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Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  110 ratings  ·  45 reviews

Elie Wiesel was a towering presence on the world stage—a Nobel laureate, activist, adviser to world leaders, and the author of more than forty books, including the Oprah’s Book Club selection Night. But when asked, Wiesel always said, “I am a teacher first.”

In fact, he taught at Boston University for nearly four decades,
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Angela M
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“ If anything can, it is memory that will save humanity.” (Elie Wiesel)

I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy of this book. It was before the horrific event last week at a Pittsburgh synagogue where eleven people were murdered because they were Jewish. I thought about the Holocaust and the hate of the anti semitism that caused over six million Jews to be murdered and thought how could this happen now ? I was planning on reading it soon, but I thought right now would be a good time. What I
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
5 stars! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Ariel Burger was first a student, later a teaching assistant, and much later, a friend to Elie Wiesel, and he writes here of Wiesel’s time teaching at Boston University, something he did for over 40 years.

The primary, most important task in Wiesel’s teachings was educating against indifference. In addition, he was passionate about individual responsibility and building more compassion through literature and the arts.

Burger shares the intimacies of their conversations, along
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, essays, nonfiction
This book was exactly what I was seeking with Elie Wiesel’s memoirs: it summarises Wiesel's concise teachings on keeping history alive through morality and vulnerability. You're guaranteed to leave Ariel Burger's Witness with a changed perspective.
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, w

”If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will
If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing”

-- If It Be Your Will, Leonard Cohen, Songwriters: Leonard Cohen / Patrick Leonard

Instructions for life, or at least for living a life with meaning, words of thoughtful
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Egil Aarvik, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, once said "Eli Wiesel is a messenger to mankind. His message is one of peace, atonement, and human dignity. His belief that the forces fighting evil in the world can be victorious is a hard-won belief."
Eli Wiesel was a father, husband, friend, humanitarian, author, Holocaust survivor and a teacher. Somehow the word teacher doesn't do justice to someone whose words continue to help us learn what being a better human being is. I have read a f
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are probably not that many people living in the modern world today who have not heard of Elie Wiesel, a survivor of Auschwitz, where he witnessed more cruelty, more hatred, more indifference, and more death, including that of his entire family than this man. Going onto to be a great humanitarian, Mr Wiesel has influenced many from the common man to presidents and world leaders. In this fantastic book, Mr Wiesel is looked at by one of his former students, a person who is searching for the m ...more
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs
To give witness, typically, is to tell the truth. One tells what one saw, gives facts, details; what one witnessed.

Ariel Burger, gives witness to what he learned from Elie Wiesel, in the classroom, in personal discussions, reading his books, and through both men's belief in their faith.

Most people remember the witness Elie Wiesel gave to the Holocaust, the horror of its existence, the brutality of of its keepers, the smell of the death camps that he himself survived. Elie trusted his God, believ
Bruce Katz
Nov 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Some of the most moving and thought-provoking passages I’ve read in a very long time. This is the kind of book that leads you to ponder your own life, the choices you’ve made, the things you’ve done that you shouldn’t have and the things you didn’t do but should have, the values you have claimed as your own. For reasons that are likely quite obvious the book strikes me as particularly timely... and necessary.
Kelly Hager
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of the most profound things I have ever read, and that actually doesn't do it justice.

When I was in college, my sociology professor said something along the lines of how we need to always believe that one person can make a difference in the world. "Look at Rosa Parks," she said. And it's true that one person can make a real, permanent difference, although most of us won't. Elie Wiesel did, and he devoted his life to showing others how to do the same. 

He told this to a student wh
Milly Cohen
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Este libro es más de lo que esperaba, las enseñanzas de Elie Wiesel contadas por su alumno, asistente y amigo. Una combinación de memorias de ambas vidas porque la del alumno se funde con la del maestro y el alumno, maestro se convierte.

