Founder of U.S. Holocaust museum dies at 81

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JERUSALEM, Jan. 4 (JTA) — Jeshajahu “Shaike” Weinberg, the founding director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, died of a stroke in Tel Aviv on Saturday at 81.

Weinberg, who directed the Washington museum from 1989 to 1995, came to the project with vast experience and innovation in museum planning.

Weinberg was also the founding director of the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv from 1970 to 1984.

During the 1980s, he was also a museum planning consultant for the Tower of David museum on the history of Jerusalem, the Museum of Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles and the Museum of the Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York.

In 1999, Weinberg was awarded the Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement for his work on the museums in Tel Aviv and Washington.

Weinberg was cited for his “rare” personality whose fusion of “intellect, vast Jewish and general knowledge, creativity and ability to make things happen was no doubt the propelling force which guided and led the establishment of these two impressive institutions.”

David Alexander, current director of the Diaspora museum, said the creation of the museums has had an incredible impact.

“Since the establishment of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, every large city that respects itself has set up a Holocaust museum, and I have no doubt it is a result of what Shaike and his colleagues did,” Alexander was quoted as saying this week.

Born in Warsaw and educated in Germany, Weinberg immigrated to Palestine in 1933. Weinberg helped to found Kibbutz Elon in 1939. He served in the Haganah, which later became the basis for the Israeli army, from 1935 to 1948, and during World War II he served in the Jewish Brigade.

Weinberg is survived by three daughters and a son. He was buried Monday at Kibbutz Afek in northern Israel, alongside his wife.

Officials of the Holocaust museum in Washington attended his funeral and could not immediately be reached for comment.

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