40th Anniversary Symposium: Wisdom for the Next Generation

By | May 20, 2015
2015 May-June, Big Questions

Robert Aumann, Theodore Bikel, Leon Fleisher,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jerome Groopman, Ruth Gruber,
Fanya Heller, Madeleine Kunin, Walter Laqueur,
Carl Levin,
Faye Moskowitz, Judea Pearl,
Richard Perle, Walter ReichHoward Sachar,
Jonathan Sacks, Hedy Schleifer, Adin Steinsaltz,
Judith Viorst, Henry Waxman, Elie Wiesel,
Leon Wieseltier, Ruth Wisse and A.B. Yehoshua

Jonathan Sacks

Wisdom is free, yet it is also the most expensive thing there is, for we tend to acquire it through failure or disappointment or grief. That is why we try to share our wisdom, so that others will not have to pay the price for it that we paid. Judaism has taught me far more about life than the space allows for here, but I do want to share with you three key lessons I have learned.

First, use your time well. Life is short, too short to waste on television, computer games and unnecessary emails; too short to waste on idle gossip, or envying others for what they have; too short for anger and indignation; too short to waste on criticizing others. “Teach us to number our days,” says Psalm 90, “that we may get a heart of wisdom.” But any day on which you have done some good to someone has not been wasted.

Second, you will find much in life to distress you. People can be careless, cruel, thoughtless, offensive, arrogant, harsh, destructive, insensitive and rude. That is their problem, not yours. Your problem is how to respond. “No one,” a wise lady named Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “can make you feel inferior without your consent.” The same applies to other negative emotions. Don’t react. Don’t respond. Don’t feel angry, or if you do, pause for as long as it takes for the anger to dissipate, and then carry on with the rest of life. Don’t hand others a victory over your own emotional state. Forgive, or if you can’t forgive, ignore.

Third, if you tried and failed, don’t feel bad. God forgives our failures as soon as we acknowledge them as failures—and that spares us from the self-deception of trying to see them as successes. No one worth admiring ever succeeded without many failures along the way. The great poets wrote bad poems; the great artists painted undistinguished canvases; not every symphony by Mozart is a masterpiece. If you lack the courage to fail, then you lack the courage to succeed.

Jonathan Sacks served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013. His book Not In God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence is coming out June in the UK and October in the US.

Judith Viorst

What I keep on coming back to is that there is nothing more important in life than connection. “Only connect!” is the famous quote from the novel Howards End—powerful and true. Or from Raymond Carver, in response to a question about what was wanted from life—“To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.” One aspect of connection is connection with the people you love and are close to. Another is connection to something larger than ourselves, a connection that lasts beyond our own existence.

I would add that a very important aspect of personal connection is being a steadfast and reliable person. Keep your promises. Be there when you say you’ll be there. My mother was a major influence on me in this regard. She had a large circle of women friends—Yetta, Dottie, Sophie, Pearl, “the girls”—and she was at its center, someone who always listened and understood. She celebrated their good news, offered a shoulder to cry on when they were sad, and never, ever, ever told their secrets. She set a standard to which I’ve aspired my whole life.

Judith Viorst is a poet and author whose books include Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and Unexpectedly Eighty: And Other Adaptations.

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Theodore Bikel

It has occurred to me that in this world so much is motivated by love of power. I would turn that adage around and say that power of love is what motivated me. The power of love still leads to peaceable solutions in a world that does not believe in peaceable solutions. Love and peace are the other side of the same coin in my world. This may sound namby-pamby but it is not. The determination of human beings to be more than simply their earthly bodies or their careers, their wants and desires, to aspire to a higher plane of thinking and feeling is what we do. But we sometimes forget. We keep on thinking about mundane things—our own lives, our ailments—rather than thinking of the nobler, higher purposes that we are here to propagate and cultivate.

I love the notion of going through life and saying, “This is beautiful,” seeing a flower or landscape and really taking in the beauty of the world. You need to think, you need to read, you need to take in a song or a beautiful landscape, and come away saying, “This was a worthwhile day, a worthwhile hour, a worthwhile minute.” That is what we live for basically, those few worthwhile minutes of our lives that give us contentment and purpose.

There are no shortcuts to what I am talking about. You have to work at it, you have to think it, you have to feel it. At the end of each day you have to think, “Did I really come up with something that made my day, that made this hour?” We spend our entire lives doing a lot of crap, and to get away from the crap is one of the purposes of a higher plane of living. It is to get away to that one minute, that one second, and find the beauty. From my hospital bed, those are my words of wisdom.

