Wilshire Boulevard Temple to hold public reading of Wiesel’s ‘Night’


Wilshire Boulevard Temple (WBT) will host a public reading of Elie Wiesel’s “Night” at its Koreatown campus on the evening of April 23. The reading will coincide with Yom HaShoah, an international day of Holocaust remembrance, the first since Wiesel’s death in July.

Among the dozens of celebrities and public figures tapped to read from the harrowing account of Wiesel’s Holocaust experience are actor Tom Hanks, author and talk show host Tavis Smiley, Rabbi David Wolpe and journalist and producer Tom Teicholz. The list also includes Holocaust survivors, politicians and interfaith leaders.

WBT Rabbi Susan Nanus said her friend, television movie producer Linda Kent, who frequently collaborates on synagogue events, told her about a reading from the landmark memoir at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in January. She quickly decided, “We should do it, too.”

She said the people who were invited to participate were deeply honored and enthusiastic. As she and Kent began to prepare a list of readers, she reached out to Writers Bloc Presents, a local nonprofit that holds events dedicated to books and literature.

“We’re living in frightening times, and we should be looking at history and great writers to see the relationship between the past and now,” said Andrea Grossman, founder of Writers Bloc Presents. “So when Susan Nanus emailed me about this program, I jumped at it.”

The two met at Factor’s Famous Deli on Pico Boulevard and began to draft, with Kent, a list of celebrities and leaders from a broad range of Los Angeles faith and civic communities.

The diversity of the participants underscores the evening’s themes of “unity and memory and tolerance and remembering what happened — how evil triumphs when good people do nothing,” Nanus said. “That’s really what it’s all about.”

Among others scheduled to participate in the reading are Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Steven Leder, Rabbi Karen Fox, Jewish Journal columnist Danielle Berrin and attorney E. Randol Schoenberg. The list also includes leaders from other faiths, including Mohammed Akbar Khan of the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City, acclaimed choir director Diane White-Clayton of Faithful Central Bible Church in Inglewood and Sikh scholar Nirinjan Khalsa.

Actors and filmmakers set to join the reading include Hanks’ wife, Rita Wilson; Michael Tolkin; Mike Burstyn; Eric Roth and Rain Pryor. Local government officials slated to participate include former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin and Beverly Hills Mayor Lilli Bosse, a daughter of Holocaust survivors. Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg also is set to read a passage.

Other scheduled participants include Korean community leader Hyepin Im; oncologist Gary Schiller, a son of Holocaust survivors; novelist and Jewish Journal columnist Gina Nahai; 2016 MacArthur Fellow Josh Kun; and Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan.

Each participant will read approximately two to three pages of the text, Nanus said.

“It’s always great, wonderful to hear a terrific actor read, so … it will be wonderful to hear Tom Hanks and Rain Pryor and Rita Wilson,” Grossman said. “But it will also be interesting to hear the children of Holocaust survivors or Holocaust survivors themselves tackle this book. It’s difficult reading and it’s a difficult memory.”

More information and tickets are available at wbtla.org/night.