Nobel Laureate addresses UConn crowd

Photo from Fox NewsSTORRS – Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel has experienced immorality. He was in the midst of it the 1940s when he was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp, and he experienced wickedness again when he later came to America and realized racism was glaring in some parts of the country.
On Tuesday, the Boston University professor told more than 600 people at the UConn campus how his encounters have shaped his philosophy. His lecture, titled “Building a Moral Society,” was presented in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Center for Judaic Studies and the Contemporary Jewish Life as well as the establishment of the Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies.It’s not that we need to create a moral society, he explained, but we do need to re-build it. Wiesel said the key to re-establishing morality is recognizing what pieces make up a just and ethical culture.
“There are so many tragedies unfolding day-after-day,” he said. “We are looking for some answers.”
In an immoral society, he explained, human life does not matter; it can be replaced. But in a moral world, he said, people are given second chances.
Simon Konover, president and chief executive officer of The Simon Konover Company, and a friend of Wiesel, discussed second chances when he introduced Wiesel to the crowd Tuesday evening.
Konover lost more than 50 of his family members during the Holocaust and said for years he was overcome with guilt for surviving.
“My friends and family passed, and here I am,” he said.
However, he was able to help found the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., which he said is probably one reason why he was granted a second chance in life. He said Wiesel got a second chance for a reason as well, “to make it a better world.”
“He (Wiesel) is an inspiration to all the people in the world. He’s an inspiration because he cares,” he said.
Wiesel, a world-renowned humanitarian, said he and Konover were both able to find freedom, which he said, is another ingredient to a moral society.
“We are born to be free, independent and sovereign,” he said, adding that an honorable person sees everyone else as a friend and as an equal.
Wiesel encouraged the audience, which included 150 people listening in an overflow hall nearby, to help all those who are suffering, particularly the young, old and the weak.
Although a dedicated Jew, Wiesel said it’s not his relationship to God that defines his humanity, but his relationship to fellow humans. Everyone has suffered, he said, and should therefore care about the suffering of others. Then, he said, we will again have a moral society.
With that, the speaker received his second standing ovation of the night.
Jeremy Teitelbaum, dean and professor of mathematics for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the opportunity to hear Wiesel speak is unforgettable, “I expect to remember this moment all my life.

The Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life was founded by the board of trustees in 1979. The UConn program is the oldest formally recognized Judaic Studies Program at a public university in Connecticut. It is dedicated to the academic research and teaching as well as public service and community outreach.

The Doris and Simon Konover Chair of Judaic Studies was endowed by two founding supporters, Doris and Simon Konover of West Hartford. The Chair, whose first holder is Professor Arnold Dashefsky, will support teaching and research by a leading scholar of Jewish life, history and religion.


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