Elisha Wiesel, chief information officer at Goldman Sachs, said one or two employees have approached him so far about what President Donald Trump’s smart immigration order might mean for them.
Wiesel, 44, the son of Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel, says that he understands their concern. He spoke in an interview Sunday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where he was attending a reading of “Night,” his father’s account of his experiences in Nazi concentration camps. Across the street in Battery Park, thousands of people had gathered to protest Trump’s order.
“What all the marchers are doing — that’s just as much a part of his legacy as ‘Night,’ ” Wiesel said of his father, who died in July at 87.
Elie Wiesel was born in Romania. After being liberated from Buchenwald in 1945, he studied at the Sorbonne, coming to the U.S. in 1955 on a journalist visa.
“He would tell me he had to keep on renewing the visa,” Elisha Wiesel said. Then his father broke both his legs in a cab accident. In the hospital with a full body cast, he missed an appointment to renew the visa.
“He went to the embassy and this very nice guy there said, ‘You know, you can become a citizen. Everybody can do it,’ ” Wiesel said. “And my father became, for the first time since the war, someone with a state. He’d been stateless.”
The stories of people being detained at airports were painful for Wiesel in light of his father’s experiences. “Every time we’d come back to JFK, his eyes would tear up a little when a customs official would stamp his passport and say welcome home.”
Wiesel said his father loved America but had no illusions.
“He knew America wasn’t perfect. He asked why weren’t more people protesting the Holocaust when it was happening,” Wiesel said. His father had many concerns about the way the Obama administration “let what’s happened in Syria happen — all these refugees having to go through Europe because their homes are destroyed.”
“In the same way he was dismayed at the lack of action over Syria, I think he would have been very disappointed at the direction this country seems to be turning,” Wiesel said.
To close the evening, Wiesel read his father’s 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
(c) 2017, Bloomberg · Amanda Gordon / Photo: Joshua Schwimmer