Theodore Bikel is an actor, folksinger, activist and champion of Yiddish music. His new documentary is Theodore Bikel: In the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem.

Jerome Groopman

There is a wonderful line from the Talmud—“Eizeh hu ashir? Ha’sameach b’chelko”—Who is rich? The one who rejoices in his portion. The reason this is so meaningful to me is because we live in a hypercompetitive, driven society. There is this fanaticism about success, all the time. I teach young people at both Harvard Medical School and Harvard College, all very smart, very motivated, but their measure of success can become quite distorted. For the next generation, there is this sense that success is a mountain with no summit. Success is measured in money, who is going to get an internship on Wall Street or who is going to be the next Silicon Valley billionaire. Their anxiety level is further amplified because of globalization. I teach an undergraduate course on the literature of medicine, focusing on people who face their mortality, when all the material aspects of life get stripped away. I think it is very important to understand what is core and fundamental to a person—primarily relationships and doing something meaningful. As the landscape for the next generation shifts in radical ways, it is vital to sustain what I think of as an “internal compass” in order to channel your ambition for good things and to appreciate what you have.

Jerome Groopman is the Dina and Raphael Recanati chair of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and is chief of experimental medicine at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Adin Steinsaltz

The best and the easiest piece of advice is to see, think and then speak. I try as much as I can to formulate an answer before answering a question about things I don’t have the faintest notion about. People should be careful not to confuse lack of knowledge and stupidity. Stupidity is not just a lack of knowledge but it is when you twist, misrepresent and do some damage to things.

Keeping quiet is a great art that should be cultivated. If you are a husband or a parent it is a big temptation to pretend you are wiser than you are. It is very hard if you are in authority to say that you don’t know. In Jewish thought of the Middle Ages, there was an idea that the highest level of wisdom is to say, “I don’t know.”

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is a winner of the Israel Prize and recently completed a translation of the Talmud into modern Hebrew.

Ruth Gruber

I would like to share the motto that I have lived by: “Dream dreams. Have visions. Let no obstacles stop you!”

Ruth Gruber, age 103, is a journalist, writer, photographer and humanitarian who served as special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior during World War II.

Madeleine Kunin

To young women my advice is to hold on to your idealism and ambition. Don’t let maturity take that away, because it is important to continue to have dreams. Ambition is not a bad word. Probably the most important ideal is to believe that you can create change in the world around you. So many people say that is unrealistic or naive, and the response one often gets at an early age is that you have to be practical. In some ways, politics seems to be more dysfunctional and less rewarding than it used to be, in terms of partisanship and increased violence around the world. But a person can still make a difference. Hold on to your optimism. If you believe, you can organize others around you to effect change. Early in my career, before I ran for office, I was worried that when my children walked to school, they needed to cross an unmarked railroad track without a light. I organized my neighbors and petitioned the legislative body for a crossing light and actually achieved it. If you stick your neck out something might happen and if you do nothing, nothing will.

Madeleine Kunin was the governor of Vermont from 1985 to 1991. She is now a Marsh Scholar Professor-at-Large at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

Leon Fleisher

There are several qualities that we should make sure we do not give short shrift to. First of all is curiosity, and the second is self-awareness. It’s almost a given that one leads one’s life with passion, but at the same time, one should not be afraid to temper that passion with discipline. It never hurts to really know what you are doing. The more you know about what you are doing, the greater freedom it gives you. Freedom comes from a sense of order.

With my [music] students, for example, I try to help them really listen to and hear what they do. It’s a tripartite process. First, you have to have in your inner ear what it is that you’re striving for, your intention. Then you actualize your intention while being aware of what you are doing and can tell if what is coming out is not totally in accord with your intention. The third part, your own inner judge, tells you what to adjust to get closer to your intention. All this goes on simultaneously with every note that you play. Most of the time, one or more parts of these three parts is perhaps not functioning the way it should and it’s very depressing. But when it all meshes and works, it’s something akin to a state of ecstasy.

Leon Fleisher is a pianist and conductor. His All the Things You Are recording was nominated for a Grammy, and he is the author of My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music.

