The recent death of Elie Wiesel compelled me to reach out to my own adult children. Not because I am an educator, but because I am a parent who continues to challenge my children to use their passion and intellect to make a difference in the lives of others, regardless of the scale of impact. Teachable moments occur 24/7. When we are awake to them, we can discover within the simplest interaction or within the complexity of a global situation an opportunity to transmit to our children their heritage of social justice. Reflecting together, in a developmentally appropriate way, we can identity how actions and inactions taken by one person or a group impact – positively or negatively – on others. Reflection creates space for us to impart ethical, moral, cultural, spiritual and social values, identifying desirable and undesirable behaviors. I found such a moment in my own reflections on the passing of Elie Wiesel.
The media is replete with accounts of how Elie, through his words, spirit and deep sense of humanity influenced and shaped young lives. His life-long focus on the particular and universal experience of suffering will continue to call for a moral response for generations to come, but only if every parent understands his or her role in the transmission process. One opportunity to do so is by sharing the personal impact Elie had on you. Another is through sharing personal accounts found in the media. This includes the secular press as well as through publications such as Tablet Magazine, The Forward, and Ejewishphilanthropy.
I wrote the following to my own children and step children on this day of marking the independence of our great nation:
“I will be forwarding you several pieces written about Elie Wiesel, who recently passed away. There is as much to be learned from what people write about his influence on their lives as there is by reading his books.
“In a time of disruptive terror, it is important to continue Elie’s relentless work in addressing the great suffering humanity continues to wreak upon the innocent – and how one man (woman) can inspire and transform us. Elie’s words reveal the depths of human pain and suffering and his actions demonstrate an enduring hope for what is good, compelling us, each in our own way, to reveal the light within the darkness.
“I had the opportunity to spend an evening with Elie Wiesel when I was Hillel Director at Washington University. He was the real deal. “May his memory inspire us to be better and to work harder to impact humanity for the good – whether through person-to-person engagement or through systemic change. And may his legacy inspire generations to come.”
Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi
4 July 2014/ 28 Sivan 5776