Recent­ly I went back into news archives to see the head­lines on July 2, 2016, the day Nobel Prize peace lau­re­ate Elie Wiesel died. The New York Times head­line read: Don­ald Trump Deletes Tweet Show­ing Hillary Clin­ton and Star of David Shape.” Brex­it was already roil­ing Britain. Europe, the con­ti­nent of Elie’s birth, and was in the throes of the refugee cri­sis; a few weeks lat­er, Hun­gar­i­an Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Orban would declare that the refugees were poi­son.”

Although alarm bells were ring­ing, it was impos­si­ble to fore­see that in a few short months the new­ly empow­ered far right wing in the Unit­ed States would whip up nation­al­ist sen­ti­ment and gen­er­ate an icy blast of anti­semitism such as this coun­try had not seen since ear­ly in the pre­vi­ous cen­tu­ry. It was less than five months before mem­bers of Richard’s Spencer’s Nation­al Pol­i­cy Insti­tute would cel­e­brate with Nazi-style Hail Trump” salutes at an elec­tion vic­to­ry par­ty. It was six months before neo-Nazi The Dai­ly Stormer would begin to tar­get and troll Jews in White­fish, Mon­tana. It was thir­teen months before the Unite the Right ral­ly in Char­lottesville that left a woman dead. It was more than two years before the mas­sacre of wor­ship­pers in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Syn­a­gogue by a self-pro­claimed anti-Semi­te. That was six months before three Jews were injured and one killed dur­ing a Chabad ser­vice in Poway, California.

Part of me is glad that Elie didn’t have to wit­ness these hor­rif­ic events. Anoth­er part of me dear­ly wish­es he were here, a vis­i­ble pres­ence, a respect­ed voice to speak out against grow­ing prej­u­dice of all kinds — includ­ing antisemitism.

He was a man who had seen, expe­ri­enced, and known evil in its rawest, ugli­est form. This imbued him with a moral author­i­ty respect­ed by peo­ple on all sides.

I believe Elie — beloved by many Jews and non-Jews, and able through­out much of his life to tran­scend polar­iza­tion — would have been one of the few peo­ple who would have com­mand­ed the respect of Pres­i­dent Trump and mem­bers of his admin­is­tra­tion. He could have been a guide and pos­i­tive influence.

Elie had a his­to­ry that all of those who read his first book, Night, could nev­er for­get. He was a man who had seen, expe­ri­enced, and known evil in its rawest, ugli­est form. This imbued him with a moral author­i­ty respect­ed by peo­ple on all sides.

Elie was not an ide­o­logue. He met and befriend­ed Repub­li­can and Demo­c­ra­t­ic Amer­i­can pres­i­dents, and lib­er­al and con­ser­v­a­tive prime min­is­ters of Israel. He was, in my expe­ri­ence, a cos­mopoli­tan man who eschewed xeno­pho­bia and extreme polit­i­cal beliefs, and embraced civ­il dis­course, think­ing, and behavior.

He told me that he enjoyed the tumult of cul­tur­al, reli­gious, social, and polit­i­cal thought, but he want­ed that tumult to be civ­il and taste­ful. A man of great curios­i­ty, he learned from dis­agree­ment just as the great rab­bis of the Tal­mud learned from one another.

A man of great curios­i­ty, he learned from dis­agree­ment just as the great rab­bis of the Tal­mud learned from one another.

We can’t be Elie Wiesel. But we can and should learn from those like him who sur­vived the Holo­caust and oth­er geno­cides. We can, as he coun­seled, not for­get, not be indif­fer­ent, and remem­ber to care about all suf­fer­ing and take action to com­bat it. We can lis­ten and encour­age oth­er voic­es, and gra­cious­ly bend over back­ward to be civ­il in our dis­course. Elie knew too well what could hap­pen when com­mu­ni­ca­tion and civil­i­ty breaks down, mean­ing is twist­ed, and evil ascends.

Nadine Epstein is edi­tor-in-chief and CEO of Moment Mag­a­zine, founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Cre­ative Change, and founder of the Daniel Pearl Inves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ism Ini­tia­tive. An award-win­ning jour­nal­ist, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Wash­ing­ton Post and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She has co-writ­ten three books and a doc­u­men­tary, which was short­list­ed for an Acad­e­my Award.