On Monday, a carving of Elie Wiesel was unveiled at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, where it stands alongside depictions of Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, and others. While expressing his appreciation to this church for honoring his father not just as a great humanitarian but also as an “observant Jew,” Wiesel’s son Elisha voices his concern over the way his father’s legacy has been obscured or misappropriated:
[T]he hardest thing for me is when I come across people who invoke his protests, read his books, and cry for the dead Jews—then condemn in unforgiving terms the 6 million Jews living in Israel who refuse to depend ever again on others to rescue them. So I remind the world that my father didn’t advocate just for the people of Kosovo, Darfur, and Cambodia. He also supported Israel and defended her right to exist in peace and security.
My father understood what it meant to live in a world without a Jewish state, and he saw the anti-Zionist movement for what it was: an extension of millennia-old anti-Semitism, which unfortunately is becoming more common and acceptable today.
Today my father is being honored as a friend of the church. But as a child, he would cross the street to avoid one, and the beatings from the worshipers within; on Christmas Eve he knew to stay off the streets altogether. My great-grandmother sang him mournful songs about Jewish communities decimated over outrageous lies that they murdered Christian children to make matzah with their blood. How do I help our Christian friends understand that the Jewish people still face blood libels today?