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There are people who instill in us such a sense of
humility, who bear themselves with such dignity
despite the suffering they have endured, whose
witness to history is so powerful, that we know their
influence will be felt down through the generations.
Elie Wiesel – author, human rights activist, and
Nobel Peace Prize laureate – who died Saturday,
July 2 at the age of 87, was such a man. One of the
true prophets of our day, it was through his
unflinching courage in chronicling the atrocities he
experienced during the Holocaust, and his honesty
in confronting his own crisis of faith that resulted from
those experiences, that millions of people who came
after have come to better understand not just the
terrifying facts of this dark chapter in history, but its
effects on the collective memory of the Jewish people.
In his 1986 Nobel Prize acceptance speech,
Elie Wiesel said that after experiencing the
unimaginable suffering of the Nazi death camps,
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever
human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We
must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never
the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never
the tormented.”
Indeed, he was not silent. Elie Wiesel dedicated his
life to Holocaust education. He was an outspoken
advocate for the rights of oppressed people around the
world. He was tireless in his fight against intolerance
and injustice. His death is a blow not just to the Jewish
world, but to all who believe in the cause of liberty and
It was my privilege to know Elie Wiesel. In 2014 I was
honored to receive the American Jewish Joint
Distribution Committee’s highest honor, the Raoul
Wallenberg Award, an honor that had been bestowed
upon Wiesel. While we mourn his death, we give thanks
to God for his life, and his example – an example that,
with God’s help, we pray we will be able to carry on.
May his memory be a blessing.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
(These loving words by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein I
present in the memory of Dr. Burton Nelson
of North Park Seminary, my teacher in life and my
friend for eternity. God Bless his memory)

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