Annual Elie Wiesel Lecture Series Begins Tonight
Nobel laureate will discuss new memoir at third lecture
Elie Wiesel never repeats a lecture. The 1986 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Holocaust survivor, renowned author, and self-professed lifetime student is proud of that accomplishment—and has every reason to be. Each year for the past four decades, Wiesel has delivered a fresh exploration of ancient religious texts during his fall public lecture series at BU. He says he is grateful to the audiences who return each year to hear him speak.
“I feel I should go from student to student and embrace them, and say, ‘Thank you for being here,’” says Wiesel (Hon.’74), BU’s Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities.
The annual Three Encounters with Elie Wiesel: The Fascination with Jewish Tales begins tonight at 7 p.m. at the George Sherman Union Metcalf Hall with a lecture titled In the Bible: Ezekiel and His Vision of Our Time. The series will continue on consecutive Mondays with In the Talmud: Is Martyrdom or Sanctification of His Name a Valid Response? and In Contemporary Writings: Open Heart.
Following an introduction by President Robert A. Brown tonight, Wiesel will explore the prophet Ezekiel, providing a fresh interpretation of the man who prophesized the destruction of Jerusalem.
“All the prophets spoke about their times,” says the 84-year-old Wiesel. “They were witnesses to their times. To study Ezekiel is to study what our people, the Jewish people, looked like then.”
Steven Katz, the Alvin J. and Shirley Slater Professor of Jewish and Holocaust Studies, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of religion, and director of the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, will introduce Wiesel at his second lecture, on October 22, which examines the Talmud. Wiesel will grapple with that ancient text’s paradox of seeing life as sacred while also deeming martyrdom as the glorification of God’s name.
Religious teachers during the Roman Empire were martyrs, Wiesel explains. “The Romans actually arrested and tortured teachers and their students,” he says. “Study was forbidden. Not only practicing religion, but study was forbidden. Teaching and studying religion meant capital punishment. Nevertheless, it never stopped.”
Rabbi Joseph A. Polak (Hon.’95), director of BU’s Florence and Chafetz Hillel House, will introduce Wiesel at his third lecture, originally scheduled for October 29. Due to Hurricane Sandy, the lecture has been postponed and information regarding a rescheduled date will be posted here. That lecture will be a departure of sorts for the author: he will read from and discuss his new memoir, Open Heart—a book he wrote in the days following quintuple bypass surgery a year ago.
Wiesel recalls that he had just visited his doctor after a trip to Israel and received good news. “He said, ‘Elie, you can go on teaching, writing; you are in good shape,’” Wiesel says. ‘“Don’t worry about anything.’” Three days later, however, he experienced chest pain and—thinking it was the acid reflex he suffers from—called his doctor, who scheduled an endoscopy.
Wiesel was back in his New York office meeting with a delegation of Iranian dissidents, whose situation he describes as a “matter of life and death,” when he received an urgent call from his doctor requesting him to return to the hospital for more tests. He refused. Eventually his doctor agreed to give him two more hours.
“The moment I arrived at the hospital, literally they were waiting for me already,” Wiesel says. “They took me immediately to the operating room. If I had come a few hours later, who knows?”
Open Heart is scheduled to be published in the United States by Knopf in early December.
The series Three Encounters with Elie Wiesel: The Fascination with Jewish Tales begins tonight, October 15, continues on Monday, October 22. Due to Hurricane Sandy, the third lecture has been postponed and information regarding a rescheduled date will be posted here. All lectures are held in the George Sherman Union’s Metcalf Hall, 775 Commonwealth Ave., and are free and open to the public. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the 7 p.m. lectures. Overflow seating is available in the Conference Auditorium. For more information, call 617-353-2238.1 Comments