From: Dr. Michael Berenbaum, Director
American Jewish University
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing in support of the National Jewish Theater proposal for the creation of an archive on theater related to the Holocaust.
Permit me a word on the creation of archives. In the late 1980s and early 1990 I was the Project Director of the United States Holocaust Museum, overseeing its creation. In that task, we not only built the Museum but also created a series of archives: film and video, oral history, photographs and documentary archives among them. We did not - assuredly mistakenly so - create an archives of theatrical work and performances. I later was President and CEO of the Survivor of the Shoah Visual History Foundation where we took the testimonies of 52,000 Holocaust survivors in 32 languages from 57 countries, amassing the largest visual archives of testimony in the world and a system of video archiving. I learned three very important things: If you build it, they will come, and that archives not only respond to needs but create and expand needs, and that one needs to gather together a significant and representative group of potential users of the archive to help share what it will become.
No one working in the field of the Holocaust does not avail themselves of these resources and furthermore, many who are responding to other genocides shape their work in response to these archival holdings.
May I also stress that theater had a major impact on the public awareness of the Holocaust. The Diary of Anne Frank had its major impact on Broadway but also was performed tens of thousands of times in High Schools and Colleges, amateur theater and elsewhere throughout the world. The Deputy changed the discussion regarding Pope Pius XII and the role of the Vatican in the Holocaust. But there have been hundreds of works on the Holocaust and no central archive to record and catalogue them and make them available to researchers and for performance oriented theatrical work.
I have been impressed by Arnold Mittelman's passion for this project. He is a man of the theater who well understands what performers, producers and directors require. He is also an intellectual who feels comfortable working with scholars and researchers and servicing their needs. He knows how to recruit potential partners to heighten the impact of the project and to create a climate that will gain the support of potential funds. His availability to lead this project, only makes it more realizable.
In short, the project is needed. It can have a significant impact. Distinguished leadership is in place, potential partners are available. Your initial investment in a conference that will consider how the archives is to be shaped is very important and extremely creative seed money. It will yield significant returns.
I would like to recommend this project for your support with great enthusiasm.
Thank you for this consideration.
Michael Berenbaum, Director
Professor of Jewish Studies
American Jewish University