Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Visit Israel to Meet Rav Lau


kareem-rav-lau1American basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will visit Israel in July and meet with Rav Israel Meir Lau to discuss a film that he is making about World War II, Rav Lau said recently.

The film is based on the book “Brothers in Arms”, which Abdul-Jabbar co-authored and deals with the American troops who liberated Nazi concentration camps in the end of World War II. Abdul-Jabbar’s own father served on the 761st Tank Battalion, which liberated the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany.

Among the Jews rescued from the camp were two children: Rav  Lau and his brother, Naftali Lavie. Abdul-Jabbar and Rav Lau met for the first time 14 years ago, during the former’s first visit to Israel.

“The fact that such a famous basketball player, and a Muslim, is about to attach himself to the Holocaust issue is very exciting,” he said. “I will certainly give my blessing to this initiative.”

The retired athlete will arrive early in July as a guest of the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Consulate in New York, and will participate in the Jerusalem Film Festival, where he will present the basketball documentary that he produced, “On the Shoulders of Giants.”

Rav Lau said that Abdul-Jabbar’s father, Ferdinand L. Alcindor, had a dying wish: “That his son visit Israel, and meet the little boy that he rescued from Buchenwald and turned into a prominent rabbi.”

Rav 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.”

Decades later, Rav Lau said, his rescuer’s son found him.

“I think that what he is about to do is a very significant contribution to human solidarity. It comes to say that there is no discrimination between white and black people,” Rav Lau said. “They were among the liberators as well, and they understand better what it is like to go from slavery to freedom.”

Abdul-Jabbar, who towers at 7′ 2” (2.18 m), was born in 1947 in New York as Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. He became known as one of the best basketball players of all time, and retired in 1989 after 20 seasons. In 1971 he converted to Islam and changed his name. After retiring from basketball he became a historian, writer, actor and producer.

{Ynet/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Kareem in an interview has a different version
    it was his fathers friend and his father was a NYC Transit Cop and it was dachau that the friends father liberated

  2. This story has been debunked by none other than…Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:
    I have heard this amazing tale about your dad and a boy he helped liberate from a concentration camp at the end of World War II. Would you mind recounting briefly the story of Rabbi Lau and your dad? That story — people have gotten that all mixed up. There was a reporter in Israel who put my father into the tank battalion that liberated Dachau.
    My dad was a police officer in New York.
    One of the guys that he was a police officer with was in a tank battalion that liberated Dachau. Rabbi Lau was a boy in Buchenwald, which was also liberated by black troops, but it was a totally different group than the one that my dad’s friend was in.
    The group that helped liberate Buchenwald was the 183rd Combat Engineers, an all black unit.
    And that’s who you wrote the book about?
    No, I wrote the book about the 761st Tank Batallion. That was the unit my dad’s friend was in. They liberated Dachau. The reporter in Israel mixed all of the facts up, and got it all conflated. People were thinking my dad was a lieutenant in the 761st Tank Battalion. My dad was a lieutenant in the New York City Transit Police!
    And that’s how he got to know Smitty, who was one of the liberators of Dachau and other camps.
    I met Rabbi Lau when I was in Israel in 1997. I just wanted to say hi to him because he had a particular regard for the black Americans that were involved in his liberation. I had participated in a couple of events they had in New York where they had reunited the people what were liberated with the people who liberated with them. Smitty, my dad’s friend, participated in that.

  3. Can someone please clarify these facts. This sheds a poor light on Matzav as it brings in to question everything we read on this sight.

  4. It is important that the right facts come out. Matzav needs to do an investigative report and find out what actually happened.

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