When I Grow Up
I Want To Be King!’

By Tim Boxer

ABBI ARTHUR SCHNEIER, head of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, regularly hobnobs with the heads of state and ecumenical giants in all parts of the globe. He was doing just that last month close to home, as Davos came to New York.

To hear him tell it, the reason the World Economic Forum was held outside Switzerland for the first time was due to a meeting with founder Klaus Schwab. Schneier wanted to convince him to include religious leaders in the next forum.

The meeting took place at Schneier’s office in New York. The date was 9/11.

“As we watched the horrific destruction of the Twin Towers on television,” Schneier related, “I suggested to Schwab that he schedule the next WEF conclave in New York as a show of solidarity. Not only did he agree to invite religious leaders, but to move Davos to New York.”

The elite world gathering offered Schneier a unique opportunity to escort several religious leaders to witness the devastation at Ground Zero.

He invited two chief rabbis, Jonathan Sacks of Great Britain and Israel Meir Lau of Israel, who had come to the WEF, to spend Shabbat at his Park East Synagogue.

At Friday night services, Sacks told how, as chief rabbi of the Commonwealth, he is required to travel to the far reaches of the Queen’s domain. In each country the governor general, who serves as representative of the crown, would welcome him.

In New Zealand, they met at a yeshiva. The governor general was very gracious in greeting the children, asking each what he wanted to be when he grows up.

One lad said, “Please, sir, I want to be the king!”

Sacks explained to the Queen’s representative, “We teach our children to aim high.”

Israeli Chief Rabbi Lau addressed the congregants at Saturday morning services. He told about attending funerals every week, sometimes going from one to the next all  day long.

Among the notables who were visibly moved by Lau’s words were Kenneth Bialkin of the American Jewish Historical Society, Leon Levy of the American Sephardi Federation, Rabbi David Rosen, Sir Sigmund Sternberg, S. Daniel Abraham and synagogue president Michael Scharf , NYC commissioner for community assistance Jonathan Greenspun and Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Hampton Synagogue.

When he was chief rabbi of Netanya 22 years ago, he officiated at the wedding of a young girl named Shira. Her family grew to eight happy children.

Last summer, after the bombing of Sbarro, Lau got a call from Shira’s sister. This time he was asked to officiate at the burial of Shira, her husband, and three children.

He stood silently before five coffins, tears welling up in his eyes. The only words he could cry out were ahd matai – how much longer?

He went to the hospital to visit the youngest daughter, eight years old, now an orphan. Her face was all bandaged up, except for the eyes.

Lau looked in her eyes, red with tears, and said, “Miriam, a long time ago there was a little boy, also eight years old, also an orphan. He lost his father and mother to the Nazis in Poland. He came here and grew up. You are looking at him now – the chief rabbi of our nation.

“See what you can become? Be strong. You too can grow up to be a leader of our people.”

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