Michael Berenbaum (RIS '66)
Scholar, Holocaust Studies
Michael Berenbaum is an American scholar, professor, rabbi, writer, and filmmaker, who specializes in the study of the memorialization of the Holocaust. He is perhaps best known for his work as Deputy Director of the President's Commission on the Holocaust (1979–1980), Project Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) (1988–1993), and Director of the USHMM's Holocaust Research Institute (1993–1997); as such, Berenbaum played a major role in the creation of the USHMM and the content of its permanent exhibition. From 1997 - 1999, Berenbaum served as President and CEO of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, and subsequently (and currently) as Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute: Exploring the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust, located at the American Jewish University (formerly known as the University of Judaism), in Los Angeles, CA.
Berenbaum graduated from Queens College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1967 and received his doctorate from Florida State University in 1975. He also attended The Hebrew University, the Jewish Theological Seminary and Boston University. Berenbaum received Rabbinic ordination (Orthodox) by Rabbi Yaakov Rabin at the age of 23.
Berenbaum has held teaching posts at Florida State University, Yale University, Georgetown University, Wesleyan University, George Washington University, the University of Maryland, College Park, and American University, and is currently a Professor of Jewish Studies at the American Jewish University (Los Angeles).
He is the author and editor of eighteen books, including After Tragedy and Triumph, a study of the state of American Jewry in the early 1990s, as well as The World Must Know, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, and others. After The Passion is Gone: American Religious Consequences (co-edited with Shawn Landres, 2004) examines the social impact of the film The Passion of Christ on religious groups; editors Berenbaum and J. Shawn Landres took a public role in shaping the interreligious response to the film
Berenbaum is the Executive Editor of the New Encyclopedia Judaica, 2nd ed., that includes 22 volumes, six million words, and 25,000 individual contributions to Jewish knowledge, published in December 2006 (ISBN 0028659287); it won the Dartmouth Medal of the American Library Association for the outstanding reference work of 2006.
Berenbaum co-produced One Survivor Remembers: The Gerda Weissmann Klein Story, a film which was recognized with an Academy award, an Emmy Award and the Cable Ace Award. He was the chief historical consultant for Last Days, which also won an Academy Award in 1998. In 2001, Berenbaum was historical consultant for 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 Festival. He was also Executive Producer of a film entitled Desperate Hours about the unique and rarely acknowledged role The Republic of Turkey played in rescuing Jews from Nazi Germany's final solution and "About Face: The Story of The Jewish Refugee Soldiers of WWII". Berenbaum was executive producer of Swimming in Auschwitz and was a consultant for Defiance and Uprising, among other Holocaust-related films and documentaries.
Berenbaum's wife, Melissa Patack Berenbaum, is the Vice President and General Manager of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), California Group, and president of the California chapter of the MPAA. Berenbaum is the father of four children.