The Elevator Interview – Elie Wiesel (Exclusive)
AJ: As a Holocaust survivor and Jewish activist, what do you think Jews could or should be doing for our continued, proud survival?
EW: The primary task of a Jew in these turbulent times, is to be Jewish.
AJ: In 2009, you were awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Obama. What’s one thing you’d like to see President Obama do, or not do?
EW: I imagine, like all his predecessors, he would like to achieve greatness in bringing peace in the Middle East. I hope it will not be at the expense of Israel.
AJ: Of the 40+ books you authored, do you have a favorite?
EW: I have published more than fifty volumes. All are my favorites. Some are special: Night, Souls on Fire, the Jews of Silence.
AJ: You founded The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity “to fight indifference, intolerance and injustice.” What would you say is currently a root cause of indifference, intolerance, and/or injustice?
EW: Fanaticism in many lands has surfaced as the greatest threat to the world. Indifference to its consequences would be a serious mistake.
AJ: On April 15, 2010, you placed full page “For Jerusalem” ads in the New York Times, Washington Post emphasizing Jewish rights to the city, denying Muslim connection to Jerusalem seen from zero references made of Jerusalem in the Koran. You wrote: “For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture—and not a single time in the Koran…the first song I heard was my mother’s lullaby about and for Jerusalem.”
Did this have an impact? What feedback did you get, if any?
EW: The ad had a stunning impact in Washington and everywhere else. Many sent me their praise, some chose insults.
AJ: Would you agree that building a fifteen-story mosque near Ground Zero would be like building a neo-Nazi center near a concentration camp? Why or why not?
EW: It would surely hurt Jewish sensitivity.
AJ: The Norwegian Nobel Committee called you a “messenger to mankind.” What’s your message to this increasingly troubled world?
EW: Emphasis must be put on learning: there is no substitute to education. It can be briefly formulated in a few words: always, whatever you do in life, think higher and feel deeper.