Tag Archives: French

Jew of the Week: Elie Wiesel

Messenger to Mankind

Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel

Eliezer Wiesel (b. 1928) was born in Romania in a home that regularly spoke Hungarian, German, Romanian, and Yiddish. During the Holocaust he suffered in multiple labour and concentration camps, including Buchenwald and Auschwitz, and lost both parents and a younger sister. After the war, he resettled in Paris, studied at the Sarbonne, and worked as a journalist. In 1949, Wiesel became the Paris correspondent (later the international correspondent) for Yediot Ahronot. Though originally not wanting to write at all about the horrors of the Holocaust, he was convinced by a friend and published Night in 1958 – a shortened French version of his 900-page memoir in Yiddish. Though it took a while to hit the mainstream, the book now sells hundreds of thousands of copies every year and has been translated into 30 languages. Wiesel has subsequently authored many more publications, and has become an internationally-renowned speaker. In 1986, he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts against racism, violence, and genocide, and was called a “messenger to mankind”. He has also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and was knighted, among many other awards. He has even been nominated as President of Israel, but did not wish to take up the post. Wiesel has taught at Boston and Columbia Universities, the City University of New York, and served as a visiting scholar at Yale. He has spent a great deal of his life as a political activist for international causes. He stood strongly against apartheid South Africa and raised support for intervention during the Bosnian genocide, and more recently in Darfur. He has assisted the plight of Kurds, Native Americans, Argentinian Desaparecidos, as well as Soviet and Ethiopian Jewry. Wiesel remains a vocal supporter of Israel, and Jerusalem as its undivided capital. For the past 58 years, he has lived in the US and to this day has authored 57 books.

UPDATE: Sadly, Elie Wiesel passed away on July 2, 2016.

Words of the Week

For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture – and not a single time in the Koran.
– Elie Wiesel

Jew of the Week: Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was born near Prague to Yiddish-speaking parents, the grandson of a shochet (kosher meat slaughterer). His Jewish education culminated with his bar mitzvah, after which he went to the prestigious Altstädter Deutsches Gymnasium. He enrolled to study chemistry in university, but quickly switched to law. After graduating, he worked for various insurance companies – a job that he despised, but which allowed him to make a living. The little time that he had off work he would spend writing. Kafka composed dozens of stories, novels (most of them unfinished), essays, letters and diaries. Ninety percent of these he burned. In his will, he instructed his friend Max Brod to destroy the remainder of his writings. Brod ignored the request, and published them instead. Thus, Kafka was virtually unknown in his own lifetime, but became hugely famous after his death. It is believed that there are still thousands of unpublished Kafka works. He is considered by many to be the greatest writer of the 20th century, and some of his writings have been ranked among the most influential of that century. He has inspired the adjective “kafkaesque”, and has an asteroid named after him. Besides writing, Kafka was an avid swimmer, hiker, and rower, studied alternative medicine, and was a vegetarian. After once seeing a Yiddish play, he immersed himself in Jewish study. In addition to Yiddish, Kafka spoke German, Czech, French, and studied both Hebrew and classical Greek. Towards the end of his life he intended to immigrate to Israel. This wish did not come to be, as Kafka succumbed to tuberculosis at a young age. His three sisters perished in the Holocaust. For what would be his 130th birthday today, he is honoured with a Google Doodle.

 

Words of the Week

Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.
– Franz Kafka