Jewish Journal


July 25, 2012

Obama names seven to Holocaust memorial council


President Barack Obama in Portland, Ore. on July 24. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

President Barack Obama in Portland, Ore. on July 24. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

President Obama named or renamed seven members of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.

The selections—all donors to Democrats—included representatives from the entertainment, social media and human rights sectors, as well as a past AIPAC president.

In a release Tuesday, Obama named Tom Bernstein to another five-year term. Bernstein, a major fundraiser for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, has been chairman of the council since 2010.

Bernstein, an entertainment industry mogul who co-founded the Chelsea Piers entertainment complex in New York City, was first appointed to the council by President George W, Bush in 2002. He also has been a leader of Human Rights First, one of the three major human rights watchdogs.

There were six new appointees in Tuesday’s announcement, including three from northern California. Most are involved in communications through the entertainment and social media industries, or through lobbying. Presidents tend to favor such appointees as effective fundraisers and conveyors of the memorial’s message.

They are:

  • Amy Friedkin, based in San Francisco and a major donor to Jewish and Democratic causes, is a past president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and is close to Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Susan Lowenberg, also from San Francisco, is a real estate magnate and has served on the board of a number of Jewish groups, including the American Jewish World Service and the San Francisco JCC. She is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.
  • Deborah Oppenheimer is executive vice president at NBCUniversal International Television Production. The daughter of Holocaust survivor parents, she won an Academy Award in 2000 for producing “Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.”
  • Cheryl Peisach, the daughter of a survivor, is a Florida-based importer and distributor of flowers.
  • Richard Price, who heads Mesirow Financial, a financial services firm, is a major player in Chicago-area philanthropy.
  • Elliot Schrage, based in the San Francisco Bay area, is the vice president for communications at Facebook. He has been a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and served on the board of the International League for Human Rights.

All of the appointees have given predominantly to Democrats, although a number also have given occasionally to Republicans.

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