Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom, by Ariel Burger, is a beautifully written tribute to Elie Wiesel.
Elie Wiesel was more than the man most individuals recognize as a Holocaust Survivor, more than the man who wrote about his life, defining it with his memories, and his witnessing horrific, appalling situations.
Burger brings the reader directly into the man who was a professor, a classroom teacher, and mentor to many, including Burger.
With private talks with Wiesel, Burger has brought new definition to his legacy. His intensity and educational pursuits in teaching are not necessarily known to the world outside of the university campus. He was a great man, a man of immense knowledge, but also a man of compassion for humanity, humanity as a whole, humanity as one, under the sun.
His faith constantly had him questioning, searching for answers, yet he evoked masterful responses to questions other asked of him, in his classroom setting. He was a man of structure, of cementing the essences of communication, and fostering the idea that memory bestowed to others, even one person, is the greatest form of witnessing we give. He felt that once you heard of atrocities, events, instances, from another individual, you then became a witness to that event, that moment, those moments, in time. For Wiesel, memory was of the utmost importance, capturing the memory and retelling it, was a force for witnessing events of the past, and educating others to carry it forward.
Wiesel was a man of many facets, from his sense of humor, his steadfast determination to be a comforter for others, to his thoughts and perceptions on religion. I loved the portions regarding Hasidism, and the lore, the Hasidic Tales. I liked his views on activism, art, humanity, as told through Burger’s prose.
The memoir brings Elie Wiesel’s classroom setting to the reader. Student exchanges, questions, debates, bring out the masterfulness of the man, and his greatness to humankind. The reader is exposed to his mode of teaching, his patience, his generosity, his desire to educate others in order for memories to be formed. I cannot say enough about Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom.
The reader also learns about Burger, and the influence that Wiesel had on him, instilling religious thought, theory, questions, conversations, outlook, and the importance of memory, within Burger’s mind. He is a witness to Wiesel’s memories.
Ariel Burger has given the reader much to ponder about the brilliance, compassion, the greatness, and human side of Wiesel. His life is defined, in many aspects, through the teachings of Elie Wiesel. His train of thought, mode of perspective, his religious beliefs, questions, and searching, continue on, through Elie Wiesel’s teachings.
I wish I had been a pupil in his classroom, to physically be within close proximity to Elie Wiesel. I have admired him for almost sixty years. I have read his articles, his stories, his books. His books, and his other works, that I have read, have taught me more than I could ever articulate, but to be sitting in his classroom…
Copyright Lorri M.