Saturday, July 02, 2016By Ezra Friedlander, CEO - The Friedlander Group
A Final Message from Elie Wiesel
Millions of words are being written right now about the late Elie Wiesel, by figures ranging from world statesmen to celebrities of every stripe. A brief encounter with Elie Wiesel and the way it transpired made an indelible if not haunting impression on me.
This encounter took place at the annual dinner of the Crown Heights based Bnos Menachem school for girls which featured him as the keynote speaker. I noticed him sitting quietly at the reception and decided to approach him. Needless to say, like so many others, I was familiar with Elie Wiesel but was never really close to him. Because Elie Wiesel shared so much about the Holocaust, I decidedly felt that to engage him in a conversation about the Holocaust would not yield any remarkable insights as he shared so much already, and frankly he looked frail and exhausted.
Hence, I approached him to greet him when a thought suddenly popped into my mind and I asked him: "Mr. Wiesel, what do you think about every day?" I figured that this question would allow him to share whatever he felt was most important to him. He looked up at me with pleadful eyes and replied, "I put on tefilin every morning and I am a Vizhnitzer chusid." He then further elaborated that his father was a Vishnitzer chusid and he therefore had great affinity for the Vishnitzer Rebbes that he knew.
It was very clear to me that at the moment he wanted me to hear that statement very emphatically and was conveying a specific message. It was a very defining statement for Elie Wiesel to make.
Like so many Holocaust survivors, and needless to say, not for me or anyone else to judge, Elie Wiesel wrangled with faith and G-D's existence when discussing the Holocaust.
At that moment however, he seemed at peace with G-D. By telling me that he was a "Vishnitzer Chusid and that he puts on Tefilin and thinks about the Vishnitzer Rebbes every day," he was letting the world know that he had come to terms with G-D and the Holocaust.