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Bernard Lewis turns 90

Eli Lake anticipates the party this coming Monday in honor of the ninetieth birthday of Bernard Lewis: “Bernard Lewis marking 90 at grand fete.” The article is interesting in its entirety, but those of us looking for the secret of his longevity as well as the highlights of his vast schoarship might be most struck by Lake’s reference to Professor Lewis’s “girlfriend” (Buntzie Ellis Churchill.) Ms. Churchill appears to have planned the fete:

[W]hile most 90-year-olds would be content to see their families on their birthday, Mr. Lewis will be celebrating his with a senator, a former secretary of state, a top television news anchor, and a very senior White House official whose locations are usually not disclosed. On Monday, Senator Biden, Henry Kissinger, Judy Woodruff, and Fouad Ajami will join Mr. Lewis at the Philadelphia World Affairs Council to discuss such weighty matters as “Domestic Security and International Image”and “Europe: A Fracturing Union.”

Mr. Lewis’s girlfriend, Buntzie Ellis Churchill, wrote in her invitation to Mr. Kissinger, “As the president of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia and lady in Bernard Lewis’s life, it’s just easier to plan a conference than it is to bake a cake.”

It is typical of a master teacher to take turn such an occasion to educational purposes. Another highlight of Lakes’s article comes courtesy of Ms. Churchill. When did Lewis’s scholarly quest commence? Lake writes:

Born in London in 1916, Mr. Lewis became interested in studying the Middle East, according to Ms. Churchill during his bar mitzvah. “With his bar mitzvah, he started to learn a new alphabet and that is when he began to learn his first foreign language,” she said. Mr. Lewis attended the University of London at the time as opposed to Oxford and other schools because it was the only institution to offer a degree in Middle Eastern history and not just Arabic.

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