The weekend started in the Western Romanian town of Oradea, another town with a rich Jewish past and where Elie Wiesel attended school.
In its ornate restored Moorish-style synagogue, Greg Schneider, executive vice-president of the Claims Conference, and a co-host of the event, said that, like Yair Lapid, his grandparents were born less than 100 km from here and he had recited what might have been the first Kaddish there in 70 years.
He said there were some 750 Holocaust survivors in Romania and the Claims Conference sees it as its mission to cherish and care for them in their old age.
Aharon Tamir, deputy world chair of the International March of the Living and another co-host, noted that some 300,000 people, Jews and non-Jews have participated in the March of the Living, in Poland and then in Israel.
“When we take young people to Auschwitz and Majdanek, they realise that these events are not fiction but actually happened. We draw the connection between destruction and redemption.”
The participants then took turns in reading extracts from Wiesel’s first and classic autobiographical book, Night.
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Addressing the conference, key speakers included professor Steven Katz, the director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies at Boston University; former Deputy Chief Justice of the Israel Supreme Court, Elyakim Rubinstein, who pointed out that “memory is a fundamental part of the Jewish DNA”; the noted scholar and writer Rabbi Irving (Yitz) Greenberg and Rabbi Menachem Hacohen, a former Member of the Knesset and Chief Rabbi of Romania.
Also speaking were Dr Elana Heideman, executive director of the Israel Forever Foundation, who did her PhD under the guidance of Wiesel; the journalist Nahum Barnea; Dr Tzvi Berkovich, who was born in the area and who is honorary consul of Romania in Israel and personal physician to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Sandra Cahn, co-founder of Limmud FSU; and Dr Joel Rappel, former director of the Elie Wiesel Archive at Boston University. Several of these speakers were close friends and colleagues of Wiesel.