Shoah: Survival is our revenge, says Chief Rabbi Lau

'The dead don't give us the right to forgive,' at Rome synanogue

24 January, 17:56

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau ,Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau ,Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv

(ANSAmed) - ROME - ''Our revenge is survival. The Jewish people live,'' Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Ysrael Meir Lau said to thundering applause at Rome's synagogue on Thursday.

The rabbi, 75, is on a visit to the Italian capital ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, which was designated by the UN General Assembly in 2005 to commemorate the genocide of 6 million Jews, 2 million Gypsies (Roma and Sinti), 15,000 gays, and millions of others by the Nazis and their collaborators. A Holocaust survivor, the rabbi was accompanied by the highest Roman Jewish authorities and reached the synagogue in Rome's former ghetto to find it packed to the rafters, including some politicians, former deportees, and most of all, throngs of children and young people, come to hear of his concentration camp experiences first-hand.

''I was liberated from Buchenwald on April 12, 1945, by the Americans,'' commenced the rabbi, who lost most of his relatives to extermination in the camps. ''I was eight years old, and my brother Naftali was with me. They sent us to a sanatorium in France, where they tried to rehabilitate us, both physically and spiritually." But while the body's wounds heal, those of the soul continue to fester: Lau and the other 220 children in the sanatorium, future activist and Nobel laureate Eli Wiesel among them, felt like ''the dried bones described by the Prophet Ezekiel'', unable to cry. One day, the children were asked to meet with the city authorities who were sponsoring the sanatorium.

''We were angry,'' said the rabbi. ''Those people had forgotten about us and our families while we were being trapped in ghettos, deported, killed. We decided to keep our eyes to the ground for the entire visit.'' The protest lasted until the last person in the city delegation began to speak: a Jewish former internee who lost his wife and kids in the camps. ''He was so overwhelmed, all he could say were two words, in Yiddish: 'dear children'. We raised our eyes in unison, and saw that he was crying,'' said Lau. ''We all burst into tears. For five minutes, we all cried. Then one of us spoke up and thanked him on behalf of all of us, because he'd given us the greatest gift: the ability to cry again. At last we were no longer dried bones, unable to shed a tear. We were human again.'' But this, said the rabbi, does not mean forgetting, or forgiving.

''Who gives me the right to forgive?'' asked Lau. ''Is it my family, whom the Nazis slaughtered in the fullness of their lives? Our revenge is that in spite of everything, we are still here, and we have our state. Everywhere in the world, every yeshiva (Hebrew school), every synagogue are proof that the people of Israel live.'' The rabbi's words are sealed by the chanting of children from the local yeshiva chorus, as they sing to a misty-eyed congregation. (ANSAmed).

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