A couple of weeks ago on January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a diverse group gathered for a marathon reading of Night, Nobel Prize winner, Elie Wiesel’s memoir of his youthful experiences as a prisoner in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
The event was organized in part by the National Yiddish Theatre—fitting given that Night was originally written in Yiddish, though first published in French. The theater’s artistic director and several actors from past productions claimed several of the reading slots, but left more than sixty to be filled by participants from an intentionally broad pool.
There were rabbis and Broadway performers, a New Yorker writer, the Consul General of Germany, and the Hungarian Ambassador to the UN…
Students and educators…
A number of Holocaust survivors…
Dr. Ruth Westheimer and Wiesel’s grown son, Elisha, who observed:
At a time when this country is feeling so divided, when so much negativity is circulating about those who are different from ourselves — those who have different ethnicities, religions or even different political leanings — my father’s words are an important reminder of the dangers of the ‘us versus them’ mentality.
It took the volunteer readers a little over four hours to get through the slim volume, which shows up on many American high schools’ required reading lists.
The free event was co-sponsored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, whose location in lower Manhattan was quite convenient to another important event taking place that day—an interfaith rally to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from 7 countries, suspending entry for all refugees for a period of four months, and calling for “extreme vetting” screenings.
There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.
– Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, December, 1986
h/t Jeff N.
Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her play Zamboni Godot is opening in New York City in March 2017. Follow her @AyunHalliday.