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Henry Waxman

One lesson I have taken to heart is that government can and must play an important role in people’s lives. If government doesn’t get involved, people in our society will go without key things. Our Jewish heritage teaches us that we have to be concerned about those who are disadvantaged. Over and over again we are told to remember that we were once slaves. We need to consider what it is like to be a slave—if not literally a slave, what it is to be disadvantaged. We have to take care of the stranger amongst us. We have an obligation to provide for others and to use our values to make a better world. I am amazed when I hear people, Jews or non-Jews, say that their religion is personal and doesn’t involve the need to help the poor, the disadvantaged or the oppressed. What is religion about if we are not obligated to look after our fellow human beings? Judaism has that as a fundamental principle.

Henry Waxman represented southern California in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 2015.

Ruth Wisse

When I turned 12 years old, the State of Israel was declared, and, in Montreal, the community where I lived arranged a massive celebration at the Forum, where the Montreal Canadiens played hockey. It seemed to me that the whole city of Montreal, or at least the Jewish part, streamed into the Forum. Until that time, what had weighed most heavily in our home was the war. We fled successfully from Europe in 1940. We came to Montreal miraculously in October 1940. Refugees began to come after the war. Our house was always filled with these people; it was always a question of keeping faith with the dead. And here suddenly was this indescribable moment, this burst. In some ways, it remains the happiest day of my life, because it was a day of such unexpected joy, for our family, our community, and, it seemed, the whole city of Montreal. Golda Meir came.

We knew there would be a war for Israel’s survival. But we thought that all Israel had to do was to win a war and then Israel would be secure. We could never have foreseen the terrible evil of the Arab regimes that were just beginning to be reborn at that time as well. They, as well, could have celebrated in the same creative way. They could have seized that same moment, in their own “Arab Spring.” But instead they organized in one way only, and that was to destroy the State of Israel.

The longer that I have lived the more that moment has come to mean to me because I now see that it wasn’t just a 12-year-old’s coming of age in this miraculous way, but one of the greatest miracles in human history. In the same decade that one-third of the Jewish people was annihilated, having laid the groundwork, the Jews in Palestine were able to re-establish Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel that had been under foreign occupation for 2,000 years.

The greatest renewal in Jewish life is this political renewal—Jews assumed full responsibility for themselves—when it was most necessary, bringing Jewish creative energy back into history. So I wish that everybody born since then could in some way, even vicariously, experience the incredible moment in the life of the Jewish people that I was privileged to experience that day. It alone makes it worth being a Jew.

Ruth Wisse is a research professor in Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard. Her most recent book is No Joke: Making Jewish Humor.

Howard M. Sachar

Throughout history, Jews have been very vulnerable to intolerance. It’s very important to remember that once we were strangers in the land of Egypt. Through education and role models, our children should come to see that other peoples and other cultures are as important in their eyes as our ethnicity and our religious tradition are to us. When we see others departing from that behavior, it might be useful to tactfully have a good conversation with them.

This is true whether young American Jews are relating to American society or to the State of Israel. We take a certain ethnic pride in the development of Israel. I think that pride should be always tempered by certain principles that if Israel falls short of, it is our right as fellow Jews to express tactfully the moral influence of these strictures on a Jew. However, we should intellectually ventilate our viewpoints on these matters without interfering in the role of the citizens of Israel to proclaim and act out their own course of action unless and until we become part of its body politic.

Howard M. Sachar is professor emeritus of History and International Affairs at George Washington University, and the author of 16 books, including A History of the Jews in the Modern World.

A.B. Yehoshua

Today, we Jews speak a lot about tikkun olam, repairing the world. I would like Jews to speak more about tikkun atzmam, repairing ourselves. This was the foundation of Zionism: Not changing the world, but changing the Jew. The basis for knowing how to change, what to change, what to keep—of identity and tradition—and what to repair, this starts with “know yourself.” The most important sentence that has ever been said in history is the Greek advice: “Know yourself.” This ancient wisdom was engraved on the Temple of Delphi in Greece 500 years before Jesus. Know yourself is important for everyone, on the personal level and also on the collective level. For Jews, it is even more important because our history is full of disasters. There is the Holocaust, and still today the question of the survival of Israel in the face of threats of total destruction. Apart from blaming others and trying to find evil in the world, we have to understand more profoundly this dangerous interaction between us and the world. Understanding yourself and trying to change yourself according to what you discover, this is for me—as a Jew, as an Israeli and as a world citizen—one of the most important things that I would like to pass on to the coming generation.

A.B. Yehoshua, an Israeli novelist, playwright, short story writer and essayist, is a winner of the Israel Prize for Hebrew Literature and numerous international literary prizes.

