Chabad of Plano/Collin County hosted Elisha Wiesel, the son of the famous Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, for a free virtual community event on Sunday and awarded the Florence Shapiro Distinguished Leadership Award to a dedicated public affairs director at H-E-B/Central Market.
The event, called “The Legacy of Elie Wiesel Through the Eyes of his Son, Elisha Wiesel,” took place on March 21 from 7:30-8:30 p.m.
Rabbi Block, executive director of Chabad of Plano, said he started hosting annual evenings for the community about 25 years ago. But this event, in particular, had a special place in his heart because it came during a time when we are living in “a very tense climate.”
Between COVID-19, the 2020 election and the lack of face-to-face human interaction, Block said Elisha’s message was vital for the community to hear.
“I feel that it was a very important time for someone like this who had a first-row seat to one of the most influential personalities of our time to share with us this message of peace in the home, of understanding our children and what they’re going through, understanding each other, looking for more tolerance and more appreciation for what each and every one of us brings to the table,” Block said.
Elisha Wiesel was Elie’s only child. Elie was a Nobel-Prize winner, teacher and activist known for his memoir Night that details his experiences as a teenager during the Holocaust. Elie and his family were forced into Nazi death camps during WWII. He survived, but his little sister and parents died.
Elie was also the founding chairman behind the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. He died on July 2, 2016, at 87. After his passing, Elisha has worked to carry on his father’s legacy.
Elisha’s interview during the event was “rich,” “meaningful” and “real,” according to Block.
“He addressed the issues of our time,” Block said. “He drew lessons from his father who lived through the Holocaust that became a beacon of life and a spokesman for humanity to address the way we treat each other in our times.”
Elisha spoke about many topics, including raising children with love and finding common ground with others. But he also spoke about how the best thing he did in his life was giving his father grandchildren, who he was able to spend many years with before passing.
“Because if my existence is a triumph of my father having survived the Holocaust and survived that despair and finding the hope to continue and produce another generation, then my children existing as Jewish children is also an accomplishment,” Elisha told the small crowd. “It’s the survival of the generation of assimilation.”
At the event, Block awarded the Florence Shapiro Distinguished Leadership Award to Mabrie Jackson, public affairs director for H-E-B/Central Market, for her advocacy and her work in global trade and as the honorary consul for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Dallas. The Florence Shapiro leadership award was created in 2008 to acknowledge community leaders “who have given back so much of the time and talent to enrich the lives of the citizens of Collin County.”
Jackson also served as president and CEO of the North Texas Commission, a member of the Plano City Council, and interim president and CEO for the Plano Chamber of Commerce. She has held roles at companies like Microsoft and ran as the Republican candidate for Texas House District 66.
Block said Jackson was the ninth person to get the award and received the award because of her civic engagement and for being a role model for optimism.
“She believes very deeply in the role of diversity and celebrating the beauty of many cultures that we have in our community,” Block said. “And she is a true leader. She’s really there for the community. And she is a truly deserving recipient of our leadership award.”
The livestream of the event is still available and can be found by clicking here.