Deborah Katchko-Gray
Pioneer woman cantor, artist and Bubbie.

Remembering Elie Wiesel on his Sixth Yartzeit

A moment in Elie Wiesel’s study at Boston University

Thanks to the efforts of Alan Rosen all the way from Jerusalem, a few students, his son Elisha, scholars like Ariel Burger; gather online to study and remember our teacher and mentor. These intimate study sessions are precious and inspiring. Each time, I feel closer to my teacher and his message; inspired to keep writing about him and learning from him.

Alan Rosen began with a study from Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers. What are the three things we should focus on in life?

Know where you came from

Know where you are going

Know before whom you are accountable to

These universal questions guide us and haunt us. Where are we in life? Where are we headed? What is my role in this? How will it end?

Elisha, beloved son of Elie Wiesel and contemporary messenger reminds us that his father always was pushing for change. His humility was such that he wanted all of us to wrestle with G-d regardless of smicha, ordination, certification. As founder of the Women Cantors’ Network, that was exactly my mission- to open the discussions and studies of cantorial life regardless of titles and certifications.

Elisha reminds us to keep learning and keep remembering his incredible father.

Ariel Burger, author and scholar of Elie Wiesel had wonderful teachings as well. He presents a classic Talmudic argument- two rabbis arguing from the Mishnah about prayer. Focus one’s eyes downwards to the earth or upwards to the sky?

Elie Wiesel taught us to pray with one’s eyes downwards but keep the heart upwards. Prayer is up and down- heaven and earth. How do you bridge it?

Elisha reminded us that his father, Elie Wiesel was able to bridge concrete human rights with spirituality and morality- big ideas as inspiration with action together.  Our feet on earth, with our eyes on heaven.

These wonderful scholars inspire us to remember to live with our feet firmly planted, but our ideas, dreams and deeds towards heaven.

May the name of our beloved teacher and mentor Elie Wiesel always be a blessing and an inspiration.

Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray


About the Author
Fourth generation cantor, second woman to serve a traditional synagogue and founder of the Women Cantors' Network. Deborah studied with Elie Wiesel z"l and continues to be inspired by his teachings. First recipient of the Debbie Friedman Miriam Award. A cantor in Ridgefield, CT since 1999, cellist, tallit Swedish weaving embroiderer, mother of 6, grandmother of two. Wife and friend.
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