Michael Hochberg, 77, was taken in by the Polish family at the age of four after he was thrown over the wall of the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw by a friend so he could escape the Nazis.
He hands with Krystyna Jakubowska, 86, at Kennedy International Airport, as their relatives looked on.
Ms Jakubowska said through a translator: "He was a very pretty boy and he was very good - no problems with him as a child.
"But I was scared, because the Germans announced on the street what would happen if somebody is saving a Jew."
For two years he lived with Jozef and Rozalia Jakubowski, friends of his family, and their son and three daughters including Krystyna, then a teenager. The family made sure no one discovered that he was circumcised and therefore Jewish; most Christian babies did not undergo the procedure at that time.
Mr Hochberg had escaped just before the 1943 uprising that sent the ghetto he could see from the balcony of the Jakubowski apartment up in flames.
He never again saw his parents or grandparents, who all died, and he could never venture out of the apartment except at night.
"Very few people helped the Jews," Mr Hochberg said. "In the Jewish tradition, you say, whoever saves one soul saves the whole world."
Jozef Jakubowski, who fought against the Nazis as a member of the Polish underground, was killed in combat. The rest of the family was forced out of the city into the countryside, taking the boy along.
At the end of the war "I just hugged everybody, and I had to leave" said Mr Hochberg, who grew up in a Jewish orphanage in the town of Otwock, eventually moving to Israel, where he had three sons and eight grandchildren.