About the Witness Institute

  • Learning and teaching are valued as primary paths to moral transformation, and educational experiences are designed to produce morally responsible, sensitive, justice-seeking humanists;
  • All people have the opportunity to make use of great wisdom traditions, and to learn from one another, using a broad and deep set of tools and modalities;
  • People of differing views can disagree well, in order to sharpen both sides’ perspectives in search of deeper levels of truth and effective decision making;
  • People learn to see their particular identities as complementary to their universal commitment to all humanity;
  • Activism is accompanied by courage, self-reflection, and humility;
  • Leaders learn to balance nuanced and compassionate political discourse with immediate and effective responses to all forms of hatred and indifference.

The Witness Institute develops programs to train and empower individuals to learn, create, and positively influence their communities, and our societies. The Institute convenes and hosts conversations, nurtures cohorts of influencers, builds community, and supports individual creative projects.

The flagship program of the Institute is the Witness Fellows Program, a 15-month, cohort-based program for emerging leaders, the goal of which is to activate and empower them to act with humility, reflection, and sensitivity, and, in turn, to influence their communities towards moral action. Consisting of semi-annual retreats, ongoing online learning, weekly 1-1 study, and summative projects, the Witness Fellows Program will create an ever-expanding community of leaders to build a more moral world.


Founder and Senior Scholar

Ariel Burger

The Witness Institute was founded by Rabbi Dr. Ariel Burger, one of the students closest to Elie Wiesel and author of Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 2018).

As a lifelong student of Elie Wiesel, Ariel Burger integrates deep knowledge of his methods, his legacy as a teacher and moral exemplar, and the great texts and traditions that inspired his work. In the words of the late Elie Wiesel, “Ariel’s distinctive presence, combining creativity, insight and sensitivity with clarity of thought, makes him a natural teacher and leader, one who can help continue my work.”

View Ariel’s artwork here.


Elisha Wiesel

Elisha Wiesel, son of Elie Wiesel and former Chief Information Officer at Goldman Sachs, serves as Founding President of the Institute. Elisha’s words and actions mark him as an emerging fighter against poverty, advocate for opportunity, and a student of Jewish continuity.

He has been active in local non-profits serving at-risk youth in New York City since 2002.  He stepped down from the board of Good Shepherd Services in 2016 after having rebooted their Midnight Madness all-night urban puzzle-solving experience into a multi-million-dollar fundraising platform for local communities, and a signature creative experience for the broader financial community.

Senior Advisors

Rabbi Dr. Irving “Yitz” Greenberg
Parker Palmer


Preeta Bansal, anchor and co-creator of Awakin and ServiceSpace, Lecturer at MIT Media Lab, former advisor on the drafting of the constitutions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Prof. Dr. Reinhold Boschki, head of the department of Religious Education and head of the Elie Wiesel Research Center at Tübingen University, creating the definitive annotated edition of the works of Elie Wiesel in German.

Professor Steve Esposito, Associate Professor of Classics at Boston University. Steve co-taught classes with Professor Elie Wiesel for several years at BU.

Miriam R. Haier, Director of Content and Strategy at Pure+Applied, a multidisciplinary design studio in New York City, former Senior Director of External Affairs at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, and Director of Public Programs at the Center for Jewish History.

Rabbi David Jaffe, writer, teacher, community organizer, founder of the Inside Out Wisdom and Action Project, author of Changing the World from the Inside Out.

Greg Jobin-Leeds, activist, trainer, co-founder of the Schott Foundation for Public Education, co-host of AgitArte’s When We Fight, We Win! the Podcast, co-author of When We Fight, We Win!: 21st Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World.

Professor Carolyn Johnston, author, Professor of History and American Studies, and Elie Wiesel Professor of Humane Letters at Eckerd College. Carolyn co-taught with Elie Wiesel at Eckerd College from 1993-2016.

Michaela Kalowski, sought-after interviewer, facilitator, and moderator of the Woollahra School of Philosophy discussion series.

Dr. Henry F. Knight, Professor Emeritus of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the former Director of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire; author or editor of several books and numerous articles on post-Holocaust theology and ethics.

Pavithra Mehta, lead author of Infinite Vision: How Arvin Became the World’s Greatest Business Case for Compassion,active volunteer with Service Space, co-leader of DailyGood.

Professor David Patterson, Hillel A. Feinberg Distinguished Chair in Holocaust Studies at the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, University of Texas at Dallas, author of more than 35 books and more than 220 articles, essays, and book chapters on topics in literature, philosophy, the Holocaust, and Jewish studies.

Dr. Avraham (Alan) Rosen, student of Elie Wiesel, author or editor of fourteen books, former research fellow of the Foundation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah, regular lecturer on Holocaust Literature and Testimony at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies and other Holocaust study centers.

Todd J. Sukol, philanthropy professional, Executive Director of the Mayberg Foundation, founder of Sukol Communications.

Cleary Vaughan-Lee, executive director of the Global Oneness Project, a free multimedia education platform which provides award-winning films, photography, and essays with companion curricula for elementary to university classrooms.