Fanya Heller

What we have to leave as a legacy for the next generation—not only for Jews, but for everybody—is that evil takes over when it is not controlled. Hitler said openly in Mein Kampf that he would create a generation of Aryans with blue eyes and blond hair, and everybody will serve them, but the Jews will be eliminated because they are polluting the race. Young people have to know that we’re all the same. We have to be tolerant of others. We have to be our brother’s keeper. I go to all the inner-city schools and students ask me if I can explain in concrete terms how it feels to be hungry. I say to them that my mother had a piece of bread and had to decide—does she give it to my little brother who is eight years younger and almost starving, or does she give the bread to me? Hunger does not only kill your body, but kills your soul. We should teach young people not to be perpetrators and not to be bystanders. We cannot just stand and watch what happens to others—we have to help each other.

Fanya Heller is a Holocaust survivor and educator. She is the author of Love in a World of Sorrow: A Teenage Girl’s Holocaust Memoirs.

Walter Laqueur

I was born in Germany in 1921; I would have preferred another period and another country—but this is a different story. I was 17 when I was alone in the world; would I have been happier had I known then what I know now? I very much doubt it. The chances of survival in these circumstances were not great. If I survived and achieved anything at all, this had far more to do with good luck than with experience or wisdom or certain lessons I learned in life. In any case, the idea that such lessons can be passed on to future generations seems to me erroneous. At best it is the exception rather than the rule. Generations learn from their own experience, not from the wisdom and the experience of their elders. Ask my great-grandchildren, they will confirm it.

In a famous speech not long before the outbreak of World War I, Martin Buber said that youth is the eternal chance mankind has, what he called ewige Glueckschance. He also said that seldom is use made of this chance. Without the enthusiasm of the young, little would have been achieved in the annals of mankind, as Benjamin Disraeli put it earlier on. But it is equally true that this enthusiasm is responsible for so many of the disasters in the annals of mankind. The anthem of fascism, after all, was Giovinezza, meaning youth.

Walter Laqueur is an American historian and political pundit. His new book Putinism: Russia and Its Future with the West will be released in June.

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Judea Pearl

The next generation has a crisis to face: God is dead and a replacement is nowhere in sight. With God gone, the human mind has lost its one and only manlike model that kept it focused on the holy—on that which goes beyond the present.

The next generation ought to know that a replacement does exist, a powerful imitation, in fact. I have found it in the wrinkles of Lady History, in heroes and villains, sages and kings, explorers and inventors, a nation in exile and a nation returns. Open your Bible, any page would do, replace the word “God” with the word “History,” and see if things do not make better sense. “I am your Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”

From the day I discovered history, I worshiped her whims, and I draw immense pleasure from imagining that I and any work that I do are part of some historical narrative where, sure enough, she measures my progress, with a smile or disappointment, exactly the way God used to do when he was alive. It is just an illusion, I know, a fairy tale, if you prefer. And it matters not if I am solving an equation or teaching a class, talking to my grandchildren or writing an essay; it is always Lady History, how she dares my future with miracles from her past, and how she narrates, in chapter and verse, man’s struggle against the unknown. It is always her and that fiction we once called God, the Jewish God.

Judea Pearl is a professor of computer science and statistics and director of the Cognitive System Library at UCLA. He was the 2011 recipient of the ACM Turing Award.

Faye Moskowitz

Years ago, I was a ten-year-old living in Jackson, Michigan, home to enough Jewish families to barely scare up a minyan at the Temple on Shabbat. My best friend, Eileen, who was “Piscopalian,” told me one day that her mother did not want us to play together any longer. “You killed our Lord,” Eileen said. I didn’t know who “our Lord” was, anyway, but I knew I hadn’t killed anyone. I never quite got over the pain of that broken friendship.

So, yes, I have a message for the next generation: Misunderstanding and pain often come in small increments. Ignorance about a religious faith breaks up a friendship. A cultural stereotype ruins a gathering. But these misunderstandings fester and ultimately cost us dearly in worldwide upheaval.

So, dear future generations, break out of your self-imposed circle; find friends who do not look like you. Share your convictions with those who do not believe as you do. The world grows smaller and more connected every day. Still, it has rarely felt so divided. You can help foster the kind of amity that may save a child, one day, from bewilderment, or even violence and death.

Shattering old myths and prejudices remains the only hope for peace on this planet. Stay open, stay joyful, stay positive. Above all, stay full of wonder, always.

