Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom
In the vein of Tuesdays with Morrie, a devoted protégé and friend of one of the world’s great thinkers takes us into the sacred space of the classroom, showing Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel not only as an extraordinary human being, but as a master teacher.
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Release Date November 13
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About the Book
The world remembers Elie Wiesel—Nobel laureate, activist, and author of more than forty books, including Oprah’s Book Club selection Night—as a great humanist. He passed away in July 2016. Ariel Burger first met Elie Wiesel at age fifteen. They studied and taught together. Witness chronicles the intimate conversations between these two men over decades, as Burger sought counsel on matters of intellect, spirituality, and faith, while navigating his own personal journey from boyhood to manhood, from student and assistant to rabbi and, in time, teacher.
In this profoundly hopeful, thought-provoking, and inspiring book, Burger takes us into Elie Wiesel’s classroom, where the art of listening and storytelling conspire to keep memory alive. As Wiesel’s teaching assistant, Burger gives us a front-row seat witnessing these remarkable exchanges in and out of the classroom. The act of listening, of sharing these stories, makes of us, the readers, witnesses.
“Current, former, and future educators will love the glimpses into Wiesel’s practices, such as the way he guided discussions on difficult but important topics—the tensions between faith and doubt, the relationship between rebellion and madness, and effective strategies for activism—and the personal attention he lavished on students . . . Burger’s love for Wiesel, both professional and personal, shines through, and the reader will walk away with renewed admiration for this remarkable scholar, writer, survivor, and teacher”
“Amid all the Wiesel wisdom, Burger interweaves bits of his own autobiography, including his childhood and an account of the years he spent in Israel before his doctoral studies. These strolls into memoir help establish Burger as a trustworthy and likable guide, a fellow learner who has invited us to sit next to him as we absorb hard-won knowledge about the shape of a good life from a sage.
An insightful and winsome love letter—and, for newcomers to Wiesel, a good introduction”
“A student of Wiesel’s, Burger recounts how Wiesel lit his mind on fire. He later became Wiesel’s teaching assistant and colleague, and this book parts the curtain on Wiesel’s stimulating and lively classes, which challenged students…Readers will find their own preconceptions called into question, as though they were in class, too.”
“Burger, a compassionate heart, fiery soul, and sharp religious mind in his own right, presents a personal side of Wiesel that we normally didn’t see. This is the humane Wiesel, the Wiesel who nurtured students and who shook the foundations to demand more decency in society….We all know Wiesel the Activist who spent his life working for people suffering everywhere to protest injustice and oppression and to bear ‘witness,’ but there are other more personal dimensions to this story as well. Now we can see Wiesel the Soul. May we continue to be inspired by the life and teachings of Elie Wiesel. We owe Rabbi Dr. Ariel Burger our gratitude for this special opportunity.”
“Through Burger’s storytelling and unique perspective, we share in, and reap the benefits of, Wiesel’s wisdom in the heretofore largely unknown context of ethics teacher….Burger reminds us that it is now our task to continue his work of listening, learning and healing – and teaching the next generation.”
“This book is beautiful and brilliant. The substance of Elie Wiesel’s teaching will always be with us. Now, thanks to Ariel Burger—a writer of great spiritual and intellectual integrity—we have access to the way Wiesel taught generations of students, not only through his words but in the way he lived his life and held his relationships. Witness is a treasure, giving us clue after clue about how to transcend and transform the suffering of our own time, turning death into life.”
—Parker J. Palmer, author of On the Brink of Everything, Healing the Heart of Democracy, and The Courage to Teach
“Elie Wiesel became the conscience for a world that had lost its moorings. In Witness, we are invited to experience an extraordinary yet mostly unseen dimension of this great figure—Elie Wiesel as teacher. This profoundly personal account from one of his closest students brings a great and mythic being down to earth. Read this book and become a better person.”
—Rabbi Irving Greenberg, author of The Jewish Way, and member of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust and The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership alongside Elie Wiesel
“A beautiful memoir about a master teacher. In Witness, Ariel Burger turns us all into Elie Wiesel’s students. Readers will enjoy this book so much, they might not even realize how much they’re learning from it. Bravo.”
—Dr. Ruth Westheimer, author of The Doctor Is In
ARIEL BURGER is a writer, artist, teacher, and rabbi whose work combines spirituality, creativity, and strategies for social change. A lifelong student of Elie Wiesel, he spent years studying the great wisdom traditions, and now applies those teachings to urgent contemporary questions. When Ariel’s not learning or teaching, he is creating music, art, and poetry. He lives outside of Boston with his family.