Las clases se narran tan claras que te hacen sentir como si estuvieras sentada en el salón de clase, en el piso, apretujada por los muchos que lo iban a escuchar, cuestionándote asuntos personales y universales y literarios provocados por su luminosa inteligencia
Donna Hines
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, netgalley
I've been a fan of Elie Wiesel since his appearance on Oprah Winfrey's daytime Talk Show back in 2006 and was captivated as much then as now . See link here about that episode:
Since that time I've read a number of his books both by him and his students who were so lucky to have been able to hear his teachings in person.
He is truly an amazing and captivating individual and you cannot mention his name without knowing his struggles and his strengths to over
Dan Curnutt
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a very interesting read. The book is written about Elie Wiesel from the viewpoint of a former student then a teaching assistant and finally as someone whom Wiesel mentored through his life. Ariel Burger starts out talking about his upbringing in the Jewish faith in a family where one parent was orthodox and the other parent was apathetic. It makes for a strange upbringing.

As a teenager Burger wonders about life, death and why God is not more approachable.

Then as a student of Elie Wiesel's h
Elinor Bashe
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For those of us who have imagined having the chance to speak with Professor Elie Wiesel, perhaps even to ask him a question about life, Witness offers us an amazing gift. In this riveting work, we hear Professor Wiesel’s words and thoughts not only in the university lecture hall, but also through the 20+ year relationship between him and his student, teaching assistant and friend, Ariel Burger. Whether discussing literature, philosophy or his own life, Professor Wiesel’s ideas about resilience, ...more
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rabbi Dr. Ariel Burger, who was Elie Wiesel's student, teaching assistant, and friend, discusses his mentor's influence in "Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel's Classroom." Burger's sources include entries from a journal he kept; classroom notes; recordings of his conversations with Wiesel; and interviews with Wiesel's students from different countries and diverse backgrounds. Wiesel used literature, humor, music, parables, history, and current events to shed light on such themes as faith, suffer ...more Biography & Memoir
The inspirational teaching methods of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel form the backbone of this important work by his one-time assistant, Ariel Burger, a writer, artist, teacher and rabbi.

As a teenager, Burger became intrigued by this great man, who entered the Auschwitz concentration camps at roughly the same age as Burger was when the two first met. The contrast between his rather bland adolescent problems and the horrors that had beset the young Wiesel became a focus; eventually Burger studied
Donna Tabas
Jan 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This extraordinary book, written by Elie Wiesel's wise and gifted student, teaching assistant and mentee, Rabbi Ariel Burger, Ph.D., is nothing short of a masterpiece.  What is it that distinguishes this book from all the other books about Professor Wiesel’s enormous contributions of thought, insight, and grappling with life's most difficult and important questions?  Through Dr. Burger’s personal experience of the many years he witnessed Professor Wiesel teach in the classroom and profoundly tou ...more
Nov 03, 2018 rated it liked it
To see more reviews check out MI Book Reviews.

I got an ARC of this book.

I read Night when I was in middle school. One of the other boys on the bus was reading it and let me borrow it. I read it in a single sitting. It is a book I haven't forgotten yet. I doubt I ever will. 

This book follows like Tuesdays with Morrie. Except this book is a bit less accessible. The main chunk of the book takes place in a grad school classroom. Many people never step foot in grad school. So that alone can be off pu
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“And yet, if we always look into the abyss, we will be tempted by despair. Hope is a choice, and it is a gift we give to one another. It can be absurd. It does not rely on facts. It is simply a choice.” Witness, Chapter 5

Elie Wiesel has been regarded as one of the most influential voices of the Holocaust and those that survived it. However, Wiesel always saw himself and his true calling as that of a teacher, not a writer. In Witness, Ariel Burger, a student, then TA who came to be mentored by W
Cheryle Fisher
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Elie Wiesel was a towering presence on the world stage—a Nobel laureate, activist, adviser to world leaders, and the author of more than forty books, including the Oprah’s Book Club selection Night. But when asked, Wiesel always said, “I am a teacher first.”

