Image cred­it: Maor Ziv-Kreger

In advance of the 68th Annu­al Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards cer­e­mo­ny on March 5th, 2019 (which you can buy tick­ets for here), Jew­ish Book Coun­cil is shar­ing short inter­views with the win­ners in each category.

Ariel Burger’s Wit­ness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Class­room is the win­ner of the 2018 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award for Biog­ra­phy. Elie Wiesel was men­tor, trust­ed friend and advi­sor to author Ariel Burg­er for near­ly twen­ty-five years. This remark­able book gives read­ers a front row seat in Wiesel’s class­room at Boston Uni­ver­si­ty, and allows us to ben­e­fit from his dis­tinct teach­ing style. Burg­er hon­ors Wiesel by striv­ing to per­pet­u­ate and teach his mentor’s method­ol­o­gy of wonder.”

Which three Jew­ish writ­ers, dead or alive, would you most like to have din­ner with?

The great medieval mys­tic and legal­ist Nach­manides; the his­to­ri­an Shi­mon Dub­nov, mur­dered by his own stu­dent, a Nazi; and Leonard Cohen, who, in addi­tion to a being a great song­writer, was a great writer and thinker.

What’s your favorite book that no one else has heard of?

The Fifth Head of Cer­berus by Gene Wolfe, a strange med­i­ta­tion on iden­ti­ty, mem­o­ry, and nar­ra­tive in three parts. (I hope I’m mis­tak­en and peo­ple have heard of this.)

Which Jew­ish writ­ers work­ing today do you admire most?

Rachel Kadish, Tova Mirvis, Shulem Deen, Yos­si Klein HaLe­vi, and Dara Horn.

What are you read­ing right now?

The Divine Inva­sion by Philip K. Dick.

What are your great­est cre­ative influ­ences (oth­er than books)?

Elie Wiesel — his writ­ing but also his teacher and pres­ence as a per­son. My com­pos­er father, Rebbe Nachman’s Tales, Ursu­la le Guin, Palk­er Palmer, Borges’s non­fic­tion, Chris Clare­mont, Kate Bush, Lewis Hyde, Thomas Mer­ton, the song­writer Jason Moli­na, Mau­rice Sendak, Regi­na Spek­tor, and Jew­ish history.