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The Elevator Interview – Elie Wiesel (Exclusive)

September 23, 2011 12:35 pm 7 comments
Elie Wiesel attended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress. Photo: David Shankbone.

Elie Wiesel. Photo: David Shankbone.

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.

7 Comments

  • Jerusalem has been the battleground of so many, for so long, and the Jews suffered mightily in these battles, so much blood shed, so much pain, and so many who conquered the City for the city to rise again. It feels to me, like a vast story, a cosmic story of war and peace. But the peace part still eludes us all, and I wonder, as in all stories there reaches that point, whether there will be a solution yet for what has been so global a fight, over a place, that seems to occupy more than… in terms of size. Israel itself is postage stamped and Israel has been larger than life… a Biblical place but more than, when it comes to hope too. It’s been a story of Wait and Hope, with each side, and there are many sides to this multi faceted gem, making claims, and so much enmity when it could be… different. At least, that’s the Dream. We work to sustain a dream, and we work towards a dream, and life is the stuff that dreams are made of.. I have a feeling something’s coming.. and it’s more than… a feeling… call it the MORE in Amore itself.

  • I remember a saying by Elie Wiesel that should be required reading in Israel;

    “No human race is superior
    No religion is inferior
    All collective judgements are wrong; only racists make them.”

    As Yom Kippur is coming up, having these words in the prayer books in the Shuls instead of rote mouthing the same medieval words every year, might make it a true religious holiday.

    • The only answer to your stupid remark is that you may be an ignoramus. For over two thousand years the Prayers said on Yom Kippur have inspired millions of Jews who were educated by their parents and they in turn educated their children to understand the meaning of those holy prayers.
      Now you come along and spew stupidity and insult those holy words? Who are you? What education in Judaism do you posess?
      Shame on you

  • Your question with reference to ground zero is insensitive and disrespectful and an extreme analogy. Also it seems like weisels response has been edited and taken out of context. I would be curious to hear his unedited response.

    • Do you think that Professor Wiesel is insensitive? I think not given what I have read over the years i.e., his books, his op-eds and etc. What is insensitive is your implications. I agree that there is a need for tolerance in the world but it must be a two way street. Jerusalem will always be the home for the Jewish people. The extremists in the Muslim world, as well some of the Leftists in the world, cannot handle a Jewish nation, cannot live aside a Jewish nation. It is an anathma to them. Did you know that almost 40% of East Jerusalem Muslim population prefer being Israeli citizens and not of the PLO. Over 30% preferred not answering (out of fear.) So Max what did you do yesterday (10/8)?

  • Always wise and inspiring. Thank God Eli Wiesel survived the Holocaust to enrich mankind with his writing. How many more like him have been lost to the hands of the Nazis, we’ll never know.

  • michael hoffman

    thank you for this nugget, the succinct words of a wise sage.

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