Home » Insights & Inspirations » What I Learn from Elie Wiesel about Donald Trump

What I Learn from Elie Wiesel about Donald Trump

Donald Trump never really attracted my attention until recent months. But I have paid close attention to Elie Wiesel for almost half a century.

It is 47 years since I first saw and heard Elie Wiesel in 1968. He was then a 40 year-old activist on behalf of Soviet Jewry.

I had just finished my undergraduate thesis on The Jews of the Soviet Union Since the End of World War II. Wiesel’s book, The Jews of Silence was a primary source of my research.

Fifteen years later in Baltimore, I gave the invocation at an event where I again heard Wiesel speak. I treasure the fact that he complimented me on my presentation, and he said something that evening that I have remembered ever since.

“It says in Pirke Avot (3:1) “Keep in mind three things: from whence you came, to where you are going, and before whom we must eventually render account. “And which of these,” Wiesel asked, “is the most important for us Jews? From whence we came! Every Jew should always know that he or she came from Sinai. And before we came from Sinai we came from slavery and oppression.”

From that day to this he has endeavored to teach that the most important lesson we learn from Sinai is that “We must not remain indifferent to the suffering of others.   The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference.”

Even in the face of danger Jews face in Israel and in many places around the world, we must not be indifferent to the suffering of others.

Our Muslim cousins are suffering, and we must do what we can to relieve their pain.

Yes there are radical elements in the Muslim world. We see their terrorism, and we hear their barbaric rhetoric.

But they do not represent vast majority of Muslim in the world who want the same things we want for ourselves and our children and our grandchildren.

They want a world where people live in peace and harmony. They want a world where people have houses that protect them from the heat, the cold the wind and the rain. They want good food for their children and all children to eat.

Yes, they want all of those things, and yet Donald Trump, the Republican candidate for President of the United States plays upon the fears and prejudices that we Jews know all too well. He takes the wretched example of a few radicals and makes proclamations that discriminate against, persecute and impugn all Muslims around the world. His method is not new.

  • In the thirties Father Charles Coughlin took to the airwaves with a rabidly anti-Semitic message. Finally the Catholic Church officially silenced him.
  • When I was a young boy Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign ruined the lives of many an innocent person. Finally Congress censured him.
  • Today Donald Trump; is fanning the flames of bigotry and hatred. It is time for people of good will to repudiate Donald Trump.

Let us consign him—like Coughlin and McCarthy—to the page of history reserved for demagogues whose rantings make us recoil.

As Elie Wiesel taught, the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference.

In the face of evil–and I believe in the face of the specific evil that Donald Trump represents–the Torah commands all people of good will, “You shall not remain indifferent.” (Deuteronomy 22:3)

 

 

19 thoughts on “What I Learn from Elie Wiesel about Donald Trump

  1. Thank you for sharing this wisdom – both Elie Wiesel and yours. I will quote here something I wrote to another post about Trump: “Can the insanity of Trump’s words snap us out of this spiral of hatred and fear? As he gets more and more extreme I think Trump may be serving a good purpose — just hearing the words “and we must kill their families too” should be enough to shake up and wake up the good citizens of the country. These are not the words or the sentiments upon which this nation was built. We must awaken.” Perhaps we need just this amount of hate-mongering, fear and bigotry to open our eyes and to reach toward sanity. Not separating us from others, but bringing the different good people of the world together to fight the fanatical, radical, evil we are seeing now.

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  2. it seems easier for some folks to lump the evil doers together with the decent people of a given society; it takes more work and energy and good will to confront the evil doers while protecting and keeping opportunities available for the decent people. there are no easy answers to sorting thru the dilemma, but thank G-d there are those working on it. very wise to remember where we come from so that we don’t head right back to being ‘enslaved’ to hate-mongering demagogues.

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  3. So do you sleep with your doors locked, do you wear your seatbelt, do you share your PIN of your bank account or, do you question the the parents of the house where your kids want to downs the night? Get where I’m going with this?

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    • Well ok, So do you avoid certain neighborhoods fearing for your safety? Are ALL citizens of the US trustworthy and non violent? No we are not, so the previously mentioned questions were describing how we protect ourselves and others. Not all houses will we broken into but we still lock our doors, or not all bank accounts are at risk but we still use passwords.
      So until we find a better way to identify a terrorist vs an immigrant looking for help the WE lock OUR door.
      I see those as a hypocrite who lock their door at night but says let the immigrants in.

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      • Yes, it was very clear that you lock your doors (except when it was convenient- I’m talking about slavery there in case you didn’t get it) when you turned away a ship full of 900 Jews fleeing Germany back in 1939

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  4. Thank you for your timely essay that incorporates Elie Weisel’s wisdom with your own. It resonates during this time of xenophobia which, as you correctly point out, evokes memories of Joseph McCarthy and Father Coughlin. Pitting one group against another in not what our Founding Fathers envisioned when establishing our country.

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  5. Saying the majority of Muslims want what we want sounds like music to the ears of those who ignore history. It has never mattered to the leaders of Muslim theocracies what their followers wanted, people by the way who have no choice but to follow since to attempt to leave Islam is suicide. The leaders have chosen conquest as Allah’s instruction and since the “average” Muslim doesn’t get a vote, we only need pay attention to the leaders. In relation to Israel, the leaders want to kill any Jew who doesn’t leave fast enough, and according to a survey of residents of Judea and Samaria 80% agree that is what should happen. Islam is not a religion of peace, never was and never will be.

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