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Community Read of ‘Night,’ honoring Elie Wiesel, 2017 Holocaust Education Week

Josie Gulliksen - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

By Lisa Palley, Palley Promotes

After finishing a book, I usually find myself in a place where I want to talk about it. I know I’m not the only one, given how many book clubs there are, and the variety of topics that bring readers together.

As part of the 2017 Holocaust Education Week is a Community Reading and Discussion of Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece Night by Holocaust scholar Dr. Avraham (Alan Rosen), with an introduction by Holocaust educator and child survivor Dr. Miriam Kassenoff on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 7:00 p.m. at the Miami Beach JCC.

Night, which is the first of a trilogy (Night, Dawn and Day) is a story of an adolescent boy and his father interned at the Nazi German concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945.Wiesel writes of the daily battle and struggle for survival, and the protagonist’s battle and struggle with God to understand the malicious, senseless and arbitrary cruelty between people he witnesses every day.

Night is considered the bible of Holocaust Literature. It is less than 100 pages long, yet the most powerful testimony narrative piece of literature one can read of this history,” said Director, Holocaust Studies Summer Institute and District Education specialist/ Holocaust Education for Miami-Dade Public Schools, and the Holocaust Memorial’s education chair, Kassenoff. “Each page, each phrase, has a meaningful spiritual thought that a reader can carry in his heart for a lifetime. It is not only an accurate historical memoir, but also prose and poetry.”

In May of 1944, when Wiesel was 15, his family and many inhabitants of the Sighet shtetl in Hungary were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The largest and deadliest of the camps, Auschwitz was the site of more than 1.3 million Jewish deaths. Wiesel’s father, mother, and little sister all died in the Holocaust; Wiesel himself survived and emigrated to France, and then to the U.S.

Weisel uses his personal experience as a fulcrum to explore the baseness of violence. Our guide is a 15-year-old boy, Eliezer, a stand-in for Weisel, who is trying to understand what is going on around him, and his role in the madness. Night traces Eliezer’s emotional journey from a believing Orthodox Jewish boy to a disenchanted young man who questions the existence of God and, by extension, the humanity of man.

Night is a hard read, and it’s even harder to understand. Night is one of those books that transforms you, leaving an indelible mark. It asks the very questions we all ask when confronted with stories of unspeakable horror: Where is God? Where was God? Who Am I? What is my relationship to God? What is my relationship, my responsibility to myself? To my parents? To my friends? To my community?

Night was the first book that provided first-hand testimony, and opened up the way for many other stories and memoirs to be published in the second half of the 20th century.

Says Kassenoff, “It was such a profound experience for me to have had the opportunity to not only personally meet Wiesel, but to actually have him come and teach my class. When he passed last year I knew then I wanted to do some kind of memorial program honoring him. I am so grateful to Sharon Horowitz and Danny Reed, staff at Miami Beach’s Holocaust Memorial and Holocaust Education week sponsors, for doing this.”

The community reading and discussion of Night is part of a weeklong free and open to the community schedule of activities designed to explore the Holocaust through the lens of literature, music, and film. Between Through Feb. 3 at various locations around the county are these events:No Joking Matter: Political Cartoons and the Holocaust led by Holocaust scholar Dr. Rafael Medoff; the screening of Refuge: Stories of the Selfhelp Home- Survivors Courage and Resilience by filmmaker Ethan Bensinger, who will lead a post-film discussion; Mark Levy, educator and Yiddish musician, will host Songs of Hope & Resistance of the Warsaw Ghetto; and to close the 2017 Holocaust Education Week is an encounter between Holocaust survivors Alex Gross and Allan Hall with Miami Beach Senior high school students.

Holocaust Education Week is a community-wide program of the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, a Committee of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. For more information and to RSVP to any of the 2017 Holocaust Education Week programs, please visit http://holocaustmemorialmiamibeach.org/news/pr/holocaust_education_week2017/

“To read Night is to be in the soul of Elie Wiesel. I say Read it-and bring it with you on February 1st,” said Dr. Kassenoff.

A Community Read of Night – honoring Elie Wiesel, Wed., Feb. 1, 7:00 p.m. at the Miami Beach JCC, 4221 Pine Tree Dr.; free & open to the Community.


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