President Obama and Elie Wiesel to Coauthor Book

— by David Streeter

JTA reported recently that President Barack Obama and Elie Wiesel will be coauthoring a book together now that the election is over. According to JTA:

Elie Wiesel and President Obama are writing a book together, the Holocaust survivor and author told an Israeli newspaper.

The book, which the two men will resume writing after Tuesday’s presidential election, is ‘a book of two friends,’ Wiesel, a Nobel laureate, told Haaretz.

Haaretz reported that Wiesel and Obama became friends in 2009 when Wiesel joined Obama on a visit to the site of the Buchenwald concentration camp, where Wiesel was interned at the end of World War II following a death march from Auschwitz.

‘We talk about philosophy, contemplation, thought, but never about politics. He is a thinking person, a person with depth and intellectual curiosity,’ Wiesel said about the dinners that the two occasionally have together.

Wiesel and Obama first met when Wiesel lectured at California’s Occidental College, where Obama was a student.

‘Your lecture has stayed with me to this day,’ the president told Wiesel years later, Wiesel told Haaretz. ‘When I heard that, my pulse went up. I told myself that I have to be careful because I can never know whether anyone in the audience will be a future president.’

More after the jump.
NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris reacted to the news by saying:

It’s wonderful that President Obama and Elie Wiesel will be working on this unprecedented project together. This unique collaboration highlights the essential shared values between these two leaders-the newly-reelected President of our country and the voice of conscience of our people. This President has always been a very close friend of the American Jewish community, and we look forward to seeing the results of this special partnership between him and Mr. Wiesel.

Romney Still Won’t Answer Elie Wiesel

— by Steve Sheffey

Something is not right about a candidate for President of the United States ignoring a request from Elie Wiesel.

It’s now been more than eight months since Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel asked Mitt Romney to “speak to his own church and say they should stop” performing posthumous proxy baptisms on Jews, including Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

The Huffington Post reported on February 14, 2012 that Wiesel, who has devoted his life to fighting intolerance, said that the posthumous baptisms were “not only objectionable” but “scandalous.” Said Wiesel:

“I wonder if as a candidate for the presidency Mitt Romney is aware of what his church is doing. I hope that if he hears about this that he will speak up.”

But as I wrote in April, Romney didn’t speak up. In an email accidentally sent to the Huffington Post reporter, Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho suggested that the campaign ignore the request. And so they have, for eight months.

Even after the Boston Globe reported on February 29, 2012 that members of the Mormon Church posthumously baptized Daniel Pearl, the reporter killed by Islamic terrorists whose last words were an affirmation of his Judaism, Romney said nothing in response to Wiesel’s request.

More after the jump.
The issue is not whether Romney is responsible for this Mormon practice, nor is the issue Romney’s religion. The issue is Romney’s insensitivity to other religious beliefs and concerns, as evidenced by his disrespect for Elie Wiesel, one of the leading moral voices of our time.

Romney can say Wiesel is right about the Mormon Church. Romney can say Wiesel is wrong about the Mormon Church. Romney can say it’s none of Wiesel’s business about the Mormon Church. Instead, Romney says nothing.

Elie Wiesel finds the practice objectionable and scandalous. It’s easy to see why. Some may think that these Mormons aren’t hurting anyone because they are baptizing dead people, but for many people, posthumous baptism is offensive for the same reason spitting on a grave is offensive.

The Boston Globe explained that

“Mormons baptize deceased Jews and members of other religions as part of a rite intended to give them access to salvation… In 1995, the church, after meeting with Jewish leaders, agreed to stop baptizing Holocaust victims. Current church policy encourages church members to baptize their ancestors, but does not explicitly forbid the baptism of deceased Jews and people of other faiths.”

Why won’t Romney answer Elie Wiesel’s questions about where he stands on this practice?

John F. Kennedy addressed concerns about his allegiance to the Pope. Joseph Lieberman addressed concerns about whether his Sabbath observance would interfere with his duties as Vice President.  Jack Lew addressed questions about whether his religious beliefs would interfere with his duties as President Obama’s chief of staff. Yet when called upon by one of the leading moral authorities of our generation, Mitt Romney says nothing.

Romney is running for president. He is answerable not just to Elie Wiesel, but to the American people. Did Romney himself ever participate in posthumous baptisms of Jews or anyone else? Does Romney understand why many Jews find this practice so offensive and if so, what is Romney’s position on this practice?

As Sylvia Gurinsky wrote earlier this month,

“Throughout the campaign, Romney has had a bad habit of not being open about his past actions. His holding back of most of his tax returns is the most public example. It is imperative that Romney answer the proxy baptism question. He and his supporters have criticized President Barack Obama’s supposed disrespect of Israel. But how can Romney possibly respect Israel or the Jewish people if he can’t respect the history of either?”

Victim Of Islamic Extremists Is Now Victim Of Mormon Missionairies

What do Anne Frank, Daniel Pearl, Elie Wiesel’s family and the parents of Simon Wiesenthal have in common?

They were all killed simply because they were Jews, yet they have been subjected to further indignation recently as Mormons have conducted “posthumous baptisms” in their name converting them from the Jewish faith to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This practice violates the agreement which the Church signed in 1995.

