The busiest intersection in Côte-St-Luc, Que., is now a site of remembrance for the man the Nobel Prize committee once called a “messenger to mankind” – the late Holocaust survivor and author, Elie Wiesel.
Elie Wiesel Park was inaugurated at the northwest corner of Cavendish Boulevard and Kildare Road on Nov. 3, by municipal, provincial and federal officials, as well as Jewish community representatives, Holocaust survivors and schoolchildren.
Côte-St-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein noted that the park is not the city’s largest, but its location does afford it maximum visibility. The land became available after much of the former Cavendish Mall was demolished and a new housing subdivision went up.
Wiesel, a Romanian-born Auschwitz survivor, died in July 2016, at the age of 87.
While hailed for giving a voice to fellow survivors and those who perished, Wiesel also spoke out against more recent genocides, such as those that took place in Rwanda and Darfur, Brownstein noted.
Côte-St-Luc became home to many of the approximately 9,000 Holocaust survivors who settled in the Montreal area after the Second World War, and they contributed immensely to the progress of the city, said Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather.
Wiesel visited Montreal frequently and was no stranger to Côte-St-Luc, where he gave a lecture at Congregation Beth Israel Beth Aaron some years ago.
The sign at the park offers a brief synopsis of who Wiesel was, along with the quote, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest,” from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1986.
In addition to paying tribute to Wiesel’s memory, Brownstein said the hope is that the park will play an educational role by reminding everyone who uses it of Wiesel’s example of standing up to intolerance and oppression, wherever it occurs.
D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum recalled that Wiesel warned against the danger of indifference above all.
“His message was that each of us has moral choices in everything we do, every day. Each of us has a responsibility to be moral in our treatment of others,” he said.
Montreal Holocaust Museum vice-president Eva Kuper, a child survivor, said the moral leadership Wiesel provided is as important as ever, due to the prevalence of hate and violence in the world today.
Rabbi Reuben Poupko, spiritual leader of Beth Israel Beth Aaron and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ Quebec co-chair, said that Wiesel eloquently defended universal human rights and was always a champion of the Jewish People. This included fighting for Soviet-Jewish emigration and speaking out against attacks on the State of Israel, including its soldiers.
“He was never silent in the face of an assault on Jewish dignity,” he said.
Former MP Irwin Cotler, who called Wiesel a mentor and friend for 50 years, said that the memorial is a reminder that anti-Semitism has not vanished and everyone has a responsibility to act.
Brownstein said the city hopes that donors will be found to add more of Wiesel’s words to the benches, perhaps in the name of a survivor, thereby turning the park into an “outdoor museum.”