Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi and Holocaust Survivor Dies at 96

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub was largely known for his efforts to memorialize Holocaust victims

Thousands attend the funeral of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub, Jerusalem, April 28, 2019.
Ariel Schalit,AP

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Taub, an ultra-Orthodox sage who survived the Holocaust, died on Sunday at the age of 96. Taub lost consciousness at his home in Jerusalem and medical teams pronounced him dead after efforts to resuscitate him failed.

Taub, the sole survivor of a family that was wiped out in Auschwitz, was largely known for his efforts to memorialize Holocaust victims. He suffered intensive torture during the Holocaust, enduring chemical treatments. He had two adopted daughters, but no biological children.

Taub was born in 1923, in the Transylvanian town of Marita. He was engaged before the war to Shifra Shapira. The two survived and were married after the Holocaust. They moved to the U.S. and later to Israel’s Rishon Letzion, followed by Bnai Brak and Jerusalem.

President Reuven Rivlin mourned Taub’s death and eulogized his “genuine love of Israel.”

Israel's chief rabbi, David Lau, said that Taub was “an ember saved from the flames who, after experiencing the horrors of the Holocaust, ensured the survival of Jewish heritage and brought many people closer to their God in heaven.”

Unlike other ultra-Orthodox rabbis, Taub gave interviews to the media to publicize his memories of the Holocaust. He often told of how, towards the end of the war, when the Germans were executing camp survivors he was always convinced it was his time to go. He promised God that if he survived he would always make sure to say "Shema Yisrael," one of the most important daily prayers in Judaism.

“When we were in the Warsaw Ghetto, a few hours before we left, they tried to toss us into the flames,” Taub once recounted. “I said God in heaven, what you will gain from this. Soon I will be with my brothers and sisters in heaven, with my in-laws, and nobody is left, let us live. I promise you, I will say Shema Yisrael forever” — a pledge that he fulfilled for decades.

Thousands attended funeral and burial services for Taub on Sunday evening in Jerusalem.