He grew up in Brooklyn, the child of Polish-born Orthodox Jews. Mark Wieseltier was an officer in the Polish army who spent the war in Siberia and went on to prosper in America as the owner of several furniture stores.
For a time he flirted with Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League, taking part in anti-Soviet demonstrations at the United Nations. But as a freshman at Columbia College, he was still, according to his classmate Cynthia Ruccia, “an earnest and almost prudish yeshiva boy.” To Wieseltier the war of the late 1960s was not Vietnam but Israel’s Six-Day War. Yet by 1974, his senior year, he had become a man of the world.
Mahnaz Ispahani, the daughter of a Pakistani merchant prince, a darkly beautiful young woman who wore a diamond in her nose, was getting her doctorate in international relations when Wieseltier met her at the bar of a restaurant on Harvard Square. They were married in November 1985, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg conducting the civil ceremony.
During their turbulent marriage, which ended in divorce last year (1994), Ispahani proved herself as socially adept as her husband, setting up an A-list salon in their apartment in Washington’s high-rent Kalorama district.
In October 2017, a company backed by Laurene Powell Jobs, the philanthropist and widow of Steve Jobs, severed ties with former New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier after learning of “past inappropriate workplace conduct.”
Shortly after the revelations broke about film mogul Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual harassment, former women staffers at The New Republic began sharing stories about Wieseltier.
The 65-year-old Wieseltier connected Powell Jobs with The Atlantic magazine owner David Bradley, who announced plans in July to sell the magazine to Emerson Collective. In addition to Idea, Emerson Collective has helped support other journalistic projects including The Marshall Project, ProPublica and Mother Jones.more » « less