Last week, in an Editorial I wrote in these pages (“Elie Wiesel, All Too Human”), I sought to honor the voice and emotional pain of Jenny Listman, a woman who accused Elie Wiesel of touching her inappropriately almost 28 years ago, and to note as well the remarkable accomplishments and honorable reputation of the Nobel Peace laureate, author and teacher who was a personal mentor for me for more than 40 years.
On reflection, with no way of knowing definitively what happened that day, and with the accused no longer alive to defend himself, I believe two truths can stand on their own: a man who was the conscience and voice of his generation, with a lifetime of human rights leadership and wise teaching, and a woman with an allegation of a wrongful touch.
I am painfully reminded of the chasidic tale of the man who, after speaking ill of someone in public, asks his rabbi how he can make amends. The rabbi instructs him to tear up a feather pillow, scatter the feathers in the wind and then collect them all.
His point, well taken, is that we cannot retrieve hurtful words, once spoken. Or published. I can only acknowledge my error in passing judgment, and want to believe that if Elie Wiesel were alive, he would display the depth of his compassion and hold out the opportunity for forgiveness.