Faye Moskowitz is a poet, memoirist, fiction writer and professor of English at the George Washington University.

Robert Aumann

The Jewish answer is to be proud of your Jewish heritage. Not only be proud you are a Jew but find out something about it. And when you get to know your heritage, walk upright. There is a list of blessings at the end of Leviticus and one verse says, “I will lead you upright.” The commentator Rashi says upright means standing tall and being proud of yourself. It is important for Jewish kids today to say, “Yes, I’m a Jew, and I’m proud of it.”

For the general public, what is important is diversity in the natural world. We have to maintain biodiversity. We are in an environmental crisis where everyone is talking about global warming but I am less concerned with global warning than I am about the destruction of biodiversity—thousands of species get destroyed every year. We also need to maintain cultural diversity. There is an emphasis today toward multiculturalism: Instead of educating kids in one culture you educate them in a whole lot of cultures. What you get is jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none. To maintain cultural diversity each culture should educate its kids in its culture. You should learn about other cultures but be steeped in your own.

Robert Aumann is a professor of mathematics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Nobel Prize winner in economics.

Carl Levin

Certain qualities lead to wisdom or to governing in a wise manner. These are the same qualities that should really be brought to any endeavor. They include integrity, being open to hearing those who disagree with you, listening to another person’s point of view, and possessing willingness to compromise in order to achieve important goals. Success requires respect for other people, even if—or I should say especially if—they have different views and a different background than your own. It’s wise to work with people of all views, all religions and all races.

Humility is a big part of wisdom. For instance, people who are elected to Congress have to realize that there is a lot of wisdom in the views of a diverse range of other people. You cannot govern or live effectively if you think that you alone know all the answers and that you should never compromise. Wise governance requires a willingness to find third-way solutions. And most importantly—be authentic and speak what is on your mind. Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth depending on the individual you are speaking to.

Judaism has helped me be a wiser person. The Jewish people know we must pursue justice. Our cultural background leads us to this belief. Where people are mistreated, left out or discriminated against or don’t have opportunities, Judaism leads us to do everything we can to overcome that sad state of affairs.

Carl Levin represented Michigan in the U.S. Senate from 1979 to 2015.

Richard Perle

Lesson One: I learned over time in government that if you had a clear objective you should drive toward it until you achieved it—or until someone in a position to do so stopped you. Whether it was calling a meeting or drafting a speech or legislation or organizing a coalition of like-minded officials, it was rarely wise to ask for permission, since it would often be denied. It was far better to assume you had permission until you were stopped. That put the burden on those who didn’t share your purpose to rise in opposition, which they often failed to do, leaving the way clear. Make inertia, normally your enemy, your friend.

Lesson Two: For 11 years I was privileged to work for Senator Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson who taught me to look at how countries treated their own citizens in judging how they would treat us. It sounded right the first time I heard him say it, but it took a while before I realized its importance. This first principle informed Scoop’s policy toward the Soviet Union and guided Ronald Reagan in winning a long Cold War. So my advice to young people working in (or even just observing) global politics and foreign policy is to be wary of governments that mistreat their own people.

Richard Perle worked for Senator Henry M. Jackson and later served as an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration.

Hedy Schleifer

Lesson One: I’m going to tell you a story that was a profound turning point in my life. When I was 18 years old, I decided to go on a journey with a friend on the Parana River in Brazil. This friend had had scoliosis and had lived most of her life in a cast. For the first time, she was out of her cast and very much wanted to experience life’s adventure. We spent each day on a platform attached to the boat we traveled on. What we didn’t know was that the river could change within a second from totally calm to completely enraged. It happened suddenly on a beautiful day; the river just changed. The people on the boat were able to pull me in, but my friend, who didn’t have the same flexibility, got caught between the boat and the platform and died right there.

After that I dropped into a depth of sadness that I cannot even describe. I decided it should have been me and not her who died. I decided my life wasn’t worth living. I began to cross streets with the hope that a car would hit me. That’s when something quite amazing happened. It was as if I heard a still, small voice that said to me, “I didn’t guide you through the jungle for you to now end your life.” It was one of those sacred moments of life where suddenly it became clear to me it wasn’t really about me—it was about a big life I was to lead, and that my soul was born for something that needed to reveal itself. Every one of us is born for a specific task. There’s a Talmudic saying, “You don’t have to finish the task, but you’re not allowed to desist from it.” We must put 100 percent of our energy and engagement into our task to bring it forth. Yours is the only voice of its kind that exists on our planet, and therefore you must speak it out loud and strong throughout your life.

