Menu JTA Search

Obama taps Bush associates as Holocaust museum heads

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama named two men closely associated with his predecessor, George W. Bush, as chairman and vice chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Tom Bernstein, who co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team with Bush in the early 1990s, will be chairman. Josh Bolten, Bush’s former chief of staff, will be vice chairman. Both already are on the museum’s council.

Bernstein, who supported Bush’s campaigns for the presidency in 2000 and 2004, was among a small group of big-name Republican donors who switched parties to support Obama after he announced his candidacy in 2007. The president of Chelsea Piers, Bernstein also is the vice chairman of Human Rights First, a watchdog group.

He replaces Fred Zeidman, another prominent Bush supporter whose years at the museum were marked by its expansion into advocating for contemporary victims of genocide and a convivial in-house tone at an institution once riven by bitter rivalries.

Obama also named seven new members to the council:

* Matthew Adler, an investor who is prominent in Miami-area Jewish philanthropy;

* Kitty Dukakis, a founding member of the museum who is now active in refugee relief. Her husband, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, was the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate;

* Karen Chaya Friedman, a civil court judge in Baltimore who is active in Jewish causes in that city and whose husband, Howard, is a past president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; 

* Mark Goodman, a Boston-based venture capitalist whose doctorate explored poetic and philosophical responses to the Holocaust;

* Ronald Ratner, a Cleveland real estate magnate who was a leading Jewish fund-raiser for Obama during his presidential campaign;

* Menachem Rosensaft, an adjunct professor at Cornell Law School and a vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants who supported Obama’s candidacy on the Huffington Post blog. Rosensaft is an outspoken critic of the political abuse of Holocaust language and imagery;

* Kirk Rudy, a real estate businessman in the Austin, Texas area who is active in local Jewish and civil rights groups.  

Zeidman and outgoing vice chairman Joel Geiderman will remain on the council, which is comprised of 55 presidential appointees in addition to 10 congressional representatives and three ex-officio members from the departments of state, interior and education. Their terms are five years.

NEXT STORY