Elisha Wiesel shared these reflections during the Museum’s 2021 Annual Gathering of Remembrance. Elisha is the son of Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel z”l, an Honorary Chairman of the Museum, and Marion Wiesel, who received the Museum’s Rosa Strygler Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.
For two minutes,
I watch on my screen as the air raid siren sounds in Israel.
The cars on the highway all stop.
The sound grabs me and clears my mind.
And it reminds me of truths at the bedrock of who I am,
Truths that have no bottom.
It tells me –
That my people were exterminated.
That my father’s parents, grandparents, eight-year old sister were murdered.
For being Jews.
That I am not supposed to be here.
That we are not supposed to be here.
But we are.
And the siren screams: Danger! Do not forget! Danger!
The minutes are over.
It’s time to continue,
Every other minute of the year is about continuing,
Continuing all the things the world wanted to destroy about who I am.
If my father could decide to have a child,
Although he felt the world did not deserve more Jewish children –
Then I can grow up, find the right partner, and create my own family to continue that line.
If my father refused to deprive himself of the joy of Jewish life,
No matter how angry he was with God –
Then I can put aside my cynicism,
And create a Shabbat dinner table every week,
Filled with joy, song and memories
That my children will take with them through life.
If my father refused to retreat from the world,
Despite what the world had done to him,
Then I can take the time to have an interest,
And feel continued responsibility,
Even for things that happen hundreds or thousands of miles away.
If my father loved the State of Israel,
And saw no conflict at all with being a loyal and proud American,
Then I will remind her most vocal critics,
Who seek to minimize the complexity of how to achieve peace,
That next week on Yom Hazikaron an air raid siren will sound as well,
For the fallen soldiers and victims of terror
On the way to that elusive peace.
And if my father managed to treat people respectfully,
And never humiliate them,
No matter how much humiliation he himself suffered –
Then I too will resist the temptation to shame
And all the other things we have been trained to inflict on each other
In the echo chambers and combat circles of social and broadcast media.
I will try to win by treating people well,
And by asking good questions that show humility,
And an actual interest in the answer –
Rather than by scoring points.
This is how I aspire to commemorate Yom Hashoah all year long.
I cannot tell you how to commemorate Yom Hashoah.
But I hope that among all that the haters seek to destroy,
you will continue those things you find most precious.