The passing of author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel is profoundly personal for me as I am sure it is for many of you. I had the tremendous good fortune of working with him twice when I worked for The Community Foundation for Jewish Education in Chicago in the early 2000s. For me, Elie Wiesel gave voice to the experience of a Holocaust survivor and provided the words and meaning I desperately needed, and wanted, to be able to relate to the horrors and lessons of the Holocaust on a visceral level.
I grapple with who or what will serve to provide that context and deep connection for the next generation as we lose those who survived these horrors. I’ve read many of Wiesel’s more than 40 books and for me, his words were what opened me up to a state of willing and active participation in what it means to be a Jewish community. His words instilled in me and my generation a sense of obligation to remember and replace generations lost because of the Holocaust. He also taught us all to use memory to literally make the world a better place. Not only do I “get it” now, I eat, breathe and live for the survival of our Jewish culture, our people and our religion. That feeds my passion for this Federation, for our global Jewish community, and for our support for Israel.
If you haven’t read Elie Wiesel’s books, I highly recommend that everyone, in every generation, read them. Like me, I am optimistic that you will find meaning and hope in his words, actions and deeds and that we also find ways to take his aspirations for future generations to make this community one that is inclusive, kind, and intentional in its vision.
P.S. Elie Wiesel’s impact has been felt across the world. There are any number of videos on YouTube. Following are eulogies from leaders in our community.