In fact, he taught at Boston University for nearly four decades, and with this book, Ariel Burger—devoted protégé, apprentice, and friend—takes us into the sacred space of Wiesel’s classroom. There, Wiesel challenged his students to explore m
Laurie's Lit Picks
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Having taught Night, Elie Wiesel's first book chronicling his horrific time in Auschwitz, for many years as a high school literature teacher, I could not wait to get this book into my hands. Ariel Burger was Wiesel's student for more than two decades and had a front row view of his teacher: his philosophies, his faith, and his extraordinary ability to open a classroom wide for his students. What I would have given to be a member of one of Professor Wiesel's classes - what a gift he was to this w ...more
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I doubt any review I provide about this book will do it justice, but what I will say is that I was impressed by the way Ariel Burger organized it. Reading it, I felt like I was in the same classroom as Elie Wiesel's students, absorbing his wisdom. Memory, Otherness, and Beyond Words are chapters that I will definitely return to for their insight into remembering the past, resolving conflict and producing art even when the subject may be too painful or complex to describe. I also enjoyed how Burg ...more
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Witness by Ariel Burger looks closely at Elie Wiesel and his teaching. Burger was a teaching assistant and friend to Wiesel and he writes this book with a loving hand and shares the brilliance of Wiesel in a way that is accessible and enlightening.

It is easy to think of Wiesel as the Holocaust Survivor, or as the author of Night, but Witness allows us to see Wiesel the man and intellectual. He is a multi-faceted man and always explored notions of morality and ethics. This book devotes chapters t
Karen Douglass
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An intimate and honest book, Wisdom highlights the wisdom of Elie Wiesel, holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner, His generosity and gentle touch as a teacher, his favorite title, comes alive in Burger's prose. As a very young man Ariel Burger met Wiesel and Wiesel invited Burger to become his teaching assistant at Boston University--the beginning of a friendship that lasted until Burger was in his thirties, a rabbi, married with children and a teacher himself. Throughout their years together ...more
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was first in line for this book in the library and now that I’ve finished it I think I’m definitely going to buy it. This is a book I will come back to again and again. It is a reflection on ethics, literature, and faith that even a secular reader like myself could completely become immersed in. I don’t know how to even fully write a review at this time because the book ultimately just filled me with a deep sense of contentment and peace along side so many questions to contemplate. I’d really ...more
Joanne Tombrakos
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's rare when a book captivates me so much that I can't put it down, but that is what happened when I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of Witness. Ariel Burger takes us inside the classroom of Elie Wiesel, exquisitely weaving his own journey with the lessons he learned as Wiesel's student. At a time when it seems we are no longer talking to each other, this book is exactly what the world needs to get back into conversation and remember that we are more alike than we are different ...more
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book, for free, in exchange for an honest review.

I liked the coverage of Elie Wiesel and after reading this book I have a deep respect for him and his ideas. On the other hand, this book meanders away from Elie's teachings for much of the book. Instead of talking directly about Elie's philosophy there is a great deal of meanderings and backstory that talk a bit too much about the author and the class she shared with Elie. While this could certainly build the story arc for some re
Frank Mapes
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have a long list of teachers who made an impression on me. This book made me want to sit in a classroom or lecture hall again and be surrounded by ideas and discussion and challenges. I'm sorry I never got to hear Professor Wiesel speak. Ariel Burger was blessed to have spent time with him and gracious in his memoir. I'm glad I set some other reading aside and made this slim volume my last book of the year.
Dec 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Ariel Burger was a student of Elie Wiesel’s for many years. I most respected the antidotes and advice that Wiesel gave to Burger throughout his life. While many of the stories and philosophies of Wiesel’s I had learned before in books, interviews and in hearing Wiesel speak himself, this book reminded me of all that this amazing man had to offer. I was less interested in the stories about Burger.
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An inspirational book by Ariel Burger, who worked closely with Professor Wiesel at BU as a Teaching Assistant. Sharing anecdotes from his time watching Wiesel teach, Ariel shares light on the powerful presence of Elie Wiesel, focusing on his role as a teacher. This book helps understand Elie Wiesel as a human being, his inspirations, his challenges, what kept him up at night, what he hoped to contribute to his students. Highly recommended.
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing. I felt as if I were in the classroom with Professor Wiesel. He was truly a remarkable human who took on the world. His words have impacted me so much and I am thankful that Ariel Burger took the time and thoughtfulness to deliver Wiesel's message in this format.
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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 ...more