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December 06, 1985 - Image 18

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Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-12-06

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18

Friday, December 6, 1985

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

PURELY COMMENTARY

Elie Wiesel's 'Against Silence'

Continued from Page 2

breach in all facets of human
searching, including religion. Un-
fortunately, this did not happen.
New art directions emerged in
painting and in literature, but not
in the area of religious thought.
Only a scant number of individu-
als reacted with religious con-
sciousness, with religious sen-
sitivity. There have been in-
stances of intensely religious
people who ceased to believe out
of sheer protest, and also of
apikorsim, non-believers, who
turned to belief out of protest.
Under the impact of the catas-
trophe they could not remain
what they were before. Whether
they had been in Treblinka or
not, something had died in them,
in their views of the world. With
one it was atheism and with an-
other belief.
That is why I was sympathe-
tic to the declaration of war
which the rabbi of Detroit served
on God, in whose very service he
had been harnessed until now.
However, when I read more
detailed reports of his revolt, I
was disappointed. His revolt was
no uprising at all — merely a
play on words. Instead of trigger-
ing unrest, it had provoked
laughter, and instead of serving
as a guide to truth-seekers, it has
become a theme for humorists.
It is the season of Passover
now, when we read the Haggadah
and learn that what distinguishes
the four sons is the manner in
which they express themselves.
They all ask the question, differ-
ing only in style, in tone, and in
intention.
Had the rabbi of Detroit
cried out in the synagogue that
the God of Abraham, of Isaac,
and of Jacob is also the God of
Auschwitz and Treblinka, and I
can no longer praise nor serve
Him," many hearts would have
trembled. And his anger and his
questioning would have sounded
authentic, for they would have
issued from a tormented soul.
Instead, he chose another
way, a non-Jewish way. He lost
his faith not because of Au-
schwitz, but, in his own words, as
a result of unripe, so-called
philosophical motivations. Be-
cause he can find no proof that
God exists, he no longer believes
in Him. Should he discover the
proof tomorrow, he will believe
anew. He seems to forget that
this approach is now antiquated.
To a person of this generation
the question of God's existence is
no longer a theological but
purely a moral problem. Words,
too, have fallen victim to the
Holocaust. Whoever seeks to
build his world outlook on mere
words has completely failed to
grasp the meaning of the events
of our generation.
The rabbi's atheism is infan-
tile. Whether or not he mentions
God's name in the Haggadah is
not of the slightest interest to
anyone. His anti -Ani Maamim has
no relevance to the sense of pro-
test every believing Jew and
non-Jew must carry inside of
himself like an open wound.
We are deserving of another
kind of atheism, of another brand
of apikorsut.
The Wiesel trilogy is divided into

three voluminous sections. The first vol-
ume is devoted to the Holocaust, the sec-
ond dedicated to Jerusalem and the third
contains dramas, television speeches and
related subjects.
Elie Wiesel wears many mantles. He
is the spiritual guide who inspires de-
votionalism. He is the historian who
helps perpetuate the facts about the
Jewish people and the environments
under way they gave dignity to the
people's heritage. He is the teacher who
inspires interest and indentification.
Therefore, his works are not limited
to the Holocaust. They are Jewish liter-
ary and religious classics.
But even in dealing with the entire
theme of Jerusalem and Israel, as in the
second volume, the memory of the great
tragedy is there. The section devoted to
the Eichmann trial and its many ramifi-
cations again emphasizes the Holocaust
horrors, again gives emphasis to the title
of the entire trilogy: Against Silence.In
the Jerusalem volume, Editor Abraham-
son has updated his Wiesel anthology.
The tragic experiences of the Lebanese
War are included with the statements by
Wiesel. So is the emphasis on the battle
to attain justice for Soviet Jewry.
A Chassid, the Wiesel gems contain
the evidence of his devotion to the piety
of the movement he supports and is
identified with. Here, too, what he wrote
emerges as a history of Chassidism.
Always in great demand as a
speaker, as a commentator, as a partici-
pant in many symposia, the Wiesel
views are vital.
As chairman of the President's
Commission on the Holocaust, Wiesel
plays a great role in the American proj-
ect that keeps gaining world Jewish at-
tention. With the attention gained by
the Detroit Holocaust Memorial Center,
there is added significance to these de-
clarative statements which attain and
retain great significance in the task of
remembering, of never forgetting the
horrors that marked the Holocaust.
Because of the demands made upon
him, Wiesel very often figures promi-
nently in leading newspapers and maga-
zines as a book reviewer. His accom-
plishments on that and related scores, in
the press, on radio and television, are
provided completest possible coverage in
the material selected for these three vol-
umes.
It's a pity that Shoah, the deeply-
moving documentary about the
Holocaust-Annihilation by Clyde
Lanzmann (Pantheon Books) appeared
immediately after the three-volume
Schocken-published classic. The com-
ments upon Shoah by Wiesel on the first
page of the Nov. 3 New York Times Arts
and Leisure Section is another classic.
The NYTimes article by Wiesel, entitled
"A Survivor Remembers Other Survivors
of `Shoah' ", is another deeply-moving
and unforgettable essay by the inspired
and inspiring literary and spiritual mas-
ter.
Memories abound in the Wiesel
compilation and the record of the years
of tragedy, with the many evidences of
resistance, becomes an historical literary
treasure.
The martyrs are remembered, the
saintly in humanity who came to the re-
scue are dutifully acknowledged.
At the Remembrance Day obser-
vance at the Capitol Rotunda in Wash-
ington, April 30, 1984, Wiesel paid honor
to the rescuers who provided comfort for
the fictims of Nazism:
While we remember the vic-
tims we also remember those
who tried to help us: the Raoul

