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Press Information, 19 June 2014

Change at the Head of the Jewish Museum Berlin


As of 1 September 2014, Prof. Dr. Peter Schäfer will take over as new director of the Jewish Museum Berlin. The Museum's Board of Trustees today unanimously agreed to Schäfer's appointment. At the request of Minister of State and Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters and Peter Schäfer, Prof. Dr. Michael Blumenthal, the longstanding founding director of the Jewish Museum Berlin, will serve in an advisory capacity for a transitional period.

Federal Government Commissioner Monika Grütters: "I'm very pleased that it was possible to appoint Professor Schäfer, an internationally renowned expert of Judaism, as the museum's new director. I am confident in his commitment to continue the work of Professor Blumenthal and to build upon the museum's achievements, while also making his own mark."

Federal Government Commissioner Grütters emphasized further: "The unprecedented success of the Jewish Museum Berlin is a direct result of Professor Blumenthal's passion and energy. We are greatly indebted to him for his years of commitment – all the more so in light of his biography!"

During the meeting of the Board of Trustees, W. Michael Blumenthal explained that he had been asking himself for some time when the right moment would be to pass the baton on to a successor. When it became clear that Peter Schäfer would be available after his retirement from academic life, he knew he had his answer. "I realized immediately that we had to get this outstanding and highly distinguished academic on board. And this was reaffirmed by Culture Commissioner Grütters and our friends in politics, business and society at large," explained Blumenthal. "He will be able to give the museum key impulses like no one else I know."

Prof. Dr. Peter Schäfer

Peter Schäfer is one of the most respected distinguished scholars of Judaism.
Born in 1943 in Hückeswagen, Germany, he studied Catholic Theology, Philosophy and the still nascent subject of Jewish Studies in Bonn, Jerusalem and Freiburg, before receiving his doctorate in Jewish Studies in 1968. In 1973 he received his habilitation at the University of Frankfurt and subsequently held teaching positions at the universities of Tübingen, Cologne and at the Free University of Berlin. In 1998 he was appointed Ronald O. Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religion at Princeton University. From 2005 to 2013, he served as Director of Princeton’s Program in Judaic Studies.

Professor Schäfer has been honored with numerous awards for his academic work, including the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, Germany’s most prestigious research prize. In 2006, he received the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award, the largest prize for scholars of the humanities in the United States. He was awarded the Dr. Lucas Leopold Prize of the Universität Tübingen in 2014. He also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Utrecht and the University of Tel Aviv.

Prof. Dr. W. Michael Blumenthal

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Born in Oranienburg, W. Michael Blumenthal has served as director of the Jewish Museum Berlin since 1997. Even prior to that, he had looked back on an exceptional career as a professor of economics, United States Treasury Secretary, CEO and author. Blumenthal successfully mediated a dispute surrounding the conception of the Jewish Museum with implications in Germany and beyond. Under his leadership guidance, the museum was transformed into a federal foundation under public law and soon became one of Europe's largest Jewish museums. Each year, 700,000 people from around the world visit the Jewish Museum Berlin.

Photos can be downloaded for use in reports with full acknowledgments: www.jmberlin.de/fotodownload.

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