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April 28, 2021 2:58 pm

‘A Man Whose Faith Drove Him to Champion Human Rights’: Stone Carving of Elie Wiesel Added to Washington National Cathedral

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The stone carving of Elie Wiesel that has been added to at Washington National Cathedral. Photo: Washington National Cathedral.

A stone carving of the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel has been added to the Washington National Cathedral’s Human Rights Porch to honor Wiesel’s “legacy as a lifelong human rights defender dedicated to combating indifference and intolerance,” the house of worship announced on Wednesday.

The Human Rights Porch features carvings of historical human rights-defenders, including Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Jonathan Daniels and Eleanor Roosevelt. While there are many representations of Jewish biblical figures in the Cathedral,  Wiesel is the first person from the modern-day Jewish community to featured in the house of prayer. The hand-carved sculpture was put in place by the Cathedral’s stonemasons and created with the involvement of the Wiesel family.

“My father’s faith was a tremendous part of who he was,” Wiesel’s son, Elisha Wiesel, told The Algemeiner. “I hope those attending the various faith-based services at the National Cathedral will remember him as both a passionately proud American and as a man whose faith drove him to champion human rights and the telling of stories that need to be told. Our family is deeply appreciative to the Cathedral for making him part of their institutional consciousness.”

The announcement was made in conjunction with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

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Born in Romania in 1928, Wiesel was a survivor of the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. His father, mother and sister were killed in the camps, and he detailed the horrors of the Holocaust in his autobiographical novel “Night.” He authored 57 books, was a vocal advocate for human rights causes around the world, and served as a professor at Boston University, which created the Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies in his honor. He was the founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, and received numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal. He died in 2016 of natural causes.

The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral, said, “From the depths of cruelty inflicted on him, his family, and so many millions of Jews and others during the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel went on to dedicate his life to the pursuit of human rights, and to heed the lessons of history. We are humbled to welcome his likeness to the Cathedral, and pray that his example and legacy will be a blessing and an inspiration to all who enter.”

“Throughout his life, Elie devoted himself tirelessly to preserving the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and working to ensure that other communities do not suffer the same fate,” said Marion Wiesel, Wiesel’s widow and vice president of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. “Not only does his presence in the National Cathedral memorialize his life and honor his commitment to human rights; it also ensures that new generations will learn from his teachings and carry the lessons of his life forward into the future.”

The Wiesel carving was sculpted by North Carolina artist Chas Fagan, a member of the US Commission on Fine Arts whose other works include the official White House portrait of First Lady Barbara Bush; statues of Ronald Reagan and Billy Graham at the US Capitol; and a statue of Pope John Paul II at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington.

A dedication of the bust will take place in fall 2021 as part of a program the Cathedral will launch — in cooperation with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity — to celebrate Wiesel’s legacy.

The cathedral is part of the Episcopal Church but aims to be “a house of prayer for all people and a sacred space for the nation to gather,” it said in a statement.

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