Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom

Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom

Elie Wiesel was a towering presence on the world stage—a Nobel laureate, activist, adviser to world leaders, and the author of more than forty books, including the Oprah’s Book Club selection Night. But when asked, Wiesel always said, “I am a teacher first.” In fact, he taught at Boston University for nearly four decades, and with this book, Ariel Burger—devoted protégé, a...

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Title:Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom
Author:Ariel Burger
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Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom Reviews

  • Nat

    This book was exactly what I was seeking with Elie Wiesel’s memoirs: it summarises Wiesel's concise teachings on keeping history alive through morality and vulnerability. You're guaranteed to leave Ariel Burger's

    with a changed perspective.

    This book was exactly what I was seeking with Elie Wiesel’s memoirs: it summarises Wiesel's concise teachings on keeping history alive through morality and vulnerability. You're guaranteed to leave Ariel Burger's

    with a changed perspective.

    To start off each part, the author's stories are interspersed throughout, which made for a well-paced read regarding the bond shared between Elie Wiesel and Ariel Burger.

    Wiesel comes to provide the home described above in the pages of this book. Like put so well in explaining the meaning of

    :

    He continues to write:

    Such grandiose ideas to wrap my head around.

    I consider it to be a good sign if a book makes me stop every few pages or so to run and share the information I just read with the people surrounding me.

    makes for an excellent book discussion.

    And since this was such an honest and vulnerable read, it feels only right to make my review as such, as well. From sharing the many rabbinical and Hasidic tales that populated Elie Wiesel's childhood, to discussing the age-old question, “must art emerge from suffering?”; keeping memory alive through reading; Judaism; fanaticism... There are so many thought-provoking ideas introduced through Wiesel's words that, in order to hold on to them all, I felt like being in one of those money blowing machines*, trying desperately to grasp on to even one fundamental thought so it won't escape me with time. The amount of notes I took from this book is a bit over the top...

    *I'm, of course, referring to one of these bad boys:

    So, let's jump right into the good stuff:

    • When attending one of Elie Wiesel's lectures becomes a life-changing notion:

    This put exactly into words why I make sure to read up on survivor testimonies, instead of reading the words of the enemy.

    • When discussing the misuse of music and "why knowing the history of works of art is important." He continues to discuss, in the passage below, how he personally "would not go to a concert of Wagner's music..."

    I feel so grateful to see someone address this in writing!!!! Nowadays, people boycott modern public figures left and right for their inappropriate nature but seldom hold up "classic" figures to the same actions... So I was beyond relieved to finally read this passage in black and white on paper. Ever since I listened to a life-changing lesson on the so-called "geniuses" of Western culture (Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Voltaire, and many more) and exposing their utter immoral natures, I make sure to check if what I'm consuming was created "in the service of humanity or its opposite..."

    • Expanding upon the opening quote of "

    ," which completely flipped my worldview around.

    • I appreciate how included we felt in the class discussions, each covering through such wide-ranging questions. The movement is rapid from student to student, and we follow it expertly like a ping pong match. Pages flew by when heated topics were introduced, or simply hearing the tales of Wiesel's childhood.

    The stories that were chosen to be included in here have not left my mind. Including, this short on sanity:

    And this brilliant take on keeping memory alive within us:

    • This last one is so important and personal to me because of the hidden meaning of birds:

    There's so much more I highlighted and would love to share but it all boils down to this: Elie Wiesel was a bright soul put on this earth; we need more people like him in our time. I was beyond disheartened to learn that he had passed away in 2016. 

    Support creators you love. Buy a Coffee for nat (bookspoils) with

  • Angela M

    “ If anything can, it is memory that will save humanity.” (Elie Wiesel)

    I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of this book. It was before the horrific event last week at a Pittsburgh synagogue where eleven people were murdered because they were Jewish. I thought about the Holocaust and the hate of the anti semitism that caused over six million Jews to be murdered and thought how could this happen now ? I was planning on reading it soon, but I thought right now would be a good time. What I

    “ If anything can, it is memory that will save humanity.” (Elie Wiesel)

    I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of this book. It was before the horrific event last week at a Pittsburgh synagogue where eleven people were murdered because they were Jewish. I thought about the Holocaust and the hate of the anti semitism that caused over six million Jews to be murdered and thought how could this happen now ? I was planning on reading it soon, but I thought right now would be a good time. What I knew about Elie Wiesel was limited to my reading of

    and having seen him on Oprah years ago. This book provides a bigger window into the man, his thoughts, his beliefs, his intellect, his empathy and understanding, an outlook on life that left me in awe considering his history. In this beautifully written book, Ariel Burger writes of the impact of his relationship with Elie Wiesel as a student of his, as his teaching assistant, and ultimately as a colleague. He writes of how his life was impacted as well as the students who came to Wiesel’s classes. Burger is also a teacher and the reader becomes his student as well as Wiesel’s.

