The Spectacle Blog

In Defense of Elie Wiesel

By on 2.15.12 | 3:35PM

Yesterday, I wrote about Elie Wiesel calling upon Mitt Romney to speak out against the Church of LDS' practice of baptizing by proxy deceased Jews, particularly those who perished in the Holocaust. Despite the Church of LDS stating it would refrain from such a practice, it was recently done to the parents of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and Wiesel found out there were plans to baptize him (along with his father and maternal grandfather) despite the fact he is very much alive.

Much of the commentary to this blog post was negative towards Wiesel and some of it was quite derogatory. Amongst other things, Wiesel was called "a weasel", "an obnoxious blowhard", "a shakedown artist" and was also accused of "making a living off the Holocaust." A former student of Wiesel's at Boston University felt to compelled to state that these remarks made against Wiesel was "disgustingly cruel." I couldn't agree more.

I've long been taught that we must never forget the Holocaust and it was Wiesel, perhaps more than anyone, who has driven this message home. I am sorry to hear that there are people who would rather forget about the Holocaust and prefer that Wiesel not speak out. For those who accuse Wiesel of profiterring, let me state without equivocation that Wiesel doesn't spend his life telling the world what happened to Jews in Europe for personal gain but because it is his solemn duty. At a time when Iran seeks to bring about a second Holocaust never has Elie Wiesel and his message been needed more.

Now let's get back to the question at hand. There were some commenters who wondered why Wiesel was taking Romney to task while ignoring President Obama's hostility towards Israel. Yet I would point to Wiesel's open letter to Obama in April 2010 following his row with Benjamin Netanyahu concerning housing construction in East Jerusalem. So let's be clear. Wiesel does not play favorites.

I did find one interesting comment which I would like to address:

I am confused by Elie Wiesel on this issue. I understand that Mr. Wiesel and others are true to Judaism and evidently find Mormon baptisms as an offensive conversion practice. But why be offended by another congregation of the faithful trying to demonstrate their love of their fellow man, particularly when you have personally suffered from man's inhumanity to man and at a time when there is so much hostility in the world? Baptisms are performed to be available to the spirit if the spirit desires it, but it is up to the spirit to accept it. Think of it as an opening a door; an expression of welcoming, but you need not walk through.

Directing this issue to Mitt Romney, and particularly at this time, makes it political. A sincere concern would be better addressed to the head of the Church.

I accept the proposition that most Mormons are horrified by what happened during the Holocaust and want to honor the memories of those who perished. Their intentions are good but we all know what can happen with good intentions. Anyone who has an elementary knowledge of the history of Judaism will know that Jews have repeatedly been compelled to baptism under the threat of expulsion or death. So if one wishes to honor Jews who perished in the Holocaust a baptism, even by proxy, is the worst possible way of going about it.

As for the suggestion that this issue is best taken up with the Head of the Church of Latter Day Saints, well, therein lies the problem. The Church of LDS has repeatedly promised not to permit this and yet they seem to have trouble keeping their word. As Wiesel notes Romney is "the most famous and important Mormon in the country." Wiesel further acknowledges, "I'm not saying it's his fault, but once he knows, morally he must respond...He should come out and say, 'Stop it.'"

Given that the Church of LDS has repeatedly failed to live up to its agreement concerning the proxy baptism of deceased Jews, Wiesel's query of Romney is entirely fair and reasonable. Romney would be wise to answer Wiesel on this matter.

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