Leon Wieseltier (//; born June 14, 1952) is an American writer, critic, philosopher and magazine editor. From 1983 to 2014, he was the literary editor of The New Republic. He was a contributing editor and critic at The Atlantic until October 27, 2017, when the magazine terminated his employment due to allegations of sexual harassment.
Wieseltier was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Stella (Backenroth) and Mark Wieseltier, who were Holocaust survivors from Poland. He attended the Yeshiva of Flatbush, Columbia University, Oxford University, and Harvard University. He was a member of the Harvard Society of Fellows (1979–82).
Wieseltier has published several books of fiction and nonfiction. Kaddish, a National Book Award finalist in 2000, is a genre-blending meditation on the Jewish prayers of mourning. Against Identity is a collection of thoughts about the modern notion of identity.
Wieseltier also edited and introduced a volume of works by Lionel Trilling entitled The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent and wrote the foreword to Ann Weiss's The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a collection of personal photographs that serves as a paean to pre-Shoah innocence. Wieseltier's translations of the works of Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai have appeared in The New Republic and The New Yorker.
During Wieseltier's tenure as literary editor of The New Republic, many of his signed and unsigned writings appeared in the magazine. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Jewish Review of Books.
Wieseltier served on the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and was a prominent advocate of the Iraq War. "I am in no sense a neoconservative, as many of my neoconservative adversaries will attest," Wieseltier wrote in a May 2007 letter to Judge Reggie Walton, seeking leniency for his friend Scooter Libby.
Wieseltier appeared in one episode of the fifth season of The Sopranos, playing Stewart Silverman, a character whom Wieseltier described as "a derangingly materialistic co-religionist who dreams frantically of 'Wedding of the Week' and waits a whole year for some stupid car in which he can idle for endless hours in traffic east of Quogue every weekend of every summer, the vulgar Zegna-swaddled brother of a Goldman Sachs mandarin whose son's siman tov u'mazel tov is provided by a pulchritudinous and racially diverse bunch of shellfish-eating chicks in tight off-the-shoulder gowns".
In 2013, he won the $1 million Dan David Prize for being "a foremost writer and thinker who confronts and engages with the central issues of our times, setting the standard for serious cultural discussion in the United States".
In January 2016, it was reported that Wieseltier would be joining Laurene Powell Jobs to form a new publication devoted to exploring the effects of technology on people’s lives. Powell Jobs withdrew funding for the journal on October 24, 2017 after Wieseltier admitted to sexual harassment and inappropriate advances with several former female employees. He was also fired by the Brookings Institution and is no longer an Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy.
In the aftermath of Harvey Weinstein allegations and the #MeToo movement, a "Shitty Media Men" list was widely shared that alleged to feature men in the media industry who were accused of sexual misconduct. Wieseltier was on the list. After it was revealed on October 24, 2017 that several former employees had accused Wieseltier of sexual harassment and inappropriate advances, Wieseltier apologized to the women and admitted to "offenses against some of my colleagues in the past." Emerson Collective executive Laurene Powell Jobs withdrew funding for a journal Wieseltier was working on and later fired him. Prior to his acknowledgement of sexual harassment, he was the Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at the Brookings Institution. Brookings suspended him with pay, then later announced he is no longer employed at Brookings.
Wieseltier was a frequent target of the satirical monthly Spy magazine, which often derided his analyses of pop culture as comically pretentious and mocked him as "Leon Vee-ZEL-tee-AY" who "jealously guards his highbrow credentials while wearing a lowbrow heart on his sleeve".
In reference to being called a "Jew-baiter" by Wieseltier, Andrew Sullivan has said, "Wieseltier is a connoisseur and cultivator of personal hatred"—referring to a dislike based on "tedious" causes that Wieseltier allegedly has held regarding him for a long time.
Wieseltier's first marriage to Mahnaz Ispahani in 1985 ended in divorce in 1994. Following a long-term relationship with choreographer Twyla Tharp, he married his second wife, Jennifer Bradley, who works on urban-development issues at the Brookings Institution. Wieseltier is a fluent Hebrew speaker, and when interviewed in Israel, he said "I feel perfectly at home here." On September 7, 2014, he threw out the first pitch of the Washington Nationals game against the Philadelphia Phillies, in celebration of The New Republic's hundredth anniversary.
Wieseltier was also a contributing editor at The Atlantic until [Oct 27, 2017], when Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor in chief, announced in a note to staffers that the magazine is severing its ties with him.
Update 6:00 p.m. Oct. 25: Brookings has announced that Wieseltier is “no longer employed” at the think tank.