A Night with Elie Weisel

Tonight I finally see and hear a great hero of mine named Elie Weisel

He is a Holocaust survivor and wrote a famous book called Night.

My family celebrated some Jewish holidays and I have vivid memories of Chanukah with very happy people.  I studied History in college and then earned a teaching credential and Master’s Degree in Education. I taught History for 5 years and the Holocaust was an important part of the curriculum. I had the wonderful opportunity to also teach Diversity Studies, Psychology and a course called Living and Dying to high school seniors.

One summer right after college I spent a summer as a camp counselor at a mostly Jewish camp in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  I loved my campers a lot and one night I read them appropriate passages from Weisel’s Night.  They were so engaged by the book that they often did not want me to stop reading.  Perhaps the most moving part of the experience was the conversations that evolved after reading together where we often talked about the meaning of life and our own experiences of life.

Now, after all these years, I will go to the 92nd Street YMCA in Manhattan and see Elie Weisel in person. 

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I’m back from his incredible talk and I took notes on his quotes.  Some of them stand alone and others were part of a larger narrative. 

 Elie Weisel:

 Times change but the questions remain the same.

 I just wrote a book titled “A Mad Desire to Dance” which is strange because I’ve never danced.

 I quest for meaning. Great patience is required.

 When reading try to find a secret place in the story within the novel. At that point what is unsaid is more important than what is said.

 Letting suffering speak is the language of truth.

 Racism has received it’s final blow in the election of a black man to president of U.S.

 We are all rugged individualists with an Aristotelian impulse toward community.  Obama has tapped into this strain of our character.

 I’m not sure History has a sense of justice but it has a sense of humor.

In the recent tragedies in India the Jews were singled out and tortured…anti-semitism is alive and well.

Hitler and Mussolini made language their captors.

Governments don’t lie, they engage in “mis-information.”

What is memory?  What are it’s limits?  What is it’s weakness? What role does imagination play in memory?  Do they contribute to each other or take away?

All disciplines owe so much to memory.

It’s easy to fall in love with someone who can tell stories or who can listen to stories.

How can we truly heal without knowing the true nature of the shadows and the dark places?

How is it that we can, in the same world, have such cruel people and also such kind hearted people, too?

My answer to the question of how to be happy?  Fall in love again, even if you fear it, just fall in love again, and again, and again.  A character in one of my books falls in love in a bakery!

Ahh, what will we do for the children who are so scared, so afraid…we will continue to talk to them to tell them stories, to teach them…we will tell them to wait patiently for the world’s fervor, for it’s fire, for it’s deep love, it’s music, it’s melody, and it’s occasional silence…

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 I had the honor of shaking his hand that night.

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One Response to “A Night with Elie Weisel”

  1. I loved this one: Letting suffering speak is the language of truth.

    That’s the essence of art.

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