    This is of course a beautiful tribute to a mentor and beloved friend, but it is more than that. He challenges the reader as he tells of discussions that occurred in Wiesel’s classes as we read the questions that students asked, students who majored in journalism, theater not just religion. They asked questions that were intelligent and emotion filled, questions from students who were both Jewish and Christian. It’s as if I was present in that classroom listening to the discussions on the Old Testament, books by Kafka and Dostoyevsky, Anne Frank, stories, personal experiences, discussions of madness, mysticism, faith, listening, understanding, art, music, literature, philosophical questions, hatred, forgiveness and the importance of bearing witness. Burger says of Wiesel: “Most of his writing dealt with other subjects: examinations of literature, contemporary struggles for human rights and dignity, and Jewish legends and personalities. The Holocaust was not his subject; it was the lens through which he looked at all subjects.”

    This book was such a profound reinforcement of so much that I feel and believe when I read Holocaust stories especially memoirs . The author lists a number of things about what it means to be a student of Elie Wiesel and this : “Most of all, it means remembering the past and understanding the link between past and future. It means choosing to care about others’ lives, their suffering and their joy. It means becoming a witness.” Burger based this book on his journals, notes, interviews, voice memos and twenty five years of friendship, being mentored by Elie Wiesel. I came away knowing much more about the wise and beautiful human being that Elie Wiesel was. I was awed, inspired, challenged. This book reinforced my personal conviction that we must read about the horrific times so we remember and bear witness. Highly recommended! There is so much that is relevant for this precarious time in our county.

    “Listening to a witness makes you a witness.” (Elie Wiesel)

    I received an advanced copy of this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through NetGalley.

  • Toni

    To give witness, typically, is to tell the truth. One tells what one saw, gives facts, details; what one witnessed.

    Ariel Burger, gives witness to what he learned from Elie Wiesel, in the classroom, in personal discussions, reading his books, and through both men's belief in their faith.

    Most people remember the witness Elie Wiesel gave to the Holocaust, the horror of its existence, the brutality of of its keepers, the smell of the death camps that he himself survived. Elie trusted his God, believ

    To give witness, typically, is to tell the truth. One tells what one saw, gives facts, details; what one witnessed.

    Ariel Burger, gives witness to what he learned from Elie Wiesel, in the classroom, in personal discussions, reading his books, and through both men's belief in their faith.

    Most people remember the witness Elie Wiesel gave to the Holocaust, the horror of its existence, the brutality of of its keepers, the smell of the death camps that he himself survived. Elie trusted his God, believed in his God, had faith in his God. When he survived the death camp he "Gave Witness" to his faith. He became a scholar, a Rabbi of his religion so he could be a teacher. To his death, he always described himself as a teacher.

    Ariel Burger describes scenes from Elie's classroom sessions, where Ariel was his teaching assistant, with students from all cultures, religions, races; wanting to learn and question this brilliant man. He would tell them stories, quizzical, moral stories, and the class would discuss it. He never gave them direct answers or told them what they should think or know; they learned together, thinking for themselves. That's teaching.

    This is the best way I can describe this beautiful book to honor a man the world should never forget.

    Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this advanced copy. Thank you Ariel Burger for sharing your experience with us.

    A timely book about a man bigger than life during the 20th century; a man who's life was almost snuffed out at an early age for being insignificant and not worthy. Oh how wrong they were

  • Cheri

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!

    --

    Leonard Cohen, Songwriters: Leonard Cohen / Patrick Leonard

    Instructions for life, or at least for living a life with meaning, words of thoughtful

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !!

    --

    Leonard Cohen, Songwriters: Leonard Cohen / Patrick Leonard

    Instructions for life, or at least for living a life with meaning, words of thoughtful counsel shared through the mentorship, friendship and affection that Elie Wiesel had with his student and teaching assistant, Ariel Burger, along with many other students through the years. This was profoundly lovely, and reflective, with perhaps just a dusting of something along the lines of

    added, without being

    This isn’t a book of sadness, but rather of the joy that his wisdom can bring us.

