“Human suffering anywhere, concerns men and women everywhere.”
When I turned eighteen years of age, I moved from Puerto Rico to Boston to attend college at Boston University. The feeling of being out on my own was liberating. All my experiences in Boston had become novel and a constant point of discovery, be it new people I met or new places I went to.
Behind Commonwealth avenue, on 147 Bay State Road sat Elie Wiesel’s Center for Judaic Studies. He was a university professor for B.U.’s religion and philosophy departments and well-known for being a champion of liberty and disadvantaged people. After having survived the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany during the second world war, he moved to Paris in 1945 upon his liberation by Allied troops. By 1954 he published what would be the first of nearly thirty books on the subject of being a brother’s keeper to one’s fellow man.
In 1986, when Mr. Wiesel accepted the Nobel Peace prize for his work towards sowing peace and justice, his grandson rose up with him to accept the honor. Did it signal a continuation of the work that needs to still be done? Undeniably, Elie Wiesel was a jewish man who cared deeply for the plight of Jews throughout the world, but he transcended his ethnicity and nationality as a Jew, as a Romanian-born citizen (Transylvania) and then as an American to simply be a human being who cared for others.
His level of empathy showed a commitment to justice that held strong for decades, all the way to his passing away on July 2, 2016, at the age of 87. Himself, originally a victim of the worst atrocities the jews have ever experienced, he rose to shed his victim label, conquering it and any semblance of possible apathy with the practice of empathy. Surely, Mr. Wiesel could have led a quiet life after being freed from the concentration camp with his sister, yet he boldly set out to live a life with his heart on his sleeve for others. That makes him a servant leader and a hero to his adopted country, the United States of America. America is a land that binds people together by their exercise of liberty and caring for one another. Elie Wiesel role-modeled just that. His life will serve as an example for generations to come as to what it means to be human and what we should do with the little time each of us is afforded on earth.
May you rest in peace, Elie or be having a grand old time with the Lord right about now. You deserve it.