They all died for being Jews, but they are not allowed to rest in peace as Jews.

Daniel Pearl is the latest addition to the list. Daniel Pearl’s parents made the following statement to the Boston Globe:

To them we say, we appreciate your good intentions but rest assured that Danny’s soul was redeemed through the life that he lived and the values that he upheld. He lived as a proud Jew, died as a proud Jew and is currently facing his creator as a Jew, blessed, accepted and redeemed. For the record, let it be clear: Danny did not choose to be baptized, nor did his family consent to this uncalled-for ritual.

Pearl’s widow Marianne called on Gov. Mitt Romney to apologize on behalf of his church.

Wiesel Calls On Romney: Denounce Posthumous Baptisms Of Jews

From the LA Times:

The Mormon Church apologized Tuesday for a “serious breach of protocol” after it was discovered that the parents of the late Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal were posthumously baptized as Mormons. The church also acknowledged that one of its members tried to baptize posthumously three relatives of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

The efforts, at least in Wiesenthal’s case, violated the terms of an agreement that the church signed in 1995, in which it agreed to stop baptizing Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Wiesenthal and Wiesel gained fame for careers spent grappling with the legacy of the Holocaust, Wiesenthal by hunting down war criminals, Wiesel by writing books that became part of the canon of 20th century literature.

Five Appointed to United States Holocaust Memorial Council


President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint

  • Joseph D. Gutman,
  • Roman Kent (Holocaust survivor),
  • Howard D. Unger,
  • Clemantine Wamariya (Rwandan genocide survivor) and
  • Holocaust writer and Nobel Prize Winner Prof. Elie Wiesel

to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

Biographies follow the jump.

Joseph D. Gutman

Joseph D. Gutman is the Managing Director of Grosvenor Capital Management.  Before that, he was at Goldman Sachs, where he was Co-Head of the Chicago office at the time of his departure.  Mr. Gutman is the son of a Holocaust survivor, and is an active member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Chicago office and the Birthright Israel executive committee.  He is a member of the Board of Overseers at the College of Business at the University of Illinois. Mr. Gutman has also held leadership roles with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.  He is a member of the Children’s Memorial Hospital of Chicago Board of Directors as well as the board of the Make a Better Place Foundation.  Mr. Gutman earned a B.S in accounting from the University of Illinois and an M.B.A. from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.


Roman Kent

Roman Kent is President of Namor International Corporation.  Mr. Kent was born in Lodz, Poland and is a Holocaust survivor.  He arrived in the United States in 1946 under the auspices of the children’s quota of the United States Government’s “Displaced Persons Act.”  He worked in the field of international trade for 45 years focusing on textiles and dinnerware.  Mr. Kent has produced a documentary called “Children in the Holocaust,” and authored two books, including an autobiography titled Courage Was My Only Option.  Mr. Kent was a member of the Presidential delegation to Poland in January 2010 to attend the commemoration of the 65th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.  He is Chairman of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, President of Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, Treasurer of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, and President of the International Auschwitz Committee.  Mr. Kent attended Emory University.


Howard D. Unger

Howard D. Unger is the founder of the investment firm Saw Mill Capital, a private equity firm that acquires middle-market manufacturing and service companies.   Prior to forming Saw Mill Capital, Mr. Unger was a partner at Chase Capital, Chase Manhattan Bank’s private equity investment group.  Mr. Unger is the son of a Holocaust survivor.  He is a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Conscience, the arm of the Council tasked with stimulating worldwide action against genocide and other crimes against humanity.  Mr. Unger also serves on the board of The Holocaust & Human Rights Education Center and is a member of the Investment Committee for The Binghamton University Foundation Endowment.  He received a B.S. from Binghamton University and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.


Clemantine Wamariya

Clemantine Wamariya is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. During the six years following the genocide, Ms. Wamariya lived in numerous refugee camps in seven different African countries before coming to Chicago in 2000.  Since first discussing her experiences as both a survivor of genocide and her life as a refugee on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2005, Ms. Wamariya has traveled the country, speaking at numerous universities, high schools, and other organizations. During this time, she has spoken at the Annual U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Luncheon, the United Nations Annual Commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Human Rights Law Conference, and the National Tribute Dinner of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.  At Yale, she is involved in several human rights and genocide intervention activities. She is a part of the Yale Refugee Project which works closely with New Haven’s Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services, and she also serves on the board of Reach Out, a Yale University partnership for international service.  Ms. Wamariya is currently an undergraduate at Yale University.


Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel is University Professor and the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University. Mr. Wiesel is a prolific writer, political activist, and a Holocaust survivor.  Mr. Wiesel is the author of 57 books of fiction and non-fiction.  Night, his memoir based on his experiences in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps is considered among the most important works in Holocaust literature.  Mr. Wiesel was the Founding Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and was instrumental in the development of the Museum.  He has served continuously on the Council since its creation.  Mr. Wiesel has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States Congressional Gold Medal, the rank of Grand Officer in the French Legion of Honor, and, in 1986, he received the Nobel Peace Prize.