As the world commemorated International Holocaust Memorial Day last Wednesday on the 76th anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation, Marion Wiesel - wife of the late Nobel Prize winner and former Auschwitz prisoner Elie Wiesel - celebrated her 90th birthday.
To honor her living legacy and visionary work alongside her husband’s, a virtual event was organized by the couple's foundation, the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity and Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), featuring remarks from dozens of celebrities and politicians.
Among them, former US president Bill Clinton, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, former US secretary of state Colin Powell, Mayim Bialik, Ted Koppel, Natan Sharansky, former foreign ministry legal adviser Joseph Ciechanover, and World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder, with a performance by Idan Raichel.
Through the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, the Wiesels founded the Beit Tzipora Centers in the mid-1990s that educate and empower Ethiopian-Israeli children, in memory of Elie’s sister Tzipora, who perished in the Holocaust.
Now managed by WIZO, the centers provide a range of educational services and enrichment programs for more than 700 children annually. The centers support the education of Ethiopian-Israeli children and families and provide opportunities for them to participate fully in Israeli society.
“As a refugee who spent her childhood fleeing violence and persecution, I learned firsthand the great challenges of finding your footing in a new land,” said Marion Wiesel. “My husband and I founded the Beit Tzipora Centers to provide support and educational opportunity for Ethiopian children and families in Israel. I was honored to spend my 90th birthday sharing the stories of these families—and highlighting the remarkable impact that this program continues to make year after year.”
“The work that The Elie Wiesel Foundation and WIZO are doing together to support the Ethiopian-Israeli community is nothing more than an extension of the values that we are trying to convey to our children—about taking care of Am Israel and the world, being proud to be Jewish and Zionist, and having a real hope and belief in where we go from here,” said Elisha Wiesel, Marion and Elie’s son.
“On this milestone birthday, we thank you for being one of the greatest truth tellers of our time. You’ve touched so many millions of lives, you’ve changed the world for the better,” said Bill Clinton.
“Marion, we are so proud to join your family, friends, and many admirers from all over the world in wishing you the happiest 90th birthday,” added Hillary Clinton.
Netanyahu also joined in celebrating Marion and recognizing her work, saying, “it’s a pleasure to join you all this evening to celebrate the life and work of Marion Wiesel and to wish you a very happy 90th birthday. Tonight we want to recognize your…work, especially your efforts to change the world for the better.”
“The Marion Wiesel we celebrate today inspires us with her seemingly bottomless heart and her endless energy in giving voice to the voiceless. Her commitment to embracing others and fighting bigotry is grounded in what she witnessed as a young girl in Europe,” said Clooney.
“After coming to the United States, Marion focused on moving forward—establishing a life, career, and family. But she never forgot what she’d seen and experienced as a child in Europe. And with Elie Wiesel, she had a partner who shared her passion. Together they became preeminent voices for social justice and peace around the globe,” Winfrey said.
After arriving in the United States as a refugee, in the early 1950s, Marion joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), marching for civil rights and speaking out against discrimination in the segregated South.
Four decades later, she became deeply involved in supporting the growing community of Ethiopian refugees in Israel. An ardent Zionist, Wiesel wanted to ensure that the Jewish state served as a model of racial equality and equal opportunity. The centers are a key highlight of Marion Wiesel’s more than 60 years of social and racial justice work.
“[Marion] always has had two loves: social justice and Israel,” said Mayim Bialik. “Her life is proof that the two go hand in hand. Her experiences both as a refugee and as an activist in the United States left an imprint on her to never take tolerance for granted.”