(January 28, 2020 / JNS) Elisha Wiesel, the son and only child of the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, spoke to the New York Post about what it was like growing up with his famous father.
“Everybody wanted a piece of my father, so that was part of growing up for me,” Elisha, who works for Mike Bloomberg’s presidential campaign, recalls about his family’s Upper West Side home that was always full of people coming and going.
The attention surrounding his father became overwhelming for Elisha when Elie was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1986. Elisha, who was 14 at the time, said, “I was obviously proud of and happy for my father, but it was difficult for me. I felt like the spotlight had just been turned up [in a way] that I didn’t want.”
The added attention led Elisha to rebel during his teen years. He pulled away from family and Judaism, he said, but nevertheless, his father’s love for him was unconditional.
“He gave me as much space to be who I needed to be,” said Elisha, noting that he first read Elie’s book Night as a teen. “It was very much a subject matter that was discussed, but my father didn’t want to push that on me. He felt that was a big burden to give a child. He tried to spare me where he could.”
He added that “the most important way to carry on [my father’s] legacy is to be a good father to my children, a good husband to my wife, a good son to my mother. Everything else is secondary. I want both my kids to appreciate what they have, which is what my father didn’t have: a normal childhood.”
“I hope I’m so fortunate enough to find ways to give back and emulate my father by having an impact on the world,” he said.
Elisha said he now learns a page of Talmud a day, sometimes using his father’s Torah, and has also taken on Elie’s “life philosophy,” according to the Post.
“My father was very clear: Every time someone asked what he aspired to be, he said, ‘A good Jew.’ ”
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