Lesson Two: The most important thing is to really know that another person is a different world. To really know them you have to cross the bridge and learn their language. That language is very different from yours, and you have to become bilingual—to know your language and theirs. You have to learn their world has a different culture and rhythm. A good relationship is one where that bridge is used a lot.

Hedy Schleifer is a clinical psychologist who leads relationship workshops around the world.

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Leon Wieseltier

It is important to find ways in times of suffering to remind oneself of how big and rich the world is. That is how you recover your sense of possibility. Without that you are doomed. There are many forces that operate against us—economic and social ones—and the most important thing is to protect that sense of possibility. That’s hard to do when you are lonely, broken-hearted or disappointed. That’s why my advice when that happens is to put on something nice and get out of the house. Accept stimulation from the world so that you begin to live again.

I don’t believe in lives that add up. I don’t think that every life can be calibrated by a single thing that unifies it completely, or that everything comes together to make one beautiful gleaming package. I don’t live that way and I don’t think that it is a good way to live. When I’ve experienced disappointments, they were good for me.

My attitude has always been that if life weren’t so sad, I wouldn’t have to be so funny. I think humor is a sacred obligation because of the relief it provides. It is very spiritually fulfilling. It dusts things off, it freshen things. The best humor is another way of being serious. Funny jokes about funny subjects—those are easy and comfortable. But funny jokes about unfunny subjects—those are high spiritual expressions. By unfunny subjects I don’t mean the annoyances of life. The real challenge for humor is to find some strength in one’s relationship to tragedies by means of laughter. 

Leon Wieseltier is the Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at the Brookings Institution, and a contributing editor at The Atlantic.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Let me tell you about an experience I had. It’s a problem that still exists, although not to the same extent. In the 1970s, I was a teacher at Columbia Law School. I got a call from the head of the lower school at my son James’s school asking me to come down to discuss my lively son’s latest escapade. I got those calls about once a month. That day, I was particularly weary and I responded to the call, “This child has two parents. Please alternate calls. It’s his father’s turn.”

So they called Marty. What was James’s offense? He stole the elevator. It was one of those hand-operated elevators and the elevator operator had gone out for a smoke. One of James’s classmates dared him to take the kindergartners up to the top floor, so he did. Marty’s response was, “How far could he take it?”

The school was much more reluctant to call a man away from his work. I think that young women with children are still experiencing that. They’re expected to do it all—do their job but take care of all the family things. The dental checkups, the new shoes.

If you see work and family as part of your life, of every human’s life, then the men should be involved in raising children…And a woman should not feel guilt that she’s working. Raising children is a shared responsibility.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has served as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court since 1993, the second woman to hold that position.

Walter Reich

Believing that future generations will feel themselves enriched by any wisdom we think we’ve acquired betokens, for most of us, a level of self-regard that automatically disqualifies us as wise. Future generations—if they’re like ours—will develop their own certainties and will probably be convinced, as we tend to be, that their belief systems—their religions, their ideologies, their politics—are correct and abidingly true. And, if they’re like we are, they’ll spin every bit of information they encounter in a manner that justifies their prior beliefs. They should feel free to make their own errors without being burdened by any advice, inevitably flawed, that we impart. And if they do indeed follow in our all-too-human footsteps, they’re likely to be more sure of everything than anyone has a right to be sure of anything. 

Walter Reich is the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior, and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, at the George Washington University, and the former director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Elie Wiesel

I would tell young people that forgetting is not an option. Memory is the answer. What to do with it is a very important issue, a very individual decision. Every person, young or old, has to ask, what should I do with this memory? Without memory we won’t be human. Memory is a part of our humanity. To forget is a sickness. I believe the more we remember, the more human we are. Memory is not one chapter: One event, one memory leads to another.

Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He is the co-founder of Moment Magazine.

Interviews by
Sarah Breger, Marilyn Cooper, Nadine Epstein, Dina Gold, George E. Johnson and Sala Levin

One thought on “40th Anniversary Symposium: Wisdom for the Next Generation

  1. Yehoshua says:

    Israel. Israel. Israel. The Land of Israel and the people who live in and on the Land. Any Jew who does not make Eretz Yisrael his home, and who does not live with self-sacrifice for the Jews who live there, is missing out on life.

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