May Their Memories Be For A Blessing
Last week, Washington's Jewish community lost two pillars of life and culture in our region and beyond.
We remember Elie Wiesel and Max Ticktin's lasting legacies.
Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)
Holocaust survivor, author, Nobel laureate, and human rights activist Elie Wiesel was perhaps the world's most well-known Holocaust survivor. He dedicated his life to combating hate and remembering the Holocaust. A frequent visitor to Washington, he made a lasting impact on our community.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter appointed Wiesel chairman of the Presidential Commission on the Holocaust. Wiesel's efforts at the commission led to the establishment of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, where his words greet visitors at the entrance: "For the dead and the living, we must bear witness."
Wiesel and his wife traveled to Washington in 1981 as part of a three-day conference that he organized to record the horrors of the Holocaust for posterity. During the conference, the Wiesels participated in a reunion of Holocaust survivors and liberators at U.S. State Department.
Among Wiesel's many social justice causes was the movement to free Soviet Jewry. Twenty years after his book, The Jews of Silence, raised public awareness of the plight of Soviet Jews, Wiesel addressed the crowd at the 1987 Freedom Sunday rally on the National Mall. "If I had three days, I would read the name of every Jew refused permission to leave the Soviet Union," he said. "All these names must be known."
Learn about D.C.'s Soviet Jewry movement from our exhibition, Voices of the Vigil.
Max Ticktin (1922-2016)
Max Ticktin, an ordained rabbi, was one of the most influential and beloved professionals at Hillel and a longtime professor of Yiddish and Hebrew Literature at The George Washington University. After transforming several Hillel Foundations in the Midwest, his talents brought him to Washington as associate national director of Hillel. He was also an active member at Washington's Fabrangen and Yiddish of Greater Washington.
Last fall, our staff had the opportunity to conduct an oral history of Max Ticktin in partnership with the Washington Jewish Week. This interview was funded by a grant from the Koster Foundation. Below are several excerpts.
About his professional calling
"So, it's the teacher in me, it's the piece of me that feels I was put on this Earth to somehow to try to make some contacts with things that will survive my life and will be part of a consensus. A consensus, at the moment we are talking about a Jewish consensus. But it's obviously a Jewish consensus of commitments within a larger world, a larger politics."
On his passion for the Hebrew language
"The development of the Hebrew language in my lifetime is a miracle. A miracle in the sense that one has to realize that one becomes a wandering Jew, here's a bad pun, a wondering Jew instead of a wandering Jew. It's a matter of wonder and miracle that this is the only place on Earth where a language and a big part of culture was born out of suffering and pain and disruption and survived."