I read Night in my freshman year of high school. All freshmen had to take a course on the Shoah and in understanding the capabilities of human cruelty. I was only 15-years-old and I was still trying to grasp onto my own Jewish identity, but I already came into brief contact with what the Shoah did to European Jewry.
But Elie Wiesel opened my eyes to the true humanity of the Shoah’s victims and the inhumanity of its perpetrators. From the chilling description of the cattle car to his final contact with his mother and his sisters at Auschwitz, it sent chills down my spine in a way that no other Holocaust lesson did before. I could not fathom what millions of my people had to endure for over six years, and I still cannot imagine it to this very day. But Elie’s words became a wake-up call to what dangers could arise when we start treating other human beings with inhumane disdain.
I have spent the last decade or so immersing myself on topics that touch the hearts of many, including the Arab-Israeli conflict and American politics. At the same time, I have been privileged to meet people with various ideas, backgrounds, and experiences across the world. In every endeavor I take, I try to open my eyes to alternative views so I can become more versed in the complicated problems we face. In doing so, I make a conscientious effort to recognize another person’s humanity. I may challenge somebody else’s ideals and their convictions, but I refuse to acknowledge them as anything less than myself or anyone of my peers. Maintaining such convictions can be difficult when facing people who openly call for the annihilation of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.
But Elie reminded me that even in the face of those who may not like the Jewish people or anybody else who embodies true evil, we have no choice but to be a beacon of light in the darkness. He was both a witness to and a survivor of one of the greatest evils that humanity has ever wrought upon it, but he never used those experiences to project anger, hatred, or negativity. Instead, he took his talents for words and for human compassion to teach the world a lesson that we must never forget. It is our responsibility as individuals to embody traits and values that ensure the continuation of humanity rather than the destruction of it. It is our job as citizens of our respective nations to be a light unto the darkness rather than being an additional shroud.
That is one of the greatest lessons of Judaism and Elie Wiesel made it a popular, important slogan for the rest of the world to understand. In doing so, Elie Wiesel acquired a moral victory over the Nazis, fascism, and anti-Semitism. He ensured that the six million Jewish souls and the five million gays, gypsies, handicapped, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Poles never died in vain.
May Elie Wiesel’s memory forever be a blessing. May everything that he has taught us during his incredible 87 years in this world be remembered from generation to generation.
Thank you for everything.