Wallenbergs and the Oskar
Schindlers. They were so few, so
alone. It breaks our heart to
think of their solitude, of their
sacrifice. Memory is not exclu-
sive. Memory is inclusive. Be-
cause we remember the singular
aspect of the tragedy we re-
member its universality.
It would be utter vain glory to claim
that 1,000 pages of essays, speeches,
book reviews and excerpts from novels
can be properly analyzed in a single ar-
ticle. What Dr. Abrahamson has accom-
plished is the compiling of the literary
gems from one of the most articulate and
inspired writers of the century. The tril-
ogy is an anthological accomplishment
seldom matched in literature. It emerges
as an historical documentary that ec-
lipses much else compiled as the library
of Shoah -- the Holocaust. The result is
an emphasis that Against Silence will
retain the memories and help create the
human sparks for a "Never Again"
warning to the bigotry that made possi-
ble the worst crimes in history.

`Judaica' Gains
New Significance

A
nationally-acknowledged
authority on art and ceremonial objects,
himself a collector of such valuables,
shares his knowledge with the Jewish
communities in an exceptionally valu-
able collection of facts and art reprod-
uctions in an art book of great merit. In
A Collector's guide to Judaica (Thames
and Hudson), Jay Weinstein, who heads
the Judaica department of Sotheby's, the
famous art collectors, defines the Jewish
religious symbols represented in art.
In the large-sized, 240-page
artistically-compiled volume, there are
352 illustrations, 32 of them in color.
Centuries of Jewish ceremonialism
are represented in the ritual objects
shown here. Portrayed are Torah orna-
ments, Sabbath spice boxes, Chanukah
candelabra, etrog boxes and every ele-
mental object related to them.
Every festival and religious occa-
sion, in the home and synagogue, is in-
cluded in this skillfully assembled illus-
trative volume. Paintings and reprints
are among them, as well as jewelry and
metal works.
Marriage rings and amulets have a
special appeal for the reader, and many
of the objects portrayed date back to the
16th Century.
The notable record of the Bezalel
Art School of Jerusalem is shown here
by the works of the prominent creator of
the school and those who were associated
with it.
For art collectors, the price guide
provided by the authoritative author of
this collected effort is especially valu-
able. By establishing guidelines for judg-
ing workmanship and quality of the art
objects, A Collector's Guide to Judaica
became a priceless work for art lovers.
Jay Weinstein, in an explanatory in-
troductory essay, describes the value of
"Judaica," as the religious art works are
titled, and points to the rising intere"
and the emergence of a new trend len
ing new significance to treasuring the
Jewish art works.
For the collectors there is this
guideline and encouragement provided
by Weinstein:
I have heard many sad tales
of unwanted Judaica, which no
one would buy or even take away
for reworking, and yithich were
simply discarded. Now that

A Bezalel silver mezuzah case, circa
1920.

prices have increased and there
is an active market, people are
beginning to value their pos-
sessions correctly.
Another realization we have
come to is that there are many
more pieces of Judaica available,
at all levels of quality, than had
earlier been believed. Collectors
used to think that the vast major-
ity of objects had been destroyed
throughout centuries of persecu-
tion and displacement, and that
the Holocaust had delivered the
final blow to the Jewish artistic
heritage. When material started
to appear on the market after the
Second World War, people
reacted to it as though this was
the last opportunity to acquire a
spicebox or ceremonial cup, and
thought that there were perhaps
only a few hundred other exam-
ples worldwide. We now know
that this is not the case, and that
a significant body of material did
survive, treasured by its owners.
The ignorance of the art market
did survive, treasured by its
owners. Now that prices have
risen and the material is actively
sought, Judaica are being drawn
out of their hiding places in a
steady stream.

Weinstein's collectors' guide is of
major value to the art lovers. The as-
sembled illustrations will prove a delight
for readers of this volume and all who
reach out for knowledge about the trea-
sured ceremonial objects portrayed in
this very interesting book.

The Mezuzah In Space

When the next shuttle goes up in
space on the scheduled date of Dec. 18, it
will carry a mezuzah skyward. Con-
gressman Bill Nelson of Florida, the
Congressional Representative on the
space ship, thereby fulfills the requested
suggestion of Congressman Steven J.
Solarz of Brooklyn.

Continued on Page 20

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