Thu, 21 October 2021
When Elie Wiesel was fifteen years old, the Nazis murdered his mother and sister and enslaved him and his father in Buchenwald. After the U.S. Army liberated the camp in April 1945, Wiesel went to France, where he studied the humanities and worked as a writer, and then to New York, where he became a professor and an activist for human rights. Wiesel, who died in July 2016, wrote some 60 books, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, and was counselor to presidents, senators, kings, and prime ministers.
Recently, he and his family were honored by the installation of a sculpture of his likeness in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The manner of this honoring introduces some particularly vexing Jewish questions, which his son Elisha discussed in a recent Washington Post op-ed. Elie Wiesel was a moral hero, and a particularly Jewish one. His family worried that his memorialization in a church would emphasize the universalist elements of his legacy, and discard particular Jewish elements of his moral persona—including his Jewish observance and his Zionist commitments. Elisha joins Mosaic’s editor Jonathan Silver to think about these questions, his father's legacy, and more on this week’s podcast.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble.