(In almost 10 years, I’ve never used a guest column for “Israel Watch,” yet Kenneth Bialkin’s tribute to the late Elie Wiesel is so moving, I felt it appropriate. – Jim)
The Loss of One Man — A Tribute to Elie Wiesel
by Kenneth J. Bialkin
New York, NY, July 2, 2016
Elie Wiesel died the morning of Saturday, July 2, 2016.
I learned of it first from a call from my friend, David Harman, and then telephoned Elie’s home and received confirmation from his son, Elisha. The loss of a friend is always tragic and initiates a gap in memory. The loss of any of one person is normally easily absorbed in the larger community, and very little changes.
Not so with Elie Wiesel.
On a personal level, the loss is personally telling. Elie and Marion have been personal friends of Ann and mine without a beginning date. Of course, I was aware of his works and reputation when we first became friends and I was active in the ADL. Over the years, we became family in so many rewarding ways. His loss is more than just personal to Ann and me.
It needs to be said that his loss is one which will be suffered by a very large audience not the least of which are the Jewish people. It is as if a star which has shined for many years one day simply disappears. Those of us who came to assume the assurance of seeing his star shine in the heavens will suddenly feel his absence and come to realize that a voice and a vision which supported our understanding and appreciation of his presence has been snatched away by fate.
Elie Wiesel always spoke softly and never stridently. The delivery of his wisdom came always in gentle terms in measured cadence. The force and power of his influence existed in the simple words he chose to express his sometimes profound message. The star which shined in the orbit of his presence is gone.
His message was one of memory and was very personal. The memory he kept alive was shared with whoever would read or listen. He never claimed or searched or sought power or position, he simply said what he thought. His writing and commentary make out a guide for thinking, and acting, and believing for anyone who took the opportunity to read or listen or hear. It is as if a star that we were used to seeing when we looked toward Heaven is no longer there.
The gap we now notice will be further missed in the days ahead. We have only to be thankful for the time provided to all of us to listen, hear, understand and cherish his message.