It is part of the human experience, and intrinsic to a healthy life, that the inexorable passage of time takes one further away from the horrors of a traumatic experience. It is human nature to forget horrific details, and the greater the distance from a dreadful experience the more one’s memory of painful, raw wounds is blurred.
For those who escaped or who were born after the horrors of the Holocaust, it is hard to imagine how our parents and relatives were able to survive such an unimaginable experience. Yet amazingly, they were able to create new lives elsewhere.
Such is the truly remarkable story of Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, former chief rabbi of Israel. Put yourself in the shoes of a five-year-old boy whose sheltered life is suddenly transformed—thrust from a normal, warm family environment into chaotic, cold and inhuman conditions. How does a mere child not only survive these brutal rites of passage but go on to become the chief rabbi and a renowned leader of Israel?
We are fortunate to bring you these never-before-published memoirs of Rabbi Lau, as he clearly and emotionally recounts his miracle of survival. His thoroughly readable personal account of his experiences is a much-needed antidote to the passage of time that distances us from the memory of evil.
In this issue we also examine how more and more groups of women are getting together each morning to respond Amen to each other’s blessings. Known as Amen groups, these gatherings, which can be found in Jewish communities around the world, is rapidly generating a sea change among Orthodox women. Writer Gael Hammer gives us insight into this extraordinary phenomenon by visiting with a New York Amen group and speaking with the founders as well as the participants.
This issue also includes the gripping story of three determined (and physically fit!) Orthodox Jews who decide to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free-standing mountain in the world. As their story unfolds, we learn much about mountain climbing in Tanzania and even more about how to keep halachah in the most hostile environment.
Finally, just in time for your summer vacations, OU Rabbinic Coordinator Rabbi Donneal Epstein challenges Jewish Action readers with a kosher travel quiz, offering provocative questions on a variety of travel topics, from davening Shacharit on an airplane to crossing the International Date Line.
As always, we hope you will enjoy the array of articles in this issue and look forward to receiving your feedback.