Elie Wiesel's Great Mission on Behalf of Soviet Jews

(Washington Post) Natan Sharansky - Elie Wiesel understood that the failure to speak out, about both the horrors of the past and the evils of the present, is one of the most effective ways there is to perpetuate suffering and empower those who inflict it. Wiesel therefore made it his life's mission to ensure that silence would not prevail. First, he took the courageous and painful step of recounting the Holocaust, bringing it to public attention in a way that no one else before him had done. Then he turned his attention to the present, giving voice to the millions of Jews living behind the Iron Curtain. Wiesel first traveled to the Soviet Union in 1965 as a journalist from Ha'aretz. The book that resulted, The Jews of Silence, was an impassioned plea to Jews around the world to shed their indifference and speak out for those who could not. Wiesel's book became the banner of activists, students and others who would not stay quiet. The history of the Soviet Union would likely be very different had the struggle for Soviet Jewry not come to encompass the kind of outspoken, grass-roots activism that Wiesel encouraged in his book. Elie Wiesel's humanism, his active concern for the voiceless, hardly stopped with his fellow Jews. He spoke out against massacres in Bosnia, Cambodia and Sudan, and against apartheid in South Africa. He became, as others have said, the conscience of the world. Yet he did not feel he had to give up his Jewish loyalty or national pride to be a better spokesman for others. To the contrary: It was the tragedy of his people that generated his concern for the world. The writer, a human rights activist and former political prisoner in the Soviet Union, is chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

2016-07-05 00:00:00

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