EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Several weeks ago, Eastchester High School students in Jennifer Gavin’s class completed their unit on acclaimed author Elie Wiesel’s novel, “Night” by writing letters to the author, explaining the impact the book had on them.
On Wednesday, the students received a special treat, as the Nobel Peace Prize winner responded with a letter of his own from his New York City home.
Gavin said that although “Night” depicts Wiesel’s experience as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps during World War II in Nazi Germany.
“Elie Wiesel’s messages really resonate in our society today in so many ways. I think of his words about compassion every time I read of the bullying problem that seems to be plaguing our society,” she said. “Our class was moved by Wiesel’s memoir, and I’m so glad that the students were acknowledged for putting themselves out there.”
Wiesel, who was born in Romania, spent nearly a year in concentration camps. “Night,” depicts the time he spent with his father, who was sent to a crematorium to die just weeks before American forces liberated the concentration camp.
In his letter, Wiesel expressed his hope for the future, beginning with those Eastchester students that reached out to him.
“Knowing that you and your classmates will never forget the tragedies of the past fills me with hope,” he wrote. “You can use your knowledge and understanding to educate those who are unaware. You and your classmates can make a difference in creating a new kind of century.”
Davis said that the students were awestruck and impressed that Wiesel, a man whose accolades include a Congressional Gold Medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom would take the time from his various projects to write a letter to a classroom of kids.
“Elie Wiesel has taught us as a class, and a community about humanity, compassion and the importance of maintaining one’s identity and freedom,” Ayana Sarro, a student in Davis’ class, said. “When he replied to our letter, I realized that he, himself is one of us. I appreciate the fact that he did read and reply to our comments about his memoir.”