Elie Wiesel is joining Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, and Eleanor Roosevelt in Washington, DC—on the National Cathedral’s Human Rights Porch. His bust, carved by stonemason Sean Callahan using medieval techniques, will be the cathedral's first image of a modern Jewish person, the New York Times reports. Wiesel, who survived being held at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during the Holocaust, was a human rights activist, author, and Nobel laureate who died in 2016. The Night author was chosen for this honor “during a time of rising antisemitism in the United States and around the world,” a statement from the National Cathedral website says. Cathedral spokesman Kevin Eckstrom said the Romanian-born author was chosen for the honor in 2019, per the Washington Post. The bust will be formally dedicated later this year.
“We wanted to be thoughtful that we not do anything inappropriate or offensive, or even come close to appropriation," says Eckstrom. "We didn’t want to pretend he wasn’t Jewish, because he was." The cathedral is an Episcopal church, but it frequently functions as a secular or nondenominational gathering place. Wiesel’s son, Elisha, called it “an American institution.” The cathedral’s dean, the Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, said the bust will serve as a reminder of the Holocaust. “As so many survivors die and we lose that generation, it’s so important that we keep that memory and the work alive,” he said. Callahan, the cathedral’s stone carver, crafted other human rights icons—Parks, Mother Teresa, and activist and Episcopal saint Jonathan Myrick Daniels—already present in the alcove’s corners. (Upon his death, Wiesel was mourned "as a guide for us all.")