In more than one of his works, Elie Wiesel mentions a “Mr. Shushani” (or Chouchani), whom he knew in Paris after World War II. Wiesel describes him as a polymath of extraordinary erudition and intelligence, who “looked like a hobo turned clown, or a clown playing a hobo” and who kept his personal history shrouded in mystery. Yet Wiesel considered himself Shushani’s student, as did the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. No less a figure than Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook praised Shushani’s intellectual abilities. The National Library of Israel has recently acquired some 50 notebooks that belonged to Shushani, in which he recorded his reflections on Jewish theology and numerous other topics. Zack Rothbart writes:
Shushani zealously guarded his identity and few details about his personal life are known today, more than 50 years after his death. Even his name is something of a mystery. Wiesel concluded it was Mordecai Rosenbaum, while most leading scholars today, including the philosopher Shalom Rosenberg, also a disciple of Shushani’s, [and who donated the notebooks], believe that it was Hillel Perlman.
Shushani traveled across the globe throughout his life, apparently penniless, and—according to Wiesel—without a passport. . . . Shushani’s travels brought him throughout Europe, the United States, allegedly to North Africa, and elsewhere—including Mandatory Palestine and the young state of Israel, where for a few months in the late 1950s, he wandered among religious kibbutzim sharing his knowledge and perhaps gaining some too.
Ultimately, Shushani landed in Uruguay.
Probably born in Russia in the early 20th century, Shushani died in Uruguay in 1968.