    Twenty-five years of journal entries, five years of notes from the classroom, interviews with Wiesel’s students from around the world all went into this book. Burger met Elie Wiesel when he was a fifteen year-old young man, and most of the years that followed were spent with them in contact with one another. Sometimes often, other times, not as often. But since that first meeting, Burger considered him to be

    If you’re not familiar with Elie Wiesel, he was a professor at Boston University, a journalist, a writer – best known for his book

    – about the atrocities he lived through during the Holocaust, when he was young. Later in life and living in New York City, he taught at City College of New York, and then eventually at Boston University, where he was a professor, and where, eventually, Burger would also attend as a student.

    This manages to walk that fine line between overly sentimental and a somewhat quietly shared, honest and genuinely loving look at Wiesel’s life, the wisdom he shared, and how through this relationship both changed from knowing the other. There is so much respect, love, and genuine admiration in Burger’s sharing – but there are the stories of Eli Wiesel, as well. Not the ones he wrote about in his books, word for word, but his life, irrevocably changed, after the Holocaust, how it shaped him, and how he used that to teach us all how to be better at this thing called life.

    I’ve watched, and listened to interviews of Wiesel on television, in audio books, and much of this book is in his words, conversations, writings, but there is that other side from Burger that shows what a blessing learning from a man like Wiesel can bring, not only just to him and his students, but to everyone that takes the time to listen to what Elie Wiesel has to share.

    So many reasons to read this book, but let me leave you with this one, a quote that starts off the first chapter of this book:

    Be a witness.

    Pub Date: 13 NOV 2018

    Many thanks for the ARC provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

  • Donna Hines

    I've been a fan of Elie Wiesel since his appearance on Oprah Winfrey's daytime Talk Show back in 2006 and was captivated as much then as now . See link here about that episode:

    Since that time I've read a number of his books both by him and his students who were so lucky to have been able to hear his teachings in person.

    He is truly an amazing and captivating individual and you cannot mention his name without knowing his struggles and his strengths to over

    I've been a fan of Elie Wiesel since his appearance on Oprah Winfrey's daytime Talk Show back in 2006 and was captivated as much then as now . See link here about that episode:

    Since that time I've read a number of his books both by him and his students who were so lucky to have been able to hear his teachings in person.

    He is truly an amazing and captivating individual and you cannot mention his name without knowing his struggles and his strengths to overcome without anger or bitterness.

    He is the reason we all seek forgiveness when wronged by the injustices we find in American and beyond.

    Witness is just one example of what Elie meant to so many. In his words," I am a teacher first, and teaching is the last thing I will give up."

    For many of us we all feel like we are his students even if not in his classroom as his words live on in his honor.

    Elie Wiesel passed away in July 2016 but his messages are still true to this day and will stand the test of time.

    His past is riddled with injustices. His mother and sister were murdered while Elie and his father endured forced labor. His father died when they were forced to March to Buchenwald.

    The Auschwitz camp was liberated by American soldiers on April 29, 1945.

    "The opposite of love is not hatred but indifference."

    "Kindness and compassion must not end with our own community."

    "You just need to touch one person everyday with compassion."

    His lessons come from the heart. His insight is so valuable and dynamic going above and beyond mere words.

    Actions speak volumes and he taught by using his sense of character and it spoke to all who were present to hear them.

    God rest his soul. He was a beautiful individual inside and out.

    Thank you Ariel Burger for blessing me with this ARC in exchange for this honest review. It was a true honor to read .

    I hope many will follow the advice Elie has brought forth here.

  • Jenny

    Egil Aarvik, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, once said "Eli Wiesel is a messenger to mankind. His message is one of peace, atonement, and human dignity. His belief that the forces fighting evil in the world can be victorious is a hard-won belief."

    Eli Wiesel was a father, husband, friend, humanitarian, author, Holocaust survivor and a teacher. Somehow the word teacher doesn't do justice to someone whose words continue to help us learn what being a better human being is. I have read a f

    Egil Aarvik, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, once said "Eli Wiesel is a messenger to mankind. His message is one of peace, atonement, and human dignity. His belief that the forces fighting evil in the world can be victorious is a hard-won belief."

    Eli Wiesel was a father, husband, friend, humanitarian, author, Holocaust survivor and a teacher. Somehow the word teacher doesn't do justice to someone whose words continue to help us learn what being a better human being is. I have read a few books by Eli Wiesel and jumped at the chance to read Ariel Burger's book, Witness: Lessons from Eli Wiesel's Classroom. Ariel was Wiesel's teaching assistant at Boston College. He writes a book that gave me the feeling of sitting in one of Wiesel's classes myself and letting Wiesel's stories and life lessens envelop me. I felt like I was back in college sitting in the lecture halls as Wiesel tells the stories and parables from Kafka, the Bible and other great works. These are stories hat sometimes will make you angry or leave with a an aching sadness but always stories that have a meaning and purpose. I felt like that kid again in college inspired to fight the good fight and wanting to back to the days of sitting with my fellow classmates talking about current events, challenging the status quo and ready to take on the world.

