Berlin Jewish Museum appoints new director after previous head left under cloud


BERLIN (JTA) – The Jewish Museum of Berlin has appointed a new director six months after the previous director stepped down under pressure over controversial decisions.

Hetty Berg, 58, was named to head the museum’s Foundation Board and will assume the post on April 1. She has been the manager and chief curator of Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter museum complex since 2002.

Peter Schafer left in June, more than a year before his scheduled retirement, following several incidents that included inviting an Iranian delegation to discuss a possible exhibit on Iranian Jewish culture.

The museum also came under fire for hosting anti-Zionist scholar Judith Butler and mounting an exhibit about Jerusalem that some said favored a Palestinian narrative. The last straw was a tweet by the museum’s public relations chief that appeared to support the boycott movement against Israel.

In announcing Berg’s appointment this week, Minister of State for Culture Monika Grutters, who chairs the museum board, said Berg had “successfully demonstrated her leadership strength in complex organizations.”

The museum received $16.5 million from the Culture Ministry last year.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany said as far as it knows Berg is Jewish, but emphasized that it is her qualifications that matter, not her religion.

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council, said he hoped Berg would “continue the tradition of sophisticated exhibitions … and at the same time bring empathy for the Jewish community in Germany and Israel,” and offered the hope that “with her at the helm, the house will again enter calmer waters.”

Berg, a native of Holland, was appointed curator and cultural historian of the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam in 1989 before moving on to the Jewish Cultural Quarter museum complex. She lives with the French photographer Frederic Brenner.

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