BERENBAUM, MICHAEL (1945–), U.S Holocaust scholar who played a prominent role in what he describes as the "Americanization" of the Holocaust: the transformation of a sacred Jewish memory into a significant part of the conceptual and physical landscape of the American public culture.
Berenbaum was born in Newark, New Jersey, and educated at Hebrew-speaking New York yeshivot, Queens College (B.A., 1963), the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Boston University, and Florida State University, completeing his Ph.D. as a student of Richard Rubenstein,
In recent years, Berenbaum has served as president and chief executive officer of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation (1997–99) and director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust at the University of Judaism. He consults widely on the development of Holocaust museums and films. He was one of three American representatives to the international competition that chose the memorial at the Belzec death camp and a member of the team that created the accompanying and highly acclaimed museum. His many film projects include co-producing One Survivor Remembers: The Gerda Weisman Klein Story, which received an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary and an Emmy Award in 1995. He was historical consultant to The Last Days, which won the Academy Award in 1998.
Berenbaum has written or edited 16 books, including After Tragedy and Triumph: Modern Jewish Thought and the American Experience (1990); Holocaust: Religious and Philosophical Implications (co-edited with John Roth, 1989); A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis (1990); The World Must Know: The History of the Holocaust as Told in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (1993); The Holocaust and History: The Known, the Unknown, the Disputed and the Re-examined (co-edited with Abraham Peck, 1998); and Bombing of Auschwitz: Should the Allies Have Attempted It? (co-edited with Michael Neufeld, 2000). He also served as executive editor for the second edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica.
Holocaust memory has become a compelling, volatile, sometimes controversial element in American public culture. Berenbaum's career, particularly his many years of service to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum project, has been dedicated to ensuring that Holocaust memory moved beyond ethnic boundaries into a wider culture in the hope that Holocaust memory – expressed through cultural representations of so many kinds – will offer a sober reminder of what is possible in a modern society.
[Edward T. Linenthal (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.