By Livia Sklar
Saturday, July 2, marked the passing of a human being who was revered not only by Jews, but also by Christians and people of conscience throughout the world, Elie Wiesel.
Much has been much said and written about Wiesel, including a message about him from the president of Hadassah, Ellen Hershkin. I will quote from that message in a moment, but first I want to share with you something actually a bit funny.
Wiesel spent the early years of his life in the same small town as my mom and her family: Sighet in what is now Romania. Of course, most of the Jews in such a small town knew one another, so my mom knew Elie when he was a young boy, although she was about 10 years older than he was. In fact, Elie’s family used to buy groceries from my grandparents, who ran a provisions store in town.
This past year my mom, who is now almost 97 years old, was interviewed by someone who is assembling testimony about the Holocaust from those who survived it. This person interviewed my mom for several hours about what life was like in her town of Sighet before and during the Holocaust.
My mom recalled many interesting details of her life in Sighet, and she specifically recalled the Wiesel family and how they used to buy groceries in her parents’ store. When the interviewer asked her what she remembered about them, she replied that she didn’t like them because they were always late in paying their bills.
I had to laugh when I heard this because it was the only negative thing I’ve ever heard about the Wiesel family.
In fact, Elie Wiesel, if he were Catholic, would probably have been nominated for sainthood years ago. In the course of his life, he wrote books about the Holocaust, spoke out for many humanitarian causes and received the Nobel Peace Prize.
With respect to Hadassah, Wiesel was a contributor to our magazine and one of the judges for the prize it awards for outstanding Jewish fiction. He was also a recipient of the Henrietta Szold Award for his generosity of spirit, his faith in humanity and his overall involvement with Hadassah.
This is what Wiesel said about Hadassah: “Hadassah is more than an organization; it’s a family — a family that loves and is loved. It loves to help those in need, the weak and the ill — in short, those who need help. And it is a family that is loved because it does these things with as much devotion as competence. … The women of Hadassah know what they want to do, and they do it well.”
What can we do to honor the memory of Elie Wiesel? For one thing, we can try to follow his example in speaking the truth. As he said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
And as Ellen Hershkin wrote, “We can honor his memory, his bravery and his love of humanity with our deeds.”
Which is exactly what our Metulla group is all about.
Alpharetta resident Livia Sklar is the education vice president of Greater Atlanta Hadassah’s Metulla group.