    Burger's book is filled with Wiesel's lessons and also the impact that Burger and others had on Wiesel. Burger based this book on twenty years worth of journal entries, interviews and five years of classroom notes. He takes the reader on his own spiritual and intellectual journey starting as a young boy and then the conversations with Wiesel spanning decades.

    It's not hard to read this book but it is hard to hear what this book says if you truly listen. It is then that this book or really Wiesel will bring the gamut of emotions to the forefront and a wish that we as human beings can one day find a way to stop the hatred and destruction of humanity.

    Eli Wiesel said, "Mankind must remember that peace is not God's gift to his creatures: peace is our gift to each other." Eli Wiesel would be proud of his student, Ariel Burger and the beautiful book that he wrote.

    Thank you to NetGalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book. #NetGalley #Witness

  • Kelly Hager

    This book is one of the most profound things I have ever read, and that actually doesn't do it justice.

    When I was in college, my sociology professor said something along the lines of how we need to always believe that one person can make a difference in the world. "Look at Rosa Parks," she said. And it's true that one person can make a real, permanent difference, although most of us won't. Elie Wiesel did, and he devoted his life to showing others how to do the same. 

    He told this to a student wh

    This book is one of the most profound things I have ever read, and that actually doesn't do it justice.

    When I was in college, my sociology professor said something along the lines of how we need to always believe that one person can make a difference in the world. "Look at Rosa Parks," she said. And it's true that one person can make a real, permanent difference, although most of us won't. Elie Wiesel did, and he devoted his life to showing others how to do the same. 

    He told this to a student who survived Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe: “I told you in class that you must tell your story. This is because, if even one person learns from it how to be more human, you will have made your memories into a blessing. We must turn our suffering into a bridge so that others might suffer less.”

    I have a friend who talks about her struggles with mental illness and I have always found her to be so eloquent and so brave in discussing something that still has a little bit of a stigma but she's turning her suffering into a bridge. That's a powerful and beautiful thing, and I admire that so much.

    But Elie Wiesel turned his suffering into making the world more compassionate. This book---and the ones he wrote---serve as a call to arms. If he, and other survivors of the Holocaust, could still be open and compassionate while at the same time being fierce in protecting other people, what choice do any of us have but to do the same?

    I needed this book. It's a hard and scary time and we have to save each other. Highly recommended. Could everyone please read it so I have someone to discuss it with?

  • Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

    Ariel Burger was first a student, later a teaching assistant, and much later, a friend to Elie Wiesel, and he writes here of Wiesel’s time teaching at Boston University, something he did for over 40 years.

    The primary, most important task in Wiesel’s teachings was educating against indifference. In addition, he was passionate about individual responsibility and building more compassion through literature and the arts.

    Burger shares the intimacies of their conversations, along

    ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

    Ariel Burger was first a student, later a teaching assistant, and much later, a friend to Elie Wiesel, and he writes here of Wiesel’s time teaching at Boston University, something he did for over 40 years.

    The primary, most important task in Wiesel’s teachings was educating against indifference. In addition, he was passionate about individual responsibility and building more compassion through literature and the arts.

    Burger shares the intimacies of their conversations, along with the triumphs of Wiesel’s words inside and outside of classroom walls. Burger also speaks of his own personal journey and what Wiesel taught him, how he shaped and molded him into the rabbi and teacher he became.

    I first read Night by Elie Wiesel the summer before I started high school. We had “summer reading,” and it was assigned. I was starting a new school, again, something I did frequently as a child, and I was anxious about life in general, and somehow in reading the book, as heartrending and devastating as it was, I was given hope for my new school, that we would be assigned books like Night to read, a book that made me feel deeply, viscerally because the atrocities of which Wiesel wrote actually happened. That hope held true, and Elie Wiesel helped in bringing that to me in many more ways than just that small one by comparison.

    The biggest takeaway from Witness: if you listen to a witness, you, in turn, become a witness. This one is not to be missed!

    Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the ARC. All opinions are my own.

  • Bruce Katz

    Some of the most moving and thought-provoking passages I’ve read in a very long time. This is the kind of book that leads you to ponder your own life, the choices you’ve made, the things you’ve done that you shouldn’t have and the things you didn’t do but should have, the values you have claimed as your own. For reasons that are likely quite obvious the book strikes me as particularly timely... and necessary.

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