“Elie Wiesel — witness, writer, and humanitarian — wanted to be remembered foremost as a teacher. Ariel Burger, a longtime student, teaching assistant, and friend, has given us an intimate and moving portrait of this extraordinary man and the profound lessons he had to share.”
— Dale Szczeblowski, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
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.
“Witness is beautiful, and important . . . A superb piece of writing.” — Parker Palmer, best-selling author of The Courage to Teach
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 together 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.
About the Author
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. www.arielburger.com
A Publishers Lunch Buzz Book
“Inspiring and substantive . . . 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. Neither irrelevant nor self-indulgent, 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.” —Kirkus Reviews
“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.” —Jewish Journal
“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. Wiesel was a treasure of true humanity in the face of unspeakable suffering. This book is also a treasure, giving us clue after clue about how to transcend and transform the suffering of our own time, turning death into life.” —Israel Book Review
“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
“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. In this profoundly personal account from one of his closest students, we see Wiesel communicating memory as a way of restoring morality to the process of learning . . . Wiesel raising difficult questions that help people grow more than any easy answers ever could . . . Wiesel the man of faith wrestling with God and sacred texts . . . Wiesel the witness turning his students into witnesses themselves. Witness 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
“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. Wiesel was a treasure of true humanity in the face of unspeakable suffering. This book is also 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