to freedom. Alcindor, was a Lieutenant in the New York City Transit Police where he worked with his friend named Smitty. It was Smitty who served in the 761st Tank Battalion and the person who inspired Jabbar to write a book called “Brothers In Arms: The Epic Story of the 761St Tank Battalion, WWII’s Forgotten Heroes.”
Chief Rabbi Lau & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Meet!
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.