Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau is a tall man who brightens any room with his Torah depth and stature. He is viewed as someone who has achieved wondrous feats! From surviving the Holocaust and continuing on the Rabbinic dynastyfrom which he hails, to serving as the Chief Rabbi of Israel and now Tel-Aviv, he remains a legendary figure to all of Jewry.

On the opposite end of the 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.

So, it would seem that the only thing he might share in common with Rabbi Lau is that they are both luminous figures. Yet, these two men—one a Jew and the other a Muslim—are eagerly looking forward to meeting one another this July in Israel !


The former NBA star is currently making a film about 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 who had eventually become 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 soldier came up to the little boy 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.

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