President of the Berenbaum Group; writer and lecturer
Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust
Professor of Jewish Studies, The American Jewish University
Ida E. King Distinguished Scholar during 1999-2000
r. Michael Berenbaum is a writer, lecturer, and teacher consulting in the conceptual development of museums and the development of historical films. He is director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust at the American Jewish University where he is also a Professor of Jewish Studies. In the past he has served as the Weinstein Gold Distinguished Visiting Professor at Chapman University, the Podlich Distinguished Visitor at Claremont-McKenna College, the Ida E. King Distinguished Professor of Holocaust Studies at Richard Stockton College for 1999–2000 and the Strassler Family Distinguished Visiting Professor of Holocaust Studies at Clark University in 2000.
He was the Executive Editor of the Second Edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica that reworked, transformed, improved, broadened and deepened, the now classic 1972 work and consists of 22 volumes, sixteen million words with 25,000 individual contributions to Jewish knowledge. The EJ won the prestigious Dartmouth Medal of the American Library Association for the Outstanding Reference Work of 2006.
For the three years, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. He was the Director of the United States Holocaust Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Hymen Goldman Adjunct Professor of Theology at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. From 1988–93 he served as Project Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, overseeing its creation. He also served as Director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, OpinionPage Editor of the Washington Jewish Week and Deputy Director of the President’s Commission on the Holocaust where he authored its Report to the President. He has previously taught at Wesleyan University, Yale University and has served as a visiting professor at three of the major Washington area universities — George Washington University, The University of Maryland, and Berenbaum’s most prominent work in the Museum world was directing the creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum where he oversaw and was responsible for the exhibition and for the films as well as for the development of the Library, Archives and Educational Center. He was also the author of its catalogue as well as the major Museum texts. The Museum has now been visited by some 35 million people in its first two decades and the Permanent Exhibition, which he developed along with his colleagues and staff, has remained basically unchanged since its inception.
Berenbaum takes special pleasure in his work with Facing History and Ourselves which began when he first attended a seminar in 1978 during its formative years. He has
been on their Academic Advisory Board and served as an Academic reviewer for its recent publication of A Convenient Hatred and has participated in their seminars and Webinars. Berenbaum was the conceptual developer on the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Educational Center that opened in Skokie, and played a similar function as conceptual developer and chief curator of the Belzec Memorial at the site of the Death Camp. He was the conceptual developer on the Memoria y Tolerancia in Mexico City and a historian to the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. He is currently at work on the Memorial Museum to Macedonia Jewry in Skopje and an Ultra-Orthodox Museum in Boro Park, Brooklyn as well as Holocaust and Tolerance Centers in Arizona and Texas. He has consulted with many museums on specific projects and Berenbaum is the author and editor of twenty books, scores of scholarly articles, and hundreds of journalistic pieces, including Not Your Father’s Antisemitism, A Promise to Remember and The World Must Know.
In film, his work as Co-Producer of One Survivor Remembers: The Gerda Weissman Klein Story was recognized with an Academy Award, an Emmy Award and the Cable Ace Award. In December 2012 it was named by the Library of Congress to the National Film Registry as a work of enduring importance to American culture. He was the historical consultant on The Shoah Foundation’s Documentary, The Last Days that won an Academy Award for the best feature-length documentary of 1998.
Over the past several years, Berenbaum was a historical consultant or chief historical consultant for:
-HBO’s Conspiracy, recently nominated for 10 Emmy awards,
-The History Channel’s The Holocaust: The Untold Story, which won the CINE Golden
Eagle Award and a Silver Medal at the US International Film and Video
-About Face, a film on German Jewish refugees who fought for the Allies During
-Empty Boxcars on the rescue of Bulgarian Jews but only after the Bulgarians had deported the Jews of Thrace and Macedonia to Treblinka.
-Swimming in Auschwitz, the story of six women survivors of Auschwitz that was broadcast on PBS
He was the executive producer, writer, and historian for a film entitled Desperate Hours on the Holocaust in Turkey, which was broadcast on Public Television in the fall and is a consultant and interviewee on several broadcasts, more recently, Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust, which was broadcast on the BBC in England and on AMC in the United States. He was Executive Producer of Swimming in Auschwitz amd the commentator for the National Geographic’s Master’s of Death and Scrapbook from Hell, and Engineering Evil documentaries. the first on the Einsatzgruppen, the Mobile Killing Units, the second on the Auschwitz album of the perpetrators and the third an overall view of
structure of the Holocaust.
Berenbaum is often interviewed by filmmakers throughout the world and a featured guest on Television and Radio For his work in journalism, he won the Simon Rockower Memorial Award of the American Jewish Press Association three times in three different categories during a two-year period. He has been featured on Nightline and the Today Show as well as Berenbaum takes special pleasure in his work as a teacher. His course at Georgetown was named by the student newspaper as one of the ten most important courses in the University.
Berenbaum is a graduate of Queens College (BA, 1967) and Florida State University (Ph.D., 1975), and also attended The Hebrew University, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Boston University. He has won numerous fellowships including the Danforth Fellowship, the George Wise Fellowship at Tel Aviv University, and the Charles E. Merrill Fellowship at FSU. Berenbaum was an elected fellow of the Society for Values in Higher Education. He was given a Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa) from Nazareth College in 1995 and a Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa) from Denison University in 2000
and a Doctor of Humane Letter (honoris causa) from Gratz College in 2011. He is married to Melissa Patack Berenbaum, who is the Vice-President and General Manager of the Motion Picture Association of America, California Group. He is the father of four children: Ilana, a Brown University honors graduate, who was ordained as a Rabbi by the University of Judaism in May 2001 and is working on her Ph.D. in Midrash as UCLA; Lev, who graduated from Georgetown University and is a Los Angeles-based businessman; Joshua, born in December 1998; and Mira, born in May, 2000.
1975: Ph.D. in the Humanities (Religion and Culture), Florida State University
1969: M.A. in Philosophy, Boston University
1967: B.A. in Philosophy, Queens College
Berenbaum has also attended The Hebrew University, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Boston University.
Areas of Expertise:
Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Philosophy, Modern European History, Jewish history, Religious Studies, Education, Holocaust Remembrance,
Selective Publications Include:
- Landres, J. Shawn., and Michael Berenbaum. After The Passion Is Gone: American Religious Consequences. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 2004.
- A Promise to Remember: The Holocaust in the Words and Voices of Its Survivors. Boston: Bulfinch / AOL Time Warner Book Group, 2003.
- Witness to the Holocaust. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
- The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Boston: Little, Brown, 1993.
- After Tragedy and Triumph: Essays in Modern Jewish Thought and the American Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990
- Roth, John K., and Michael Berenbaum. Holocaust: Religious and Philosophical Implications. St. Paul: Paragon House, 1998
- The Vision of the Void: Theological Reflections on the Works of Eli Wiesel (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1979). Paperback edition, 1987. Reprinted as Elie Wiesel: God, The Holocaust, and the Children of Israel (West Orange: